On purpose!

It was actually my wife’s laptop.

This laptop had been having issues for months. The issue that worried us the most is that it couldn’t install new Windows Service Packs. The computer would install smaller updates, but not SPs. None of the troubleshooting advice we found worked. It would download the SP update, but fail in installing it — without providing much helpful error diagnostics.

So it was time to wipe the slate clean. The first step was making sure that all the data was backed up off the laptop. I’ve talked to plenty of people over the years who reformated their drive and/or reinstalled Windows, then realized that they had not pulled critical files from the drive beforehand (e.g., QuickBooks company files.) Didn’t want to do something like that.

This laptop was running Windows Vista. I know a lot of people don’t like Windows Vista, but I do. I like how it watches out for your security better than XP, yet has fewer compatibility issues than Windows 7.

So I dug up my Vista install DVD, and popped it in the DVD drive. After failing to get a good reinstall, I figured out that you have to boot up from the DVD to be able to format the hard drive and reinstall fresh. That makes sense — if you booted up Windows from the hard drive, then it can’t destroy the copy of Windows that is running.

So while the laptop is turning on, you have to press the F12 key (on this particular laptop) to get into the startup selection screen. There, you can specify where you want the laptop to boot from.

So it booted up from the Vista install DVD, and I specified to format the hard drive. I didn’t want any residual problems from the previous OS installation to carry forward.

Success. Windows Vista reinstalled and booted up fine. Now, there was only one problem: The wi-fi on the laptop didn’t work anymore. I had wiped out the device driver for it, of course, when I reformatted and reinstalled Windows.

So I had to get on a different computer and download the wi-fi driver from the manufacturer’s website. I installed the driver on the laptop and…it worked! Whew!

Now, with internet access, I downloaded Windows updates to the laptop and installed them. All 80 of them. Without a hitch!

At this point, the laptop is lean and clean, free of crapware, registry problems, and whatever else was giving problems in the previous OS installation.

Reformats/reinstalls always take longer and have more problems than you think they will, but sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and get it done.

Have you ever gotten to a point with your computer where you had to wipe the slate clean and reinstall Windows? How did it go?

Posted in IT.

Updated 12/20/10 2:59 pm: There is now a correction for this — see comments below.

There are reported problems associated with the Verify command in QuickBooks if you are running under the R4 update. There are posts in the Intuit Community about this problem in Enterprise and Pro/Premier editions.

Charlie Russell wrote about this and advises against installing the R4 update at this time. I agree.

There are a few reports of  Intuit level 2 support having a fix. But perhaps the best approach for now is holding off on installing the R4 update, and holding out for R5 (whenever that comes out.)

This is a good example of the advantage of NOT configuring QuickBooks for auto-update. As with all software updates, there is always the possibility in a new release of several bugs being fixed, but a new bug being introduced. There is some wisdom to waiting a few weeks before installing updates, in case there are any serious unanticipated issues with a new update.

I blogged before about the hassles many people had in registering a valid installation of QuickBooks 2010, and several people recounted their experiences.

My friend Scott Gregory, CPA, blogged this fall about possible upcoming improvements in the process.

Well, my registration of QuickBooks 2011 went without a hitch. As opposed to being forced to register by phone (and enduring the sales pitches therein), the process was straightforward and quick.

I chose to register online — not by phone. I filled out a webform, and that was it.

Does anyone else have an opinion or story about how the QuickBooks registration process has worked for them recently?

We seem to be getting more and more calls from people who have somehow lost their current data file and don’t have a very recent backup.

Some folks try retrieving their lost/deleted current file from their hard drive using special IT tools for that purpose. Most of the time, however, what they retrieve doesn’t actually have QuickBooks data in it — it just has random garbage. I don’t know why that is, but I can tell you that that’s the usual outcome.

But there is another approach that works quite well: Taking a current TLG file and using it to update an old backup and bring the data up to current.

What is a TLG file? It’s the Transaction Log file — an auxilliary data file that QuickBooks maintains along with your regular QBW file. The TLG file has the same file name, and lives in the same folder, as your main file. But it has a .TLG extension on it.

TLG files can be quite large. Sometimes they are bigger than the QBW file itself.

Normally you don’t think or care about the TLG file. But if you somehow lost your main QBW file, the humble TLG file can step up and be the hero of the day.

If you have an old backup and a current TLG file, we can take both files and essentially merge them together, giving you a complete, current data file.

The TLG file has to be current, intact, and have a create date that precedes the date of your old backup.

Just today, we returned some data to a QuickBooks Pro 2009 user with this scenario. His main file had been overwritten accidentally by the restoration of an old backup. We took the old backup, the current TLG file, merged the two, and returned to him a file that was complete and current.

The TLG file was the hero — without it, we wouldn’t have been able to do anything to help at all.

Whenever you make a verified backup in QuickBooks, QuickBooks blanks out the TLG file. I wish it didn’t do that, for the sake of scenarios like the above. If you verify separately, the TLG is left alone. If you backup without verifying, the TLG file is left alone. It’s just the combination of those processes that wipes it out.

That makes me think that smart users should verify their data separately, and when they make backups in QuickBooks, turn off the verify switch.

Have you ever lost your QuickBooks company file? Tell us about it.

The Verify/Rebuild functions in QuickBooks are great at identifying and repairing a lot of different kinds of problems in a QuickBooks file.

But one problem they can’t fix is problems in your company’s list tables. Your lists are things like your chart of accounts, customers, vendors, items, sales reps, etc.

If list data gets corrupted in a QuickBooks file, you notice that all or most of your vendors or customers don’t appear where they should. Or invoices or payments get associated with the wrong accounts. Not good!

If you find yourself in this situation, you have three options:

1. Try making and then restoring a portable backup. The indexes and links are rebuilt when you restore a QuickBooks portable file and this sometimes clears up data problems.

2. Restore the last good backup you made before the data got corrupted. Make sure you don’t overwrite your current file with your backup, in case you end up needing that current file.

3. Get your data professionally repaired. Although list damage repair is more difficult than some other kinds of data repair, it is possible to do most of the time. A customer just wrote this note and told us we could share it:

AccountingUsers was a great company to work with. Our Lists in Enterprise became corrupted and we were not able to work with our previous back-ups. They received the file at the end of one business day and the repaired file was ready to go early the next morning. THANK YOU for your polite, quick, and expert service. We hope we don’t need you again, but we are sure glad to know you are there if we do.”

- Ken Bostrom, Universal Accounting

Thanks, Ken! Glad we could help.

Have you ever run into list damage in your QuickBooks file? What symptoms did you see?

It’s been one week since Thanksgiving Day, but there’s plenty to still be thankful for. I’m personally still feeling blessed by my family, friends, state of health, and the wonders of the central Colorado mountains. I’m thankful for my customers and readers (you! Thanks!)

But can you be thankful for QuickBooks? Well, sure! I personally use QuickBooks to analyze fundamental aspects of my business’ health and to take advantage of opportunities.

In particular, I love…

* How QuickBooks 2011 doesn’t make you call in to register, like QB 2010 did. Thanks, Intuit! You listened to your users.

* The Company Snapshot. I’m a visual guy, so I love the bar and pie charts. The numbers just have inherent meaning when I see them that way. The year-to-year comparison charts for income and expenses, and the expense pie chart help me understand trends and movements. Action can be taken accordingly. That’s something to be thankful for!

* The Customer Snapshot. You guessed it…another screen with graphs! A great tool to review key customer accounts. Shows you sales history, best selling items, year-over-year sales comparison. Good stuff.

* The ever-expanding list of add-on services that work with QuickBooks. Intuit is becoming the 800 pound gorilla of software-as-a-service offerings for small business. They keep rolling out new Intuit-hosted services. But perhaps more importantly, they partner with more and more third party developers who create solid, well-tested QuickBooks solutions that live in the cloud but talk to QuickBooks on your desktop.

That’s a very good thing. It creates the prospect of an explosive growth path for both vertical and horizontal market additions to QuickBooks functionality, without having to create kazillions of new QuickBooks editions and subeditions. I like that. Thankful for it? Absolutely!

I’m discovering that there are myriad details and moments in a regular day that can be opportunities for thanksgiving — even if it’s not a particular Thursday.