Sporadic errors are the trickiest to troubleshoot.

A nice lady in Canada called us this spring, reporting an error when she opened her company snapshot….SOMETIMES. She needed her data file fixed so it wouldn’t do that anymore.

She uploaded her file to us. We could not reproduce the problem, but did address some minor issues in her file and did a deep rebuild on the file. We sent it back to her.

She called us the next day. The error was back. We hadn’t fixed it. Darn! But she wasn’t angry, she was pleased!

“I can wholeheartedly recommend AccountingUsers, Inc. They spoke to me on the phone, which was a nice touch, and it put me at ease. Unfortunately my file was one of the 5% that are not recoverable, but they did give it a heck of a try, and they got my file back to me quickly. My credit card was NOT charged (as promised), so you have nothing to lose with giving this company a try! I hope I never have a Quickbooks data problem again, but if I do, AccountingUsers will be the first call I make.”
— Christine Kok, Always On Call Ltd.

It turns out that her problem started when she had converted from QuickBooks 2011 to 2012. So she did some uninstalling and reinstalling, and restored her pre-converted backup. The problem went away. Not the best solution, but not a catastrophe either.

How do you feel about doing business with “satisfaction guaranteed” companies versus the “pay no matter what” kind?

taipei skylineUntil 2010, Taipei 101 was the tallest skyscraper in the world. How do you build a structure like that to be safe in a land of earthquakes and typhoons? You hang a big ball inside the top of it.

Taipei 101 uses a device called a “tuned mass damper” to minimize the motion of the building during adverse conditions. This device is a ball. It weighs 660 tons, is made of steel plates, and hangs by steel cables inside the top of the building.

If, for example, a typhoon came roaring over Taiwan, the gales would push against the skyscraper. The big heavy ball would resist the push and, in effect, push back. It would reduce instability.

I visited Taipei 101 last summer, and bought a ticket to ride the (world’s fastest!) elevator to the observation deck. And by simply walking down a couple flights of stairs from the top, you can behold the big ball. It was painted sparkly gold and almost looked decorative unless you knew of its engineering function.

There was a second aspect of the tuned mass damper that impressed me. It was how they used the big ball to brand their skyscraper.

Damper Baby, or Taipei 101
Damper Baby in front of Taipei 101's Tuned Mass Damper
Truly! They had designed a ball-bellied character to represent the tuned mass damper. They call it “Damper Baby” and it’s all over Taipei 101. It’s kind of the building’s mascot. In the skyscraper’s gift shop, they sell Damper Baby calendars, fridge magnets, wind-up toys.

To the left is a picture of “Damper Baby”, and behind it you can see just part (it’s big) of the real damper. The pistons you see are part of the “push back” system.

Why am I telling you all this on a QuickBooks-oriented blog? Because we want to be, in effect, like a Damper Baby for your QuickBooks. That’s right.

There are lots of things that push against the stability of your QuickBooks data file: the data traffic on your network, your electrical system in your office, your computer hard drives, Windows, your security and firewall settings…lots of things can influence how QuickBooks performs.

There are two ways we can help “push back” if one of those elements goes awry. One is to reduce your file’s size to a level that will make it more stable. The other is to repair or reconstruct your file if it somehow gets corrupted. We’d be glad to help in either case; just give us a ring.

So…anyone else been up to the top of Taipei 101? What did you think?

Since we specialize in accounting database consulting, we’ve seen tens of thousands of data problem cases over the years. You can boil them down to three categories:

1. Lurking data problems. In these situations, everything looks OK to the user in their daily use of QuickBooks. They can enter bills, run reports, do payroll, and backup their company without incident.

But there is a hidden data corruption problem lurking in their database. It won’t be uncovered until a process is attempted that systematically accesses their whole file; in particular, when they try to upgrade to a newer version. That’s when it fails — when QuickBooks basically touches every piece of data in the file.

Running verify and rebuild can detect many of these kinds of problems in the file. When rebuild cannot fix the corruption, most of the time the file can still be repaired.

2. Function-specific data problems. In this scenario, there is one part of QuickBooks that fails, and it fails every time you try it. For example, there was some data we repaired recently where if you accessed one particular invoice, QuickBooks would crash. (It turned out to be a problem with an “inventory loop” in the data and there would have been other ways to crash the file, but the user hadn’t encountered them).

Some people think that they can limp by in this scenario and they basically try not to provoke QuickBooks into crashing; they avoid the problem area. That is living a bit dangerously, I think. Better to either restore a backup made prior to the problem occurring (sometimes difficult to do) or else get the data repaired.

3. In-your-face data problems. These are obvious. You cannot open your file. Or you open it and as soon as you try to enter any kind of new transaction, it errors out and closes the program. Or your customer or vendor list simply vanishes.

This situation usually results in a crisis if there are no good current backups available. And this often (it seems) happens at the worst possible time — when payroll is supposed to be run, for example. Nothing like a bunch of employees coming by your desk to pick up non-existent paychecks to get your adrenaline going!

If you have a good current backup in that situation, you can restore it and go on with your business.

Have you encountered any of these three kinds of data situations?

QuickBooks file missing customers and vendor piecesWe’ve been hearing from a number of users in the last month about this problem.

One day, everything is fine. Then suddenly, the users notice that a lot of their bills, or bill payments, or invoices have missing vendor or customer information. The name, in particular. Or their customer or vendor lists go blank. This is called list damage in a QuickBooks file.

Rebuilding the file in QuickBooks doesn’t seem to help; rebuild fails.

The problem is usually repairable. But it is still a bit of a mystery as to why we’re seeing more instances of list damage than usual (We’ve seen and repaired this problem over the years, but it has not been commonplace.)

Anyone seen this problem recently? Did the problem seem to appear randomly, or in association with something else happening in QuickBooks?

Remember watching TV when you were a kid? In the evenings, a public service announcement would come on, saying, “It’s 10:00 o’clock. Do you know where your children are?”

Well, on many a Friday night – late at night! – our team is busy working on QuickBooks data. It’s not because we are insomniacs. No, the motivation is to turn around data jobs as quickly as we can. It’s good for our clients to be up and running in QuickBooks again no later than the dawn’s early light of Monday morning.

We repaired some QuickBooks data last weekend for a gentleman named Larry Seltzer. I didn’t know at the time that he is a writer for many tech pubs and a contributing editor for PC Magazine. We got his data at 5:00 pm on a Friday afternoon, and returned his repaired file to him on Saturday. Then he wrote about his experience with us. I’m glad he was pleased with the results.

Our team is happy to work our tails off to minimize your QuickBooks downtime, whether it’s related to data recovery, supercondensing, edition downgrading, or recreating your QuickBooks file. It’s about your schedule, not ours.

Do you often burn the midnight oil to take care of your customers? (Now that it’s tax season, I’ll bet some of you CPAs are in that mode right now…)

So you are getting a fatal error in QuickBooks…

* Error -6000
* QuickBooks reports “Connection to database lost”
* Your file is “not a QuickBooks data file, or is damaged…”
* Customers or vendors are missing or scrambled
* Your file fails one of these: Backup, restore, upgrade, verify, or rebuild

How can you repair these situations?

If you have a current backup made before the problem occured, you can simply restore your backup.

But if you don’t have a current backup, you still have options:

1. Run the Rebuild command on your company file (if you can open the file). Click File / Utilities / Rebuild Data. Some people claim that running the Rebuild command several times can fix problems that running it once cannot. I don’t know why that would be, but it wouldn’t hurt to try it if the first rebuild doesn’t solve your problems.

2. Create, and then restore, a portable file (File / Create Copy / Portable Company File) . This is a known fix for certain kinds of problems in the customer, vendor, or account lists. When you restore a portable file, it recreates some of the indexes in the file, and that can solve certain problems.

3. Run the Verify command (File / Utilities / Verify Data) and then examine the QBWIN.LOG file. To access the QBWIN.LOG file, open your QuickBooks company, press the F2 key, then press the F3 key. Click the Open File tab, select QBWIN.LOG, and click Open File. Scroll down towards the bottom of the log. See if you can locate the transactions that are causing it to fail. Edit or delete those problematic transactions if you can. This method doesn’t work as well in 2006+ versions of QuickBooks as pre-2006, but it still might be worth a try.

4. If the above don’t fix the problem, contact us at 1-800-999-9209 for guaranteed data repair services. In 95% of the cases, we can recover 100% of the data.

p.s. If we can’t repair the file either (which occasionally happens if the original file is full of garbage and there is no good TLG file), there is one last recourse: check with your CPA to see if they have a more recent good copy of your data than you do. Better to rekey two or three months’ worth of data than to have to start over from scratch.

I’ll bet QuickBooks is a mission-critical application for your office. What would happen to your business if QuickBooks went down? Here are 7 ways to avoid that:

1. Maintain your network. Actually, get your IT guy or girl to do it. Nothing can take down QuickBooks like a flaky network.

Keep your server defragged and your whole network optimized for speed. Use the highest-performing server you can afford. Use the same kind of routers and connectors across your network. Have plenty of memory on every workstation accessing QuickBooks.

2. Be careful with your imports. Importing bank or other transactions into QuickBooks is a tremendous time saver. Except when they’re messed up. If you are getting ready to import transactions from a new source, make sure you’re well backed up first. After you import, check the results immediately. If there’s a problem, restore your backup. Otherwise, it can be really difficult to undo the effects of badly imported transactions, especially if there are hundreds of them.

3. Back up often and effectively. Global Data Vault is a great online backup service. Many small businesses have been greatly inconvenienced because their backups weren’t what they assumed.

4. Verify/Rebuild. Run these commands periodically to get early warning on data problems.

5. Schedule data work for weekends. Sending your data off to be supercondensed, repaired, recreated, or something else? Schedule it for a weekend so the wheels don’t stop turning at your office on weekdays.

6. Send Accountant’s Copies. Taking advantage of this QuickBooks feature lets you get your data to your accountant for corrections without you having to pause in the use of QuickBooks — you can keep working at the same time your CPA is reviewing your file.

7. If down, get up. If your file becomes unopenable or has fatal errors, get overnight data repair services to be up and running by the next morning.

Do you have another suggestion to avoid QuickBooks downtime?

I recently spoke with a gentleman who lost eight months of data in his QuickBooks file.

It’s not perfectly clear what happened to cause this, but we think the key moment was when he got some kind of message about the file name, and something about ‘overwriting’.  Sounds like the warning you might get when you’re restoring a QuickBooks backup, doesn’t it?

He told me that he was talking on the phone while he was working in QuickBooks at that moment; he wasn’t paying complete attention to what was going on in QuickBooks.

BAM!

Multitasking is a wonderful skill/aptitude. But there are certain tasks that merit single-task focus. Like driving a car. Or restoring a QuickBooks backup file.

p.s. This story actually had a happy ending, because although the user had overwritten and lost his current QBW file, he had an intact, current TLG file and an older backup file on his hard drive. We were able to recover all the information.

Have you ever deleted something on your computer and then regretted it? (I have.)

Part of your QuickBooks company data is the TLG file. It’s not something you normally are aware of, but in some situations it can be a very important file.

The transaction log file (TLG for short) is maintained automatically by QuickBooks as part of your data. The file resides in the same folder as your main QBW file, and has the same file name. But it has a .TLG extension. In transaction-intensive businesses, the file can become quite large — 1GB or bigger.

Whenever you post a transaction in your company file, the TLG file is updated. And that is why it is sometimes a very valuable file.

We sometimes talk to people who have lost their current data file — it either got deleted somehow, or is so badly damaged it is unusable and unfixable.

But if they have a good backup — even if it is old — and a good current TLG file, we can take the old backup and bring it to current status by applying the missing transactions we can get out of the TLG file.

It’s one method we use for QuickBooks data repair.

I am working with a customer today who has this exact scenario, so I thought I’d briefly write about it.

p.s. We occasionally hear of users being instructed to delete their TLG file. Don’t ever do that without copying it to a different folder or drive first. You might need it sometime!