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!

60 thoughts on “Change Outlook Recurring Appointments without Losing Your History

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. I saw the comment that Notes was better at recurring meetings than Outlook. In this respect it certainly is. Actually in a lot of respects it was, I’ve been using Outlook now for nearly a month after leaving IBM and I have had to do a lot of customization and buy add-ons to do things that you can do pretty easily in Notes without any modifications or customization. The only thing that Outlook is better at is that it allows infinitely recurring meetings – but if you have to delete and recreate them when you want to move them, that advantage also goes away. Having said all this, at least Outlook doesn’t crash several times a week.

  5. By the way the workaround does work also on Android – you can change the recurrence on the phone but not in the outlook client – amazing!

  6. There is no spoon.

    It is not a bug, per se, but an architectural decision. That is, some mail clients handle recurring appointments as a single object with “rules” for recurrence. Other mail clients handle recurring appointments by splitting them into individual appointments at the moment of creation. Some of the latter clients go a step further in maintaining a loose association of all of the instances so that large-sweeping commands can act upon the series while preserving the independence of instances, but there are advantages and disadvantages to these different object models.

    If MS “fixed” this, they would essentially create an incompatibility with prior versions…which when you consider the Exchange server side of the equation in thousands of enterprise organizations…would essentially cripple cross-compatibility. Could this be overcome through crafty code that supports both object models?, over a series of product versions on both the server side and the client side?, with an eventual deprecation of the current object model in favor of the split-instance model?

    Youbetcha. But, then so would EVERY other software vendor that integrates with MS Exchange/Outlook or depends on the same object model. And that is quite a lot. There is a price to be paid for building one’s house upon the sand. That’s why it still works the way it does. Change the object model; break the world…for a little while, anyway.

  7. Being my work calendar, I did not want to mess with export/import. I tried the iPhone method of changing for future appointments, and it worked beautifully. Thanks!

  8. Wow, still such a useful tip. O365 and Outlook2016, but need to use Android (or iPhone) not the Outlook client to change the meeting date/time for “This and future events”. Change future events only keeping the history of previous events both recurring and moved appoints in tact.

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