Do you have two different copies of the same company data on your system? Maybe one is an old copy that you use just for historical reporting, and the other is your working day-to-day current file.

There is a potential danger lurking here: You could confuse the two copies and start entering data in the old one instead of the current one. I occasionally get a call from a user who says “All of a sudden, I have a nine month gap in my file — everything from January to September is missing!” This is almost always because they inadvertently started using an old file and putting current information into it. Then they didn’t discover their error until well down the road.

This problem is much easier to prevent than to fix. Basically, you need to make it so that the two copies look quite different from one another, and the old copy is password protected against accidental entry.

So here are the three steps you need to take to prevent confusion.

Let’s say that this is your working, current company file.



Now, say you have another copy of this company data on your system. And you DO NOT want to make any entries into the copy. You want it to be perfectly clear to your users which is the current working file, and which is a copy that is not to be altered.

So do the following steps on the COPY:

1. Open the COPY of your company and click on Company / My Company. Click the Edit button for Company Information. Change the Contact Name and Address to “DO NOT USE – ARCHIVE” or something of the sort. Save your changes.

2. Click Edit / Preferences / Desktop View. For Company File Color Scheme, change it to Red or some other color that will get your attention, and that is different from your normal color scheme. OK your changes.

It will look like this:

Pretty obviously not the same company, eh? That’s the point.

3. If you really want to lock down the COPY so that no one gets confused and starts entering transactions into it, click Edit / Preferences / Accounting / Company Preferences. In the Closing Date box, click Set Date/Password. Enter a Closing Date that is very far in the future. Then enter a Closing Date Password.

It will look like this.

Click OK.

So what you’ve done here is make it so that in order for a user to enter a transaction in the COPY, they will have to know a special password. Don’t tell anyone what this password is. It is supposed to be unknown, so that no one can make entries to this COPY file.

So between the company name change, the color change, and the transaction lockdown, it should be clear to your user team: this file is not the current working file.

[My thanks to David Warlick, a blog commenter, for the tip on color coding files.]

Do you have any advice to share on avoiding confusion with your QuickBooks files?

9 thoughts on “Have Two Copies of Your QuickBooks File? Don’t Get Them Confused!

  1. Why would you want to leave more than one good file on your computer? This makes no sense since it takes up room on your computer and will eventually slow it down. The ONLY best way to only have one good co. file is to delete the old ones so you will never open the wrong file again!! That is the easiest and best way to ensure you’re always using the correct file. You should also set your back up preferences NOT to add dates, etc. and create multiple back-up copies. Then you will always have just the most current co. file on your back-up.

    • Hi Susan,

      The main reason someone would have more than one copy of their company file is for historical reporting purposes. For example, if you have your file supercondensed by us, or you condense it yourself in QuickBooks, you may want to have a copy of their original file available for running queries or reports before the condense date. This is SOP for our supercondense clients. But I agree with you that you shouldn’t have just random extra copies of your data out there. Thanks for your comment.

    • This is the accounting version of a well-established problem that exists in programming. And because it is well-established over there, those folk have developed powerful systems and methods to deal with it. In general this area is called Configuration Management, and specifically here it is the sub-area known as Versioning. There are many reasons one might want to Version QuickBooks files, one being what Shannon said, namely for historical reporting purposes.

      So if a given user decides they do want to have more than one file available — and these days, disk space is cheap and you’re not going to see a space-related performance hit unless your disk is almost full — then they should establish a robust way of distinguishing between different versions.

      Unfortunately, QuickBooks is a terribly bad “filesystem citizen” and makes conventional versioning methods difficult if not impossible to use. But one method is to keep multiple backup files, in which case you need a mechanism for distinguishing among backup files. One way to do that is to do what you, Susan, say not to — namely, let QB add dates etc to the backup files. I would NEVER advise that to be turned off.

  2. Hi Shannon,

    Thanks for your response but another way to go is to always create a portable co. file onto a flash drive or external back-up drive before condensing the client’s co. file. That way they just have to restore it if they need historical data/reports. In the over 25 yrs. that I have been providing QB bookkeeping services for 1000s of clients, I have never had to go back for reports or anything, but I always print out hard copies of the important reports for them to keep in their files. Keeping extra QB co. files on a computer will eventually slow it down, especially if they are large files. I do understand where you’re coming from tho. Thanks!

    • Susan,

      Wow, well you have a lot more experience with bookkeeping than I do and I respect that. The situation that our clients have told us about, however, is when they regularly need to access old information. So if the business is one where twice a week, say, a customer will call up and say, “Hey, I need another of those things I bought from you five years ago.” They don’t want to have to restore a backup to find out what their customer needs and then delete the old company every time. Better to just open the historical company file, look up what they need, close the historical file and go on.

      I think it just depends on how often one needs to look at the old stuff, and that will vary from company to company in how they use QB.

      Thanks for the extra insight!

  3. We have a small business and I thought (mistakenly) that I would be able to enter the Quickbooks data required myself. Over time, I have ended up with multiple files on multiple computers for our business. Can I pull them all together and create one file or will this need to be done by a Quickbooks expert?


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