Outlook Calendar iPhone Sync Fun

by Ed on July 22, 2007

Since I’ve gotten my iPhone (which btw I refer to as the first true 21st century device – yes, it’s that much better than anything I’ve used), I’ve had major problems trying to sync it with Outlook’s calendar. Everything else would sync fine, but the calendar would come over really weird, and once it even got to the phone it wouldn’t sync back and forth properly. On top of that, every appointment that was sent to me via an email seemed to be in GMT, so it was 7 hours earlier than it was supposed to be. This is the story of how I think I’ve finally fixed it.

EDIT: since I first wrote this, I’ve just experience a non-sync again. See my latest post for more info.

I spent hours looking at the Apple support boards and reading whatever I could find to try to get to the bottom of this. Invariably, it kept seeming like there must be something wrong with my data (others seemed to have fixed it by rebuilding their calendars). But I had tried exporting my calendar to another file and using that, etc. but nothing was working. What’s worse, Outlook was getting more and more confused as I went. For example, I’d get 2 or 3 meeting reminders for the same meeting. There were ghost meetings in my calendar somehow that I could not see.

I finally figured out how to list all my appointments out in Outlook and saw that I had about 15 of them (which was about right). But none of the recurring ones said they were recurring, and guess what: they all had the times in GMT. The phone wasn’t lying!

My next step was to fix them (I merely had to re-accept the recurrence on them and save them). Then I outputted my calendar as a .ics file. I then wiped my calendar clean and told iTunes to replace the calendar on the phone. And as I suspected, the iPhone calendar wasn’t blank after that. It seemed to have all the ghost meetings that were causing me to get the multiple reminders.

The next thing I did was just create a new Personal Folders file and set it to the default. I then removed my old data file. For whatever reason though, it started to show all the calendar items that used to be ghosts. I still have no idea where it got them all from, but when I viewed it in calendar view, it did indeed have all the times 7 hours off. So this time I deleted all the calendar items again and forced a sync to the phone, replacing the current calendar (and not sync my contacts, since this new file didn’t have any as it was new). My iPhone calendar was finally blank. Progress!

Next, I imported my contacts from my old personal folders file and sync’d that. Still empty calendar, and my contacts were fine. So far, so good. Then I imported the .ics file into my calendar. It all looked perfect. I resync’d to the phone and voila! It finally had my correct calendar!

I’ve been able to (so far) successfully add an item on the phone, sync it to Outlook, change it there and resync it back to the phone. I think it might finally been working. It’s only been almost a month!

To recap what I did:

  • Use Save As… in the calendar to create a .ics file with full detail and attachments. If necessary, modify the resultant file to trim what you don’t want, etc. (You best know what you’re doing).
  • Create a new Personal Folders file. Make it the default. Quit and restart Outlook.
  • Remove your old Personal Folders file using the Data File Management option.
  • Show all calendar items. Make sure there aren’t any. Delete them and even go so far as to delete them from the Deleted Items folder.
  • Import your contacts, tasks from your old Personal Folders file.
  • Import your calendar from your .ics file.
  • Resync your phone, telling it to replace the calendar on the phone (under Advanced in the Info tab in iTunes).
That should do it. Just in case I typed something wrong above, be sure to backup all your data beforehand just in case.

Also keep in mind that I’m not using an Exchange server. This is all local data, so I’m not sure how well something like this would work in that scenario.

Good Luck!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

sandra February 21, 2008 at 9:40 am

hi there, have you been able to sync outlook tasks and notes with iphone through itunes?
does the syncing of contacts work fine in both directions? (outlookiphone)?


Ed February 21, 2008 at 11:20 am

Can’t sync tasks and notes that I’ve noticed. The lack of a to-do app on the iPhone is one of the most sorely lacking features, IMO. And the fact that it doesn’t sync notes to your notepad is also a giant hole that needs to be patched. Hopefully they’ll get around to it someday.


Gina Reed January 19, 2011 at 6:24 pm

In order for the iPhone to sync new events to your Outlook calendar, the default calendar on your iPhone has to be set to the (purple dot) calendar.
Mail, contacts, calendar
2 screens down
Default Calendar
choose the (purple dot) calendar

Events that were previously entered will not be synced unless you go back to each event and change the calendar to the (purple dot) calendar.
Click on event
Choose the (purple dot) calendar


Jeff January 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Brilliant! I couldn’t get calendar events on my iPhone to sync back to Outlook, even though I was getting Outlook Calendar events downloaded to the phone. The above tips solved my problem. Many thanks!


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