[Forum FAQ] Why can’t I retrieve Free/Busy information RRS feed

  • General discussion

  • Free/Busy information is a feature of Microsoft Outlook that allows you to see when others are free or busy so that you can efficiently schedule meetings. You can use Microsoft Outlook to publish Free/Busy information to any server your and your coworkers have read/write access to. However, in some cases you’ll notice that you can’t retrieve Free/Busy information correctly from Outlook. You can try the below methods to troubleshoot and get the Free/Busy information again.

    Since most users who often use this feature are using Exchange, all the information in this content is only based on Exchange.

    General troubleshooting methods:

    • Method 1: Start Outlook using the ‘/cleanfreebusy’ command line switch
    • Method 2: Logon OWA to see if the Free/Busy information shows correctly
    • Method 3: Check the user’s Permission Level when only one user’s Free/Busy information can’t be displayed

    Other causes

    • Autodiscover has not been setup correctly
    • Updates

    Here are the detailed steps and explanation of each method and cause.

    Method 1: Start Outlook using the ‘/cleanfreebusy’ command line switch

    With the ‘/cleanfreebusy’ switch, it will clear and regenerate free/busy information when Outlook starts, sometimes this process fixes the problem that Free/Busy information doesn’t display correctly, and this is always the first thing we should try when we can’t get the Free/Busy information from Outlook.

    This switch can only be used when you are able to connect to your Microsoft Exchange server.

    To start Outlook using the switch, we can press Win Key + R to start Run, type ‘outlook.exe /cleanfreebusy’ in the blank box, then press Enter.

    Please note since Outlook 2013 only uses the availability service which is connected to Autodiscover, the command line switch ‘/cleanfreebusy’ has been removed as well as the associated code so that Outlook 2013 will not recognize this command.

    Method 2: Logon OWA to see if the Free/Busy information shows correctly

    If you are using Cached Exchange Mode in Outlook and having trouble getting the Free/Busy information, please logon OWA, or switch to Online Mode to see if the Free/Busy information shows correctly.

    If the Free/Busy information shows correctly on OWA or in Online Mode, this problem may be caused by the Outlook Data File(.ost) corruption, which leads to the sync failure. Therefore we should exist Outlook, browse to the Data File and rename it to “.old”. The next time Outlook starts, it will regenerate a Data File to sync and we can check if the Free/Busy information can be retrieved.

    The location of the Data File can be found from File tab -> Account Settings -> Account Settings -> Data Files tab. (Outlook 2010 and Outlook 2013)

    Or Tools menu -> Options -> Mail Setup tab -> E-mail Account -> Account Settings window -> Data Files tab. (Outlook 2007)

    If on OWA it displays fine but doesn’t show the information correctly in neither Cached Exchange Mode nor Online Mode, it may be caused by the firewall or anti-virus settings, disable them to verify if they caused the problem.

    Method 3: Check the user’s Permission Level when only one user’s Free/Busy information can’t be displayed

    When a user has set his Calendar Permission to None, other people will not be able to see his Free/Busy information. When we notice that we can get most people’s Free/Busy information but fail to get one specific person’s, please consider to check his Calendar Permission:

    In that user’s Outlook, right click on his default Calendar, click Properties, select Permissions tab.

    We need to at least switch the Permission to Free/Busy time to get his Free/Busy information correctly.

    Other cause 1: Autodiscover has not been setup correctly

    From Outlook 2007, Outlook uses Autodiscover to get the Free/Busy information. Once Autodiscover has not been configured properly, the Free/Busy information may not display correctly. If you are also seeing issues with Out of Office assistant, we may assume that you haven’t correctly setup Autodiscover, since these two symptoms are common when Autodiscover is not configured correctly.

    To verify that, please test Outlook Autodiscover Connectivity:

    We can also learn Configure Exchange Services for the Autodiscover Service from:

    Since Autodiscover Service is more Exchange related, we need to seek Exchange support and post the question in Exchange forum:

    Other cause 2: Updates

    Although Updates from Microsoft do no harm to the system for most of the time, the updates sometimes can mess things up.

    Outlook 2013 November 2013 security update once became the culprit that caused some users not able to retrieve Free/Busy information from calendar scheduling. This occurs because Autodiscover fails for Exchange 2007 configurations. So in fact, this also refers to the previous reason, Autodiscover is corrupted.

    The fix for the issue above has been released:

    Once you have some issues after updating and doubt it’s an update issue, you can always come to our forum to ask if there’s a recent update which causes the problem, we will be happy to support you. If a fix hasn’t been released yet, we suggest you uninstall the suspicious ones from Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> View installed updates to verify which caused the problem, also as a workaround.


    The reason that we can’t get the correct Free/Busy information can vary. If you find it doesn’t work even after several general troubleshooting steps, please consider it’s Autodiscover related. For anyone who comes up against the issue that Free/Busy information can’t be retrieved, please feel free to visit Outlook IT Pro Discussions from the URL:, we will be glad to help you.

    Please click to vote if the post helps you. This can be beneficial to other community members reading the thread.

    • Edited by ForumFAQ Tuesday, May 13, 2014 9:03 AM
    Tuesday, May 13, 2014 9:02 AM