Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation:

* You use QuickBooks 2016 and your client uses QuickBooks 2017. They want to send you their file for review.

* You have an old computer with an old version of QuickBooks on it, and you want to open up your current QB file on that computer.

* Your computer crashes and dies. You buy a new computer. When you go to install QuickBooks, you can only find your install disk for an earlier version. You install it anyway. You restore the backup you made to the cloud (whew!), but it was made by a later version of QuickBooks.

In all of these cases, you are trying to use an old version of QuickBooks to open a new file.

It doesn’t work.

QuickBooks is backwards compatible — it can open and convert files made from earlier versions — but it is not forwards compatible. If you think about it, there’s no way it could be. The version of QuickBooks you have installed on your system today doesn’t know what future releases of QuickBooks will be like, including their revised data structures.

You see, most new releases of QuickBooks come with internal changes to the database. That’s why the size of your QuickBooks file changes when you upgrade to a newer version. It almost always grows. And that’s why, when you upgrade your file to a newer version, QuickBooks gives you a warning that that change to your file is irrevocable.

So the bottom line is that, unfortunately, you can never use an older version to open a newer file. You can never open a QuickBooks 2017 file with QuickBooks 2016, as one example.

The solution is simple, if not free: get a version of QuickBooks that is equal to or later than the version of the QuickBooks file you are trying to open.

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126 thoughts on “Can Older Versions of QuickBooks Open Newer Versions’ Files?

  1. That is what I thought you were going to tell me…. 🙁 Next question then is – everywhere I look for QB Pro 2015 w/ 3 user lisc. is not available. Tried QB, Amazon etc and have hit road blocks everywhere….. any thoughts on this ?? Thank you so much for the quick reply. 🙂

    • Hmm, I don’t know about that. We don’t sell QuickBooks ourselves. I’d stay away from buying a used copy… Might have to go with 2016, or just get 3 individual licenses for 2015. Sorry no magic bullet there.

  2. My client uses 2012 Pro, The last version I have is 2010. I cannot find a copy of 2012 or 2013 anywhere as I recently read they are discontinued. How can I work on a client’s books if I cannot access with 2017 and can’t find 2012/2013?

    • Hi April,

      Well, you probably don’t want to hear this, but you’d probably both want to upgrade to the same currently supported version, either 2016 or 2017. Sorry no magic bullet. Thanks for your question.

  3. ” If you think about it, there’s no way it could be. The version of QuickBooks you have installed on your system today doesn’t know what future releases of QuickBooks will be like, including their revised data structures.”

    Sorry, but this is not true. They could make an effort to not change the file structures and to add any new features as tagged file structures that older versions can see and alert on, like TIFF image files. Old versions of Photoshop can read in files from the current Photoshop going back over 20 years. There is only one reason why old versions of QuickBooks cannot read in newer files year after year – because they do it on purpose to force people to buy a new copy every year. Solidworks does the same thing. It is a marketing / sales strategy.

  4. hello Shannon,

    My client use Quickbooks 2014 to do their accounting stuff.

    when there was a new hire on the team. we accidentally installed 2016 version. And now all the other old users (3) with old 2014 version are not able to open the files.

    Can you please let me know what is the best way to solve the problem. Is there a way by which we can convert the 2016 file to 2014 version..

    Thank You in advance.


    • Hi Rachana,

      Sounds like the files got opened under 2016. So the only way to go back to 2014 would be to restore the last good backups that were made under 2014. Or, you could create (or have someone else create) a new file in 2014, and export/import data from the 2016 file into the new 2014 file. Not very easy, that approach. Sorry no magic bullet.

      Thanks for your question.

    • Hi Crystal,

      I assume that they want to keep using QuickBooks Desktop? I think you’d want to open their file on your own installation of QuickBooks Desktop. Then, if for some reason you wanted to put it into your QB Online account, you could migrate it there from the command within your Desktop edition.

      If what you’re trying to do, however, is to regularly go back and forth between their Desktop data and your Online account, I don’t think that will work. Thanks for your question.

    • idris,

      You can try just restoring your 2003 file under 2017 and see what happens. It might work. Otherwise you’re probably out of luck, assuming you don’t have a computer with 2003 installed on it anymore. Thanks for your question.

  5. I ma very sad to here that I cannot open a 2016 QB with MY 2015 QB. The software should be compatible with any version. This is a very bad way to force users to upgrade every year. It is like if you don’t you are not able to communicate with new versions. I have been using QB for many years and this is something that I have had to deal with in recent years. I have to by a new version every year. Sad to say I am currently looking for a different type of software to use and recommend to my clients.

    Goodbye QB.

  6. my client sent me her books in a very outdated version of QB and I am using 2018. If i format the file for this version, how do i give it back to her so she can use it?


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