How to Change the Default Alert Time for Birthdays on iCal for Mac OSX Lion

When I switched over to iCal from Outlook, I was happy to find that they also had a birthday calendar. However the alert time was defaulting to 8:00 am and I like my reminders going off at 12:00 am. I tried looking for a setting to change it, but there wasn’t anything obvious inside preferences. The only option was to enable or disable “Show Birthdays calendar”.

After looking around a bit more, I noticed I had my Day starts at set to 8am, which felt too much to be a coincidence. I changed the starting time to Midnight, but my birthdays’ alert time didn’t get updated. I wondered if it would only apply to new birthdays that get added.

Then I tried disabling and re-enabling to show birthdays and that updated all my birthday reminders to have an alert time of 12am. Sweet!


  1. Open iCal and go to preferences (⌘+,)
  2. Change “Day starts at:” to time you want your birthday alerts to go off
  3. Uncheck and recheck “Show Birthdays calendar”

iCal Preferences

All your birthday reminders should now have the new alert time. 🙂

Technically at this point, you might be able to change your day start time back and it wouldn’t affect your existing birthday alert times, but you’ll have to test that yourself.

13 Replies to “How to Change the Default Alert Time for Birthdays on iCal for Mac OSX Lion”

  1. Your information is really useful! I faced the same exact problem as you did since I also preferred a default birthday reminder at 12am. Searched through the web but none helped. Thanks so much!

  2. Wow! Great information – just what I was searching for! Now need to find how to change the default to 7 days before – as well as on the day – at the moment it is defaulting to 15 days. Any advice greatly appreciated!!

    1. I am having the same issue and can’t find a way to change the default birthday setting alert to 7 days . Thanks for posting your frustration too

      1. I finally figured this out. You just need to click inside the box that says ’15’ and change it to whatever you need.

  3. Thanks for posting this tip. I was exploring arcane Applescript approaches to this until I stumbled across your site. Many thanks!

  4. Hi! Thank you very much! For weeks now I’m very irritating about getting woken up by somebody’s birthday at 08:00. Now it’s over :)!

    Thanks, Bob

  5. Great! Had this “problem” too for weeks, especially on sundaymorning after a rough saturdaynight… Glad it’s adjustable. Could be a bit more specific though, I think. I mean, really dedicated time-knobs for all alerts would be best.



  6. Thank you! Also, on the iPhone, there is a place to adjust birthday alerts:

    In Settings go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
    Scroll down to the Calendars section and select Default Alert Times.
    Select Birthdays and choose your preference.


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