Occasionally, QuickBooks users find themselves in a Catch-22: They need to restore a backup in QuickBooks, but they can’t get QuickBooks itself to open.

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This can happen if your company file got damaged during your last session in the program. Perhaps the power went off and your computer turned off without closing out QuickBooks first, or there was a network hiccup, or some other kind of hardware problem.

So the next time you run QuickBooks, QuickBooks automatically tries to open that data file. But if the company file is corrupted enough that it can’t be opened, then QuickBooks will give an error and shut down. What do you do then?

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Here’s the workaround if this (unfortunately) happens to you: Simply hold the CTRL key down while you are launching QuickBooks. Doing so will bypass the automatic opening of your company file and put you at the No Company Open dialog box. You’ll then be able to click “Open or restore an existing company” and restore a good backup, if you have one. (If not, give us a call at 1-800-999-9209; we can probably repair your damaged file.)

QuickBooks disasters come in at least three flavors.

Scenario #1: System failure: A QuickBooks user has some kind of system catastrophe. A fire, a computer theft, a flood, a server hard drive crash and trash. The computer goes down and takes QuickBooks with it.

That is the time when current, reliable backups are more than handy — they are the lifeline to restoring your normal accounting and/or business operations. It’s true that my company can repair damaged QuickBooks files, but the cost is not insignificant. The best thing is just to have a good backup from, say, yesterday. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup.

Scenario #2: Human failure: Your brother-in-law is pretty good with computers, you say. So he got on your computer, and trying to clean things up, ended up deleting your Quickbooks files. Or your just-fired bookkeeper sends you a message: he/she reformats your computer before he/she walks out the door. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Backup. IT pros can maybe recover your files intact, or maybe not. Best thing is to have good current backups.

Note: Making backups seems to be one of my big themes; I hope you don’t tire of it. The reason I talk about it so much is because I have conversations almost every day with QuickBooks users who find themselves wishing they had more or better backups than they have. The fact that they don’t have them is good for my support business, but not much fun for my clients. FYI.

Scenario #3: Accounting control failure: QuickBooks has the reputation of being pretty easy for non-accountants to use. That’s a double-edged sword: it gives people in small business the power to do their own books, but in the wrong hands, it also gives an avenue to embezzle money. This is especially true in businesses where one individual is responsible for everything related to the books.

A lady in my town was convicted a couple of years ago of defrauding the construction company she worked for out of several tens of thousands of dollars, and that was their scenario. How to avoid a QuickBooks disaster? Have more than one person involved in the bookkeeping, and have your books audited. There is a lot more to say about this; consult your local CPA.