Sheryl Canter

Change Outlook Recurring Appointments without Losing Your History

In the old days, before everyone had a personal computer, paper appointment books provided a permanent record of what we did when. Sometimes that’s useful – sometimes you need to refer back. Today, I use Outlook on the PC and Pocket PC to keep track of my appointments. And when things are electronic, there is the potential for problems.

I have a recurring weekly appointment in Outlook, and I wanted to change the time of the appointment. That should be easy, right? You’d think you could change all the times going forward? But noooooo. Outlook warns you that if you make a change, all exceptions will be lost. But actually, it’s worse than that. It changes the time of every appointment – including appointments that occurred in the past. Happily I found a workaround.

This tip comes from a site devoted to Outlook tips. It’s a great site – I’ve used it before. Here’s what you do.

Export your calendar folder to an Excel file. (And when you’re done with that, close Outlook and make a backup copy of your .PST file, just in case of disaster – you never know.) The export function doesn’t support recurring appointments, and for our purposes, this is a good thing! It allows you to convert the dates you want to keep into non-recurring, individual appointments.

Edit the Excel file to contain just the recurring appointment between the dates you want to keep. This is easy to do if you sort on the appointment subject. Delete everything that is not the recurring appointment. Then import the edited Excel file back into Outlook. If you have long notes, you may need to copy and paste them into the non-recurring version since there’s a length limit for exports.

When you’ve assured yourself that all is well, delete the recurring appointment, then create a new recurring appointment for the new time (or just stop at deleting, if there are no more appointments in the future). Problem solved!

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54 Comments

  1. Martin Hanson:

    This has been a long standing annoyance for me with Outlook reoccurring appointments–so much so that I have tended to avoid using them at all. I found your work around from a Microsoft forum, but it really doesn’t work well for me.

    I use the Outlook appointment notes field to take notes during that appointment–therefore they are stored with the appointment. I also often attach files (Word, EXCEL, PDF, etc.) of the meeting agenda, handouts, etc. in the Appointment. These attachments are lost, as well as longer notes, when the EXPORT function is used.

    I keep about two years of past appointments in my active PST file. If I had an appointment that was reoccurring during that period and I had attachments, and I had long notes, and I had modified the date/time of some of those appointments, there is NO good way to change these appointments back without recreating individual appointments.

    So, I now setup a reoccurring when I know the pattern, but I am careful to never attach a file or include notes in those appointments. When that appointment comes up, I create a new individual appointment for my notes and attachments. Does clutter my calendar a bit with duplicate appointments.

    I wish there was a conversation command/program that would take reoccurring appointments, save the notes and attachments and save them as individual appointments. If anyone knows of any; I would be most appreciative.

  2. Martin Hanson:

    … also, wouldn’t this exporting trick/tip destroy other reoccurring appointments or do you edit the EXCEL file to delete any appointments that you don’t want to change during the import. Must have to do this otherwise wouldn’t it create duplicates of all appointments and destroy the reoccurring ones?

  3. Sheryl Canter:

    You’re right – there are limits. It’s really a bad bug in the way Microsoft implements this. I wish they’d fix it.

    And yes, I do edit the Excel file.

  4. Chris Meyers:

    Thanks Sheryl – good tip tho like others above just doesn’t work for me. Why did we ever move away from GroupWise where many of the “issues” in Outlook were resolved years ago.

    I currently handle this problem by only creating recurring appointments that extend out no more than one year. All my recurring appointments end the first week of January. I spend one day that first week of January cleaning up my calendar and re-issuing all my recurring appts.

    When I need to change the day/time of a recurring appt (almost all mine are weekly or monthly), I just delete the individual appts going forward. Tedious and silly yes (thank you Microsoft), but I do get to keep my history.

    c

  5. test:

    No. Recurring appointments are single calendar entries, with the
    recurrences being calculated from the base appointment. When you add an
    exception, Outlook keeps a list for the one item of where the calculation is
    to be modified. When you perform certain actions in a recurring appointment
    (like set an end date), it causes Outlook to regenerate the series, which
    resets the exceptions list.

    Here’s how I’d do it. I’ve tested this, so I know it works. Create a new
    calendar folder. Display your original calendar in a table view like Active
    Appointments. Find your recurring appointment in the list, click it, and
    drag it to the new calendar folder. The entire appointment will move to
    that calendar, exceptions and all. Then click File>Import and Export>Export
    to a file. Choose some format like “Comma Separated Values (Windows)” -
    that’s what I used. Select the new calendar folder with its single entry.
    Since recurring items can’t be exported (there’s no way to represent the
    recurrence in the exported data), Outlook will prompt you to select the time
    frame over which it should export. Select the start date to match the
    beginning of the recuurring appointment and an end date matching the date at
    which you want it to end. Exporting your calendar from the start of the
    original recurring item to its planned end date will give you a file
    containing the original appointment and its exceptions as individual
    entries.

    Delete the original appointment from your main calendar to clear it out, and
    import the file you just created, which will import the appointment back and
    include all the exceptions. Since you chose an end date on the export, your
    original appointment will stop there, but all your exceptions will be
    intact. You can then create a new recurring appointment from the new time
    onward. You can also delete the extra calendar folder you created, since
    you now have the information you wanted in your main calendar again.

    You don’t really need to create a second calenar folder if you don’t want
    to, but then you’d have to edit the export file to remove everything but the
    one appointment series, and I would find using a temporary second calendar
    folder easier because I don’t have to sort through all the items I don’t
    want.

  6. Cathy Sleeva:

    How would this work if you have others attending the meetings? I as well try to use Outlook as my history on meetings that I create as well as those that are created by others. Because of this issue I now need to save all the documents attached to meetings. I wish Microsoft would fix this bug!

  7. Sheryl Canter:

    Cathy, if I were relying on Outlook in this way, I would never ever use the recurring appointment option. I’d enter each appointment manually. That way you won’t ever lose anything.

  8. Ryan:

    Here is what I do when I need to change the date, time, location, or attendees of a recurring meeting for all dates moving forward, and I don’t want to lose my history. I update the recurrance of the existing meeting and put in an end date. Send out an update. Then I copy the meeting to the next date on my calendar that I plan to have the meeting, make all the changes, then turn on recurring again and set the criteria. Then send it out again as a new meeting. Now not only is it preserved on my calendar, it’s preserved on all the calendars of the attendees. I do agree the MS needs to fix this, but this does work for me.

  9. Allison:

    Ryan, I just tried your solution and it didn’t work. My recurring meeting currently has no end date. If I edit the series and put in an end date, Outlook informs me that it is going to remove all the exceptions to my meeting. So I will lose my history.

  10. Allison:

    Test – your solution worked. I was nervous about all the moving of appointments and importing and exporting but everything went just as you said and it worked.

    It has converted my meetings with attendees to meetings without attendees, but this doesn’t matter to me since it was a one-on-one recurring meeting (i.e. only one other attendee). I can now update the original meeting request (which is now in my new calendar folder), send it, then copy it back into my main calendar.

    Thanks very much!

  11. anon:

    Wow… This is lame… Is this fixed in Outlook 2010…?

  12. Warren:

    I am trying to use the method suggested by ‘test’. I am using Outlook 2007…when I attempt to export to a file, the steps match the instructions outlined; however, each time the ‘export’ begins, I get an error box indicating that Outlook has encountered a problem and must shut down…sorry for the inconvenience. Is there a ‘bug’ with exporting information using Outlook 2007?

  13. LouAnn:

    This is what I do to Remove future recurrences w/o removing past:
    Open the series in Outlook, click on Recurrence and change the end date to the last meeting date you want to keep on the calendar, click ok, (I put a message in Suject “Cancel future meetings”), click on Send Update. When this is accepted by each individual the future meeting dates will be removed and the past dates will remain on the calendar.

  14. James:

    anon: Apparently not. I just had Outlook 2010 blow away all the exceptions to a recurring meeting that I changed the end date for. As a result, it moved all of my meetings for today back to yesterday, resulting in 5 people each receiving 3 different invites for the same meeting (one for exception to move the meeting from yesterday to today, one for the updated series which blew away the exception, and one for the new exception to the new series).

    Losing customer data is a critical bug to most software companies, and this issue has existed in Outlook for years. Instead of fixing issues like this, Outlook 2010 brings us better social media integration.

  15. Susan:

    I do what LouAnn does. It’s a quick workaround. Much quicker than the export/import described above.

  16. Michael:

    Unfortunately, this is NOT fixed in Outlook 2010. Also LouAnn’s solution ONLY works if you have never made any changes to individual meetings in the past (like moving it to a different time for just one week). When you change the end date as LouAnn suggests, Outlook will only let you save that change if you agree to blasts out any and all exceptions to the standard meeting that occured in the past.

    Overall I find this to be a huge and obvious problem that is so huge and obvious that it baffles me that nobody at Microsoft has seen it fit to fix. I’ll use the export/import solution in the future, but wow that’s a lot of work for something that should be so easy.

  17. Tina:

    I have lost so much information by changing recurring meetings. We used Meeting Maker at my old job and it asked you if you wanted to make the changes for future meetings only. Well, of course, why would you want to change past meetings? Very fustrated. Does anyone know how I post this request to Microsoft?

  18. Brian:

    Thanks for all the tips, but it looks like the consensus is that one simply cannot make changes to a meeting at a point in time and forward or choose entire occurance. I cannot believe that Lotus Notes was actually better at recurring meetings than Outlook. It had the option to make the changes from that point in time back, for just that occurance or to that point and forward. I agree w/ Michael that it is baffling that Microsoft could not integrate this functionality.

  19. Michael Osborn:

    Test’s workaround does perform up to a point. I (being a babe in the woods) had copied and pasted an instance of a monthly recurring appointment to a “special” meeting the following week (so there were two meetings that month).

    When I exported the data, the “extra” meeting did not export (even though you could see it in Outlook), so I had to manually add it to the CSV file (good ol’ reliable Notepad). Of course, when I imported, the data did show up correctly. I had to recreate the repeating appointment using the most current monthly meeting, but that wasn’t too much trouble. The trouble will be remembering all this at the end of the year.

  20. SamSam:

    A thought: I noticed in a developer forum that the end date exists in a file somewhere. Do any of you know if there is a way to hack into the file to change the end date? I’m a therapist working with students and their recurring appointments change every time their class schedule does. I can’t see myself going through the above machinations 2-3 times per year for all of the students that I’m working with!

  21. Henry:

    I agree with Michael. This bug is frustrating to no end! How can Microsoft be so blind as to the importance of the need to preserve history?
    I just did a number of tests and the exceptions (moves, notes, attachments) were removed whether there was and end date or not (or with limit on occurrences).
    I feel bad for my invitees that I blast away. If one is on the receiving end of such a changed appointment, can anything be done before accepting the change?

  22. Guest:

    This is unbelievable. Michael is correct– you can only end-date a recurring event if you agree to delete all past exceptions (any events in the recurring series for which you changed the time just for THAT occurrence). You lose all of you history for the recurring event. The original PalmOS’s calendar has had this capability since the 90s. It would offer to change “Current,” “Future” or “All” occurrences in a recurring series. If that OS, which ran on monochrome devices with 8MB RAM and a 33MHz chip 20 years ago could do it, then Outlook 2010 should be able to. Absolutely ridiculous.

  23. Glenn:

    It’s easy to get around this with an Ipad. Just change the recurring appointment on the Ipad – and when you are “Done” – it asks “save for this occurence only ” or ” Save for Future Events” – if you pick the second one – it works!! and doesn’t mess with your history – now isn’t that logical? What on earth Microsoft is thinking I don’t know – guess they’re not thinking… again – figures that Apple would outdo them on their own program.

  24. RB:

    I run a daily work-group meeting with five attendees. Every morning I send an update with that day’s agenda. Reading these very helpful notes, is it correct that there is no way to change the future meetings – time, attendees, call-in info, end date – without losing the historical information on each day’s agenda? Why has such a lousy product become the standard?

  25. Brian:

    Give me a break, MSFT. I can’t believe how unresponsive they are to basic functionality requests like this. Other Calendaring apps like Notes and Palm had this functionality over a decade ago.

    Thanks, Sheryl!

  26. Marie:

    I am a former Palm user dating back from the 90’s. When Palm developed the Pre only to be bought out by HP, who then proceeded to let drop their whole smartphone enterprise into oblivion, I finally had to face the moment of reckoning and switched to the iPhone a couple of months ago. Which meant if I wanted to sync my productivity data between my phone and my computer, I would have to give up Palm Desktop for Outlook (HATE and refuse to use that stupid iCloud). I was already loathe to do it, having been such a loyal Palm-lover for so many years, so imagine my dismay in finding this bug in recurring events, which I used to so heavily rely on in my years with the Palm Calendar. All the workarounds descibed above require totally unacceptable amounts of added steps which I’m not willing to add to my routine when I know it’s such a simple fix! But Glenn above got me thinking when he mentioned how easy it was to get around this on the iPad. I tried changing a recurrence from my iPhone instead of on my computer, and sure enough, the iPhone simply asks if I want to change this occurence only, or change going forward. Voila! I bet every phone on the market these days (except of course for the Windows phone), allows users this simple option. So all anyone has to do is set up their phone to sync with Outlook, and make all their calendar changes from their phone. This is what I’ll be doing for now, while I’m waiting for that wonderous day when Microsoft finally gets a clue.

  27. Regina:

    OneNote offers some workaround here as well. You can right click on an appointment and click “meeting notes” which will create a new page in OneNote with all the information from the appointment and any notes that are stored there, including the date, time, and location of the meeting. Then everything can be “filed” into notebooks. Then you don’t have to rely on Outlook to store any data and it doesn’t matter if appointments in the past are lost because you have a record of it in OneNote. I find it convenient to be able to sort things into notebooks in OneNote and put everything in my own order instead of having to search through my calendar for information. OneNote will also store links to documents or screenshots of documents and keeps attachments available when you export an email message to OneNote.

    I too find it annoying that Microsoft can’t offer the option to only change future occurences, but this allows storage and sorting of calendar info without any of the long processes described above.

  28. VeryCranky:

    This outlook bug seems ripe for a class action.

    On Microsoft’s own technet formums, I’ve seen the phrase “not fit for purpose”.

    This is a software program that dumps customer data under circumstances where there is a REASONABLE EXPECTATION that it would be preserved.

    We pay plenty sufficient for Office to expect that in this regard its functionality should meet with long-established industry standards.

    We also are in an insidiously dependent situation on Microsoft software – I have to say the obvious here, but the power balance is in Microsoft’s favour, and they keep ignoring their customers. The nature of integration of the Office suite is such that it is simply not practical to use an alternative.

    This issue is sapping life energy from thousands if not millions of people. “Annoying” is an understatement!

  29. John:

    Thank you very much Sheryl and “test” for this extremely helpful advice -this issue has been driving me nuts! I personally found “test”’s method easiest to implement and it went without a hitch -however I did not have notes or attachments to the meeting so I can’t comment on that part.

    I agree with all the comments here, this is a ridiculuous weakness in the Outlook package, I cannot imagine under what circumstances anyone would wish to alter the records of meetings which are in the past!

  30. TC:

    I just found a very easy work-around from our friends at Apple. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you have the option of changing the date for future events. I just changed the date and time of a recurring meeting, and verified on my PC that, not only were the future events successfully changed, but the past events’ dates and time were kept in place. Interesting that you need to use an Apple product to fix a Microsoft issue…

  31. Sheryl Canter:

    TC – I just tried this. I changed the time of a recurring appointment on my iPad then synched. It created a single-instance changed appointment in Outlook, then my recurring appointments in Outlook stopped. That’s not what I wanted at all.

    The time changed on my iPad, but not in Outlook.

  32. TC:

    Interesting – I just checked Outlook again, and all my future appointments were updated for the new date and time. Not sure if it depends on the version of Outlook you are using – I’m on Outlook 2010.

  33. Sheryl Canter:

    That’s possible. I’m running Outlook 2007 on this computer.

    Did you do any tests to see if the original bug was fixed in Outlook 2010? I wonder because it sounds like there is a change in Outlook itself.

  34. Ocean:

    Hi Sheryl,

    This thing has been bugging me too. Just to let you know: it’s not fixed in Outlook 2010, unbelievable! But I’m glad I read here that it would work via my iPhone. And hallelujah, it did!!! I’m so glad that I can finally ‘fix’ my problem.

  35. Jeanette:

    I changed a recurring appointment and lost my history and notes. I tried restoring from backup but my notes were missing from the appointments. We are baffled because the backup should have restored my notes. We are a Windows shop using Outlook 2010. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

  36. David Jones:

    If you want to change a recurring appointment going forward, and you want to keep your history, I’ve found this to work. Open the recurring appointment series, click on ‘recurrence’, in ‘Range of recurrence’ change the ‘End by’ date to your new end date. Click OK. That will save your history. Now create the new recurring appointment with the new start and end dates.

  37. Sridhar:

    Another annoyance is that getting a conference room for a recurring meeting. If there are 10 instances and 8 instances the room is available, it still declines all 10. Is this a bug in Outlook or is it Exchange implementation issue?

  38. Stephen Elms:

    I have to create a Calendar with regularly recurring appointments:
    1 How do I set up appointments that start in October to May (monthly) then re-occur from next Year’s October? Currently I have had to set up 96 monthly asppontments!!

    2 Now there are other appointments linked to the above – most of these are x day(s) before the x(recurring) day of the month in a certain period each year. So far I have found no one has been able to this, can it be done?

  39. Sheryl Canter:

    Stephen:

    1. Set up two recurring appointments, one for each time period.

    2. Set up reminders that are x days before the recurring appointments to tell you about the preceding appointments, then when the reminders comes up, reset the next time you want to be reminded (i.e. for the appointment itself).

    Easy.

  40. justin:

    What can i do? i just changed my recurring appointment, and all the notes and files are lost, any one can help me, really appreciated you help here!

  41. Glenn B.:

    David Jones:

    What you describe doesn’t work for me. I have tried it in Outlook 2010. What happens is that whenever I change a recurring end date–either backward or forward, any exception gets re-set to the standard time. What’s worse is that since there are any number of people controlling their calendars and I am only an invite, there is no consistency on how people deal with this problem. I either get multiple (obsolete) invites for the same meeting still appearing on my calendar (and I don’t know which ones to delete) or my history gets changed.

  42. Outlook Addict:

    Thanks everybody for the great ideas.
    The only new suggestion I have to add is for those who keep notes/info inside the calendar item, how to keep from losing those:
    About a week prior to mtg, we send out a separate/individual calendar item right beside the first one (same times) that holds agenda/handouts, “Subject: NOTES DTF Mtg” categorized grey-color so it looks different consistently, and “show time as free” (so anyone looking at calendars will not call to ask me if there’s a sched conflict).
    Since it’s not a recurrence, it lives on if recurrence history gets zapped.
    If needed/confidential we make it “private” so only the mtg group can view contents.

    Hope that helps.
    Kudos to all you Outlook experts out there, and all your helpful tips as we navigate these every-changing tools.

  43. NothingWorksAnymore:

    I have been struggling with this problem for a few years. I too, came from Palm, switched my interface to Outlook pending switch to iPhone. Upgraded from Outlook 2000 to Outlook 2010 so I could create multiple calendars, which I need for my work. The ability to change individual events in a recurring appointment is integral to my work, as is an accurate history. I manage all my appointments on my iPhone, which handles all situations logically and smoothly. Then I sync to Outlook and begin to tear my hair out. The last time I synced, Outlook took a recurring appt that had been changed on my phone from 3:30 to 3:45 and created a duplicate with the new time, so I now have two appts on my phone for the same person. It’s easy to fix on the phone, but there’s no way to fix it in Outlook without losing a year’s worth of history. I would be thrilled if MS would fix Outlook, or if Apple would allow me to overwrite Outlook when I sync. In the absence of either solution, I may be drive to iCloud. Then, at least, I would have access on my iPad, if necessary.

  44. emlit:

    I believe the “end recurrence/create new recurrence” suggestions are easier than the others posted. I’ve been doing that for years. Sure, it’s annoying that your attendees have to accept multiple calendar items (one to end, one to begin), but it’s better than not having the meeting history, IMO.

  45. Sandra:

    I had a similar issue here with a public calendar for our elected officials. Office 2010. What I did was:
    1. Make a copy of the existing calendar (which had 189MB of data in it) and place the copy in another folder (called 2012 and prior), and restrict access to it so people can only review it.
    2. I went back to the “live” calendar and sorted by All appointments (view, current view, all appointments.) Outlook sorts them by start date.
    3. Go “Control End” to take you to the very bottom of the appointments and you will see them grouped by “Recurrence Pattern.” We left those appointments alone as we only had a total of 80 recurring appointments (weekly, monthly and yearly – and some of those were holidays)
    4. We then scrolled to December 31, 2012 and hit shift, then scrolled up to the very top of the calendar to select all the other appointments, and hit delete. It took a few minutes but the size of the calendar was considerably reduced, and no reminders of changes were sent out.
    Hope this helps someone!

  46. Ananth:

    Thanks for the posts friends! When I first encountered this issue I was really annoyed by it as I have lost few of the important events. The option suggested by TC and David Johns works the best!

    Options for changing the recurrence using Outlook:
    Open the recurring appointment series, click on ‘recurrence’, in ‘Range of recurrence’ change the ‘End by’ date to your new end date. Click OK. That will save your history. Then create the new recurring appointment with the new start and end dates.

    Options for changing the recurrence using Apple product (i.e. iPhone/iPad):
    Using the apple product, you can change the recurrence without losing the entries from the history.

    Would iCal allow you to make the changes without losing the previous events? Just curious to know!

  47. Simon:

    Bizarre! My Issue is: I have several recurring appointments – some seem to work fine.

    One appointment is for every second Saturday of each month. Windows Live Calendar sets it up fine (Custom option), and sets the appointment correctly – for the next 2 month only. On the third and subsequent months the event goes to a Friday -not a Saturday…!!!???WTF??

    I’m not going to start flaffing around exporting the file to .CSV – just have to find another solution. This is just not reliable.

  48. wisfarmgirl:

    Genius! I used my iPhone calendar (synced to my outlook) and ended my reoccurring appointment. Then went into outlook on my computer and made the new reoccurring appointment for the year (ending the first week of the next year so I can update again). I did not lose my exceptions. So quick any easy. Thank you all!!!

  49. Peter:

    Is there any way to restore this data? I was doing some pre-Christmas cleanup and set the appt to end, it wiped out seven months of my daily work notes and data. I’m on exchange, is there some way via exchange? Nothing I’m reading is giving an answer. I’m just sitting here. I can’t believe what just happened.

  50. Sheryl Canter:

    It’s a good idea to back up your Outlook data regularly, as you’ve just discovered.

    If you’re on Exchange, then there is a server somewhere that might have a backup. Ask your system admin.

  51. Peter:

    Thank you. I’ve just done that, I understand they might be able to restore my mailbox.

  52. Oldtimer Lars:

    I remember the good old days of VMS. It was an operative system used on VAX computers from Digital in the 1970-90’s. The calender function was far more advanced than in Outlook of today. Changing part of a meeting series was a piece of cake back then.

  53. Sonja:

    It is amazing that this is STILL an issue. I just tried TC’s solution from April 2, 2012..

    “I just found a very easy work-around from our friends at Apple. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you have the option of changing the date for future events. I just changed the date and time of a recurring meeting, and verified on my PC that, not only were the future events successfully changed, but the past events’ dates and time were kept in place. Interesting that you need to use an Apple product to fix a Microsoft issue…”

    It worked perfectly. Thanks TC!

  54. Gina:

    Thank you Sonja, and everyone else who mentioned the fix vis an iPhone or iPad. I printed the history (just in case), and then went to the 1st instance of the recurring appointment in the series that had not been updated and put in an end date. This preserved the history in all previous appointments. Much much simpler than exporting to Excel or saving your calendar to a new folder, etc.

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