Large QuickBooks FileI’m talking to people every day who are concerned about the size of their QuickBooks company data file. (Press F2 in QuickBooks to see how big your file is).

Some people are concerned because their file is bigger than they expect, or bigger than any other data file they work with, and that makes them nervous about possible future problems.

Others are concerned because their big file has made QuickBooks slow to use.

Others are unhappy with their file because it is becoming unstable — crashing or freezing up a lot.

Sometimes users are told by others that their file is too big. Word is going around that 150MB is the maximum usable size for QuickBooks Pro or QuickBooks Premier files. (That’s not really so. There are lots of people we talk to who have files bigger than that who are operating QuickBooks without any problems at all).

Here are some examples of file sizes we’ve heard of in the last couple of weeks:

1GB. Enterprise 11, slow performance
340MB. Pro 2011, slow performance
1.2GB. Enterprise 9, instability
400MB. Pro 2010, slow performance
1.4GB. Enterprise 10, slow performance
3.4GB. Enterprise 11, slow performance
750MB. Pro 2011, slow performance

All of these are great candidates for supercondensing, where we remove old closed transactions from the file, reducing file size by as much as 80%.

Sometimes, if the accounting is all messed up as well as the file’s being big, it’s better to just create a new company file in QuickBooks, pull in current names, plug in beginning balances, and go forward that way.

Anybody have a data file over 3.5GB? That’s about as big as we are seeing these days.

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There are some things in life you just don’t want to go without: Seatbelts in a car. A batting helmet when you’re playing baseball. Sunscreen when you’re outside all day (well, at least for a fair-skinned chap like me!)

Same with your business computer. There are just some things you’d better have:

1. Battery backup. This is such a no-brainer. During thunderstorm season, the power in your office can go off for an hour, or a millisecond. Either way, it’s bad for your computer.

It could affect QuickBooks, or an Excel spreadsheet, or any program you’re running. If the flow of power changes, the data on your computer is likely to change too. You don’t want your data changing in random ways. (This is one common cause of QuickBooks data damage).

Good news: Battery backups, also known as uninterruptible power supplies, are widely available and inexpensive. I like APC battery backups these days, mostly because they come with software that will automatically turn off your computer after a specified number of minutes in the event of power failure. That way, it won’t use up all your backup’s battery reserve in just one incident, if you’ve gone to lunch when the power goes down.

2. Internet security software. If your computer is connected to the internet, you’ve simply got to have current security software in place. This is true even if you rarely browse the internet. The number of online threats “out there” has been rising for years, with no end in sight.

Getting online without having current security software in place is like sending your grandmother out for a walk by herself in a bad neighborhood in the middle of the night. No.

You should at least have basic (free) protection like AVG. Better yet is a more comprehensive protection package, like Norton 360.

3. Online backup service. Your computer’s hard drive is a machine, and all machines fail sooner or later. So it is wise to have something in place now for when that failure will happen. It’s not a matter of if it will fail; it’s simply a matter of when it will fail.

I talk to people all the time with nonexistent of inadequate backup systems. Sad, and unnecessary.

It used to be that a good backup system required either a very conscientious user or some sophisticated in-house IT. This is no longer true.

These days, services like IDriveGlobal DataVault, SOS Online Backup and others make it quite easy for regular, non-technical users to be well protected in case of IT disasters.

Backups “in the cloud” have a couple of advantages over local hardware backups (meaning tape backups, external hard drives, flash drives, etc.) One advantage is that you don’t have to manually maintain or rotate those drives. Online backup services do the maintenance for you and are always available (if you pick a quality service.)

Also, backups in the cloud are unaffected by problems at your location — theft, flood, fire, power surges, etc.

What do you think about my IT short list? Have any of these been a lifesaver at your office?

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Posted in IT.

IRS audit QuickBooks fileAs we have discussed before, the IRS has the authority to request QuickBooks data files from US taxpayers as part of their audit procedures. (And not only QuickBooks – they can request Peachtree data as well.)

We also hear of state agencies and insurance companies sometimes requiring copies of QuickBooks data for their audits.

If you are selected for this, you can send them your regular QuickBooks data file, and they will have access to all your financial records, including the years before and after the audit period. The problem with that is it gives the auditors access to much more information than is necessary. Tax accountants worry about auditors going on “fishing expeditions” in those situations.

One approach that could prevent additional complications is to have an Audit Disclosure Copy created. The Audit Disclosure Copy contains only the QuickBooks information for the year under audit. That will give the auditors complete information for the audit period in question, but nothing beyond that.

Creation of an Audit Disclosure Copy is available as a third party service. Get more information here or call 1-800-999-9209.

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Have you ever seen the classic 1968 short film, Powers of Ten? It’s an amazing demonstration of the power of adding zeros, one at a time. I love it. Check it out:

Somehow it reminds me a bit of QuickBooks files. The power of adding a zero, you see.

With your company file open in QuickBooks, press the F2 key. It will tell you, in the left column, how big your file size is. It expresses it in kilobytes (KB): thousands of bytes. A byte is a single character of information in a digital file.

A medium-sized QuickBooks Pro file might have 80,000KB of information, or 80 million bytes. We usually notate that as 80MB, or call it 80 megabytes. That sounds like a lot of bytes, but it’s not for a QuickBooks file.

Add a zero. That would make for a file of 800 megabytes. Now that’s an oversized file, bursting at the seams, if you are using QuickBooks Pro or Premier. A file of that size in Pro or Premier would likely be having performance and/or stability problems and would be a great candidate for supercondensing. An 800MB file would not be uncommon for Enterprise, though.

Add another zero. Now your file is 8,000,000,000 bytes big – 8 gigabytes. That’s a huge file, even for Enterprise. We have repaired or supercondensed a handful of files like that before. 8GB is about the biggest we’ve seen.

Until now. A user is planning to send us a file with another zero added, and then some: a file of 88 gigabytes, by far the largest QuickBooks file we’ve ever personally worked with. Is it the biggest QuickBooks file in the world? I’ve never heard of a bigger one. Have you?

Now this file is not a QBW file; it’s a TLG file – an auxiliary data file that QuickBooks maintains along with the main QBW file. We will use it to repair his damaged QBW file. Still, for QuickBooks to maintain any file that big is stupendous, and again reminds me of Powers of Ten.

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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?

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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.

TIP: What Kinds of Drives Can You Open QuickBooks On?

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?

Related:
A Hidden QuickBooks Tool for when Reinstalling Doesn’t Work
INTERVIEW/CASE STUDY: QuickBooks Won’t Verify or Rebuild

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.)

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People restore QuickBooks backups for several reasons: to get rid of data errors or corruption in their current file, to bring a different computer up to date with the most current version of the data, or to recover from a computer crash.

A common question at restore time is “What should I name the restored file?”

You can restore it to its original name, or to something different.

If you restore to your original name, then if a copy of that file is already resident in your restore location, QuickBooks will ask you if you want to overwrite the existing file. It will make you confirm that decision, because it is an important one.

You see, once you overwrite an existing file with your backup, then the contents of the original file are gone for good. Even data recovery service companies, or so-called file recovery software cannot bring back the original contents once they have been overwritten.

That might sound a little scary, and I have talked to dozens of people over the years who have made a mistake in this process and accidentally overwritten their current data with old data. It’s a tough place to end up.

To avoid that, you can restore your company file and give it a new name. That name might include, for example, today’s date as part of the file name. That way, you are not overwriting what was there before, and it is clear what your restored file is.

But without a standardized name it is possible that you or some other QuickBooks user on your network might get confused later and open a different (and older) version of the company by mistake.

I’ve talked to a lot of people in that situation too; there was more than one copy of their data on their server, and somehow people started opening and using the wrong one and several weeks went by before they realized their mistake. That’s tough too…there’s no straightforward way to merge the two semi-current files together. (You can use third party software to do it, but it costs both time and money.)

You can avoid these potential problems by sticking with one file name and doing a bit of quick work in Windows before you restore your backup.

Your standardized file name can simply be your company name. You’ll always open and work in the file that has that name.

Create a folder under the main folder where you keep your data, and call it Old Copies. Before restoring a backup, make sure that everyone is out of QuickBooks. Then open up My Computer (or your network drive where your QuickBooks data resides) and click and drag your company data file to the Old Copies folder. (Your company data file will have a QBW file extension or file type.)

Then open the Old Copies folder and confirm that the file is there. Then rename your company file to include today’s date (e.g. MyCompany_march_21_2011.QBW)

At that point, your work is unambiguous — you’ve made clear by moving and renaming the file that this file is outdated and not to be used anymore. But it’s still available in case you ever need it.

Then you’re ready to restore. Open QuickBooks and restore your backup. Choose the normal drive and folder where you keep your data. Restore the file to the original, standard file name. It should NOT ask you if you want to overwrite an existing file, because you had already moved the previously used file elsewhere.

If it does prompt you about overwriting, something is wrong — cancel the restore and figure out what is going on before continuing.

With this method, you should be able to avoid potential points of confusion either during the restore process, or afterwards when people are using the file.

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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…)

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We recently analyzed and supercondensed a large Enterprise 11 file for a client. Their problem was unusual – one we hadn’t heard of before. Their data’s TLG file was growing at 1.5GB (yes, gigabytes!) per day. And this wasn’t a high volume operation. The TLG’s stupendous growth was unexplainable.

We did remove some garbage records from the file and found and repaired some damaged templates. We also supercondensed it, bringing the QBW’s file size down. But these things did not eliminate the main problem – the exploding TLG file.

The customer reported that Intuit was aware of, and working on, the problem. We found out that a number of other Enterprise 11 users were experiencing the problem. But no one had an explanation.

Until…our client figured it out. He noticed that the new “Search” feature in Enterprise 11 automatically updates its searchable database every hour. He turned that feature off, and voila! The TLG file stopped growing at an abnormal pace.

Why? Nobody knows, except maybe some Intuit programmers who are troubleshooting this even now. It is not intuitively obvious why a search function would have anything to do with the transaction log file, unless with version 11 that file is now doing double-duty as a big search index file.

Bottomline: The end user discovered a workaround that the pros, including the data experts at my company and at Intuit tech support, apparently didn’t know about.

Three cheers for power users!

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When my family camped in Yellowstone National Park last month, we were camping in bear country.

Yellowstone grizzly bear
A clover-eating grizzly I photographed on the shore of Lake Yellowstone

Unfortunately, there have been some bad bear incidents in Yellowstone this summer.

A friend of mine let me borrow his bear spray for our trip. Bear spray is like personal-defense pepper spray, except it’s grizzly bear strength. I took the spray and packed it when we were on remote trails.

A warning on the can’s label almost made me laugh: “Don’t intentionally provoke a bear”. I could just visualize some nut feeling confident with his can of bear spray and chasing a bear down in order to confront it, spray it, and earn some kind of moronic bragging rights.

To avoid bear problems, you are supposed to be careful to not leave food out, not to smell like food, not to surprise a bear, not to run away from a bear…the list goes on.

Bear spray is designed to be the last line of defense against bears.

My company provides data repair services for QuickBooks users, and those services could be considered the last line of defense against QuickBooks data problems. But they are not the only defense.

There are lots of things you can do to minimize the chance of having QuickBooks data problems in the first place:

  • Have battery backups on your server, your routers, and all your workstations
  • Have internet security software installed on all your computers
  • Keep Windows up to date on all your computers
  • Keep QuickBooks updated on your system
  • Use the same kind of networking equipment on all your workstations
  • Make regular backups to a location off of your server

If you do these things, you greatly minimize the chance of encountering data problems in QuickBooks in the first place. But we’ll be your bear spray if somehow it ever gets to that point.

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Posted in IT.