There are different data or backup file formats in QuickBooks. Which ones do you need? Which ones should you use when you send data to your colleagues? Which ones do you want to backup to the cloud or offsite in case your drive crashes? Which ones would you send out for data repair in case of a data catastrophe?

QBW file. The first thing to understand is that your actual working data file is a QBW file. This is the most important QuickBooks data file you have on your system.

If you are looking at a QBW file in Windows, the Type is “QuickBooks Company File”. There will only be one of those for your company name.

Confusing: There is also a file called yourcompanyname.QBW, where the Type is “Data Source Name”. That file is not your actual data file.

QBB file. This is a regular backup file made within QuickBooks through the Backup Company / Create Local Backup command. It is often actually bigger than the main QBW file, and that’s normal. The QBB file contains the contents of the TLG file too, which makes it bigger.

RELATED: Why You Should NOT Backup to a USB Flash Drive

QBM file. This is a portable file, a kind of backup file made with the QuickBooks Create Copy… / Portable company file command. This file is quite small compared to the main QBW file; it is often only 20% the size of the main QBW file. That’s because the indexing in the file is largely removed. But when you restore it, everything is there. So this file format is best for when you need to transfer QuickBooks data to your colleagues. This is the file format we request that clients upload to us for data repair, supercondense, or Enterprise downgrade work.

So which of these files should you upload to your cloud backup service, or offsite backup solution? Answer: All of them. If your system gets infected by malware, or your server drive goes down, or somebody accidentally deletes your files, you’ll want all the backups you can get, from as many recent dates as you can get, and in any format. To me, you can never have too many copies or backups of your accounting data.

RELATED: A Humble Hero: The QuickBooks TLG File

Scenario: You find yourself in QuickBooks catastrophe mode: your server drive or local hard drive or RAID drive goes down. You don’t have the cloud or off-site backups you thought you did. Your IT pro recovers files from the crashed drive, including QuickBooks files. Yet, when you try to open the files, or restore backups, it fails. At that stage, only your QBW files might be salvaged. Damaged QBB or QBM files are not recoverable. But it might be possible to repair your damaged QBW file.

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Bottom-line: When you are setting up your backup system, make sure you will be backing up everything in your \Company Files folder and subfolders under it. Or if you create or store your QBW, QBB or QBM files in a different folder, specify that folder to be backed up daily.

RELATED: I Can’t Backup My QuickBooks File! Help!

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I’ve talked to a lot of QuickBooks users who have told me their QuickBooks file is too big.

According to several Pro and Premier end users, they were told by different support resources that you should upgrade to QuickBooks Enterprise Edition if your company file size exceeds 150MB.

Whoa, hold on pardner!

Although Enterprise is designed to handle larger database sizes, it’s also several times more expensive than Pro or Premier, both for initial purchase and for annual upgrades. And the support plans cost much more.

I’m not sure where this perceived 150MB limit came from. The underlying database QuickBooks uses has not changed much since the 2006 version; the technical capacity of the database hasn’t changed recently. And most QuickBooks Pro and Premier users we talk to have file sizes of over 150MB.

Nonetheless, there is a point at which your file size gets too big and you notice slowdowns in QuickBooks. Or QuickBooks starts to crash. Whether that point is at 150MB, 300MB or 700MB…you tell me! Is QuickBooks working great for you, or are you starting to experience problems?

If your QBW file is getting too big to perform well, you do have options other than upgrading to Enterprise:

1. Condense/Cleanup your file. There is a built-in utility in QuickBooks that will reduce the file size to some extent. In many (most?) cases, however, the file size change resulting from this method is relatively small, or the command crashes or freezes.

2. Supercondense your file. This process removes old, closed transactions from your file. Optionally, old unused customers and/or items can be removed too. File sizes are typically reduced by 50-80%.

CASE STUDY/INTERVIEW: User with a Big, Slow QuickBooks File

The goal of these methods is to save money by avoiding software upgrades, but at the same time making QuickBooks perform better and with more stability.

By the way, you can check on the size of your company data file by pressing the F2 key in QuickBooks when you have your company open.

How big is your QuickBooks company file? Are you noticing any performance issues?

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