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.

150 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?

  7. I got a new computer and and trying to transfer my QB company file. On my old computer it has QB 2009, so I installed the disc and license of 2009 on my new computer… however, it says my company file was created on a newer version and cannot open. How is this possible when both QB are 2009?

  8. We currently have QB 2009. We are updating QB to 2018 to match our accountants but have to upgrade the operating system from a Windows XP2002 to a Windows7 or 10 to accommodate QB 2018 first. If the accountants restore one of their older versions (2013) and we sent files from the 2009 version one more year, we the accountants be able to open the 2009 files?

    • Hi Vicki,

      So you are asking if they could upgrade your 2009 file to 2013, and then from there up to 2018, then yes, that seems like a reasonable plan. If you are asking something else, please clarify for me. Thanks for your question.

  9. Guys,

    I am trying to restore a 2003 Quick books pro file in the QB 2015 version but it says the file is too old to upgrade. Anything else I can try? #DESPERATE

    • Hi Chama,

      Sorry, you could try exporting some lists out of 2003 and importing them into a new company you create in 2015, but that’s probably as far as you’ll be able to take the data transfer. Sorry no magic bullet.

  10. I have backed up my quickbook 2013 for mac files. I have the new 2016 for mac and want to open the back up, but the 2013 files are grayed out, making opening them not an option. Please advise

  11. We use QB 2018 and our client uses QB 2015, we have them a softcopy of the work but they cannot see it.
    it there a way they can see the work done in QB 2018 in an older software ?

    • Hi Mehrin,

      No, you can’t open newer data in older versions. If you want to simply show them certain reports, then of course you could print them to PDF and send them to them. Otherwise, they’ll have to upgrade to your version. Thanks for your question.

  12. I am trying to restore an accountant’s copy (QBX file) from a client who is using an earlier version of QB with 2017 QB Enterprise Solutions version, but am getting the following message: The accountant’s copy file was created in QB 2015 or earlier. QB 2017 cannot open this file as an Accountant’s Copy.
    I thought that you can always open an older version file with a newer version of QB?

  13. I found something online that says the newer version of quickbooks can save the file as an older version therefore allowing you to open it in an older version

    The step instructions say this :

    Open the newer version of QuickBooks. Select “File,” “Open” and choose the document you want to convert to the older version.

    Select “File” once again, then choose “Save As.” A save window appears in the middle of the screen.

    Title the document, then choose a location to save the file to.

    Click the format pull-down menu. A list of different save options appears, including different versions of previous QuickBooks. Select the version that corresponds to the older version you need to convert the document to. (I need it saved as Quickbooks Pro 2014)

    Select “OK” to save the QuickBooks document in the previous version. This allows you to gain access to the document in the older QuickBooks software title.

    Is this true ? can this be done ?

    • Hi Jen,

      “Save As” does not appear in the File menu of the current US versions of QuickBooks. It can’t be done in US editions. What country edition are you using? If that option exists for you, try it out and let us know how it goes!

  14. HI Shannon,
    Am I able to CONVERT my QB Desktop Pro 2018 portable file to a 2017 portable file so that my client can open it on her end?


  15. My account does not have the newer version that I have. I will start a new company file in the old version this year and never buy an upgrade again. Disappointed that this is my only option, as changing account is not one I wish to entertain. –Disappointed QuickBooks customer.

    • Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for your comment, but I want to make sure I’m tracking with you. Do you mean your accountant uses an older version than you do, so he/she can’t work on your file? And your accountant doesn’t want to keep current with QuickBooks versions? In my opinion, that is an anomaly. Accountants that work with clients’ QuickBooks files generally keep current versions. If someone is starting a new business, and buys the most current version of QuickBooks and comes to your accountant, they wouldn’t be able to support it?

    • Hi Ramon,

      Yes, since Pro and Premier have interchangeable formats, you’ll should be able to open it. Since you are using a later version, however, your software will upgrade the file to version 2011, and you won’t be able to send it back to him in 2009. In other words, he won’t be able to open the file if you send it back to him. Thanks for your question.


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