Troubleshooting Exchange calendar reminder issues

Problems with Exchange calendar reminders often stem from users simply connecting to too many calendars. Here's how to clean up the clutter.

If you've been an Exchange administrator for any length of time, you'll probably agree that user calendar issues are common. There's nothing overly confusing about calendars, but users often have multiple calendars, which can lead to problems with things like reminders. Therefore, it's important to understand why users might run into these types of issues and what you can do about it.

The root of calendar reminder issues

Users might have multiple Exchange calendars for any number of reasons. Multiple calendars are sometimes created by accident when transitioning from one mail system to another. For example, I've seen organizations move from an on-premises Exchange Server deployment to Office 365, and a second calendar was created for each user.

A more common cause has to do with how Microsoft connected accounts -- formerly known as Microsoft Live accounts -- work. When a user creates a Microsoft connected account, he receives a corresponding email account and calendar. This account is in addition to the user's normal Exchange mailbox and calendar. Windows connected accounts can also be linked to social networking services such as Facebook, which have their own calendars as well.

The Microsoft connected account might attempt to provide a unified view of a user's Outlook.com calendar and social networking calendar. This can prove especially confusing for users when you bring Windows 8, Windows RT or Windows Phone 7 or 8 into the mix. Although not technically a requirement, each operating system prompts users to sign in with a Microsoft connected account. This often results in users getting bombarded with calendar reminders from Exchange, Outlook.com and the various connected social networking sites.

Cutting through the Exchange calendar clutter

This is the primary Exchange calendar
Figure 1. The Delete option is grayed out; this is the primary Outlook calendar.

If your users are experiencing issues with Exchange calendar reminders, the first thing you should do is check and see if they have multiple Exchange calendars (not counting shared calendars) and consolidate them. To do so, you must export the contents of the unwanted calendars, delete those calendars and then import the entries into the remaining calendar. The exact method for doing so depends on which version of Outlook you're running, but for the sake of this tip I will explain the process for Outlook 2010.

Select which calendar to export.
Figure 2. Select the calendar that you want to export.

The first step is to identify the primary calendar. You must keep this calendar. To start, right-click on each calendar and check whether the Delete option is grayed out. When you find the calendar that cannot be deleted, you know that is the primary calendar (Figure 1).

Now you must export the data from the calendar you deleted. Click the File tab, then click on Options -> Advanced -> Export. Choose Export to a file, then select Outlook Data File (PST). Now, select the calendar you'd like to export (Figure 2).

Clear the Include Subfolders checkbox, then click Next. Follow the remaining prompts to create the PST file.

Do not import duplicates
Figure 3. Make sure not to import duplicates.

After exporting the calendar's contents, make a backup on the computer that is running Outlook and your Exchange Server, just to be safe. Right-click on the unwanted calendar, then click Delete to get rid of the unwanted calendar.

Clear the Include Subfolders checkbox
Figure 4. Select the calendar and clear the Include Subfolders checkbox.

The last step is to merge the contents of the deleted calendar into the primary calendar. To do so, click Outlook's File tab, then click Open -> Import -> Import from Another Program or File, then click Next. On the next screen, select the Outlook Data File (PST) option and click Next. Now click Browse and then select the PST file that you created earlier. Click OK. Make sure to select Do Not Import Duplicates, then click Next.

The subsequent screen will ask which folder you want to import. Select the calendar folder, then clear the Include Subfolders checkbox (Figure 4).

Make sure that the correct email address is listed in "Import Items into the Same Folder," within the dropdown list, then click Finish.

About the author
Brien Posey is a ten-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as CIO at a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as network administrator for some of the nation's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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