Thinking about migrating from QuickBooks desktop to QuickBooks Online Edition? What if your file is too big?

There is a way around this obstacle, but first, a little background.

It used to be that if your QuickBooks file was bigger than 200MB, it wouldn’t migrate to QuickBooks Online…too big. You’d get an error when you tried to create the QuickBooks Online export file.

Then the limit changed, and it was a limit on the total number of transactions that your file contained.

As of today’s writing, the limiting factor is on how many “targets” exist within your file. A “target” is basically a line of detail within a transaction. If your file has more than 350,000 targets in it, it’s too big to migrate to QuickBooks Online.

You can find out how many targets your file has by opening your company in QuickBooks and pressing the F2 key.

F2 screen in QuickBooks
F2 screen in QuickBooks

In the screenshot above, the total targets is less than 6,000. This is from a sample set of data, and an actual working set of data — particularly with lots of inventory or jobs transactions — will have a high total targets figure.

So if you have a ton of transaction detail in your file — move than 350K lines — but you want the advantages found in QuickBooks Online Edition, what can you do?

The first thing to try would be the built-in Condense command in QuickBooks. Try it on a copy of your file. If the Condense command is found in your version of QuickBooks, it’ll be in the File / Utilities menu (the command is not in all versions).

Why would you want to run Condense on a copy? Because sometimes the Condense command will freeze and you’ll have to exit QuickBooks abnormally. If that happens, you don’t want it happening on your live data. But when the Condense command works well, it works well, so try it and see what happens.

If the Condense command succeeds, then you can strip out lots of old transaction lines, and possibly bring the file down to the point where you can successfully create the export migration file.


If the Condense command doesn’t work, or doesn’t get enough reduction to make the data migration possible, then you could consider getting your file prepared for migration. This is an external process we provide that can reduce your file’s size (and targets) by 50-80%. We remove all but the last 1-7 years of data (your choice), and create the export file (OE.qbw) that is ready to send into QuickBooks Online.

Learn more about the file preparation service here.

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6 thoughts on “I’m Thinking About Migrating to QuickBooks Online, But My File’s Too Big!

  1. DO NOT MIGRATE to QB Online!

    It’s frustrating as H@ll when doing transactions, creating multiple windows for report viewing (you have to open a window first then copy the web address then view the reports), editing chart of accounts, etc…

    It’s a real pain in the Ahse for tax professionals!
    Also, there’s NO way of RESTRICTING the access so when you’re done with a particular year and everything has been reconciled to the best that you can, you can NOT close it!

    You can’t even make a backup of the file!!!

    IF a company has lots of transactions or complex transactions, AVOID QB ONLINE AT ALL COSTS!

    • A lot of things have changed since September 2015. I specialise in taxes and I have moved my practice from QB to QBOA and am very happy. Very easy to close a prior year with a password so client can’t mess with the books. They say the QBO App will deal with multiple windows but I use QBOA and the App is too slow.
      I did bring over a client that had 12,450 customers. It would take almost a minute to find a client. In QBO it takes a few seconds.

  2. Pingback: QuickBooks Desktop, Online, or Hosted…Which Platform Is Best? « QuickBooks and Your Business

  3. I used QB desktop, which I bought for £50, for 15 years without any problems on Windows XP, at first in my old PC then using Parallels in my MacBook Pro. Then I got the Blue Screen of Death and had something like a 48 hour window to transfer the regular backup I had made of my QB data before everything in Parallels crashed. The only thing I could do then was to migrate to QB online. Or so I thought. But the migration was an incomplete **** up! I have not been able to make sense of my accounts since! And now instead of £50 for 15 years I have to pay £12 per month and every time I try to do anything I have to spend about 4 hours on the phone to support. Don’t invest in QB online if you can avoid it.

    • I 100% agree Stephen! Nothing migrates well from Desktop over to Online. It’s a HUGE mess. Things get unreconciled, JEs are created that didn’t exist before, things aren’t linked any longer, etc. I have yet, seriously, to meet a bookkeeper who likes QBO. The only people who like QBO are CPAs so that they can easily and quickly access their clients files for the one moment a year that they need to do so for tax preparation. But they aren’t the ones using it on a day to day basis. It’s confusing, illogically set up, and missing so many things that are common place in Desktop. And yes, a HUGE expense to your clients as well. Instead of a one time purchase that will last for years, they are being charged (well, there’s a new email spelling out a rate increase come September 2019) but basically around $50/month. It’s outrageous. Especially for a product that is a watered down version of QB Pro. A technical support rep from Intuit told me one time that an outside service created the online version using all of their own parameters etc. and then Intuit slapped the QB name on it. A much better idea would have been to simply take desktop and put it online. Bam, done. Everyone would have been happy. Okay, I’m going to climb down off of my soapbox now and get back to work.

  4. NEVER migrate to QuickBooks online. I have a client who uses it, and it’s slow, clumsy, non intuitive, and just plain a pain in the ass. I’ve got fast internet speed but that doesn’t help. It’s the program itself, isn’t anywhere as good as the desktop. DONT DO IT. May 2019.


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