You buy a used Mustang. Cool. You buy a used TV. Great. You buy a used CD of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Greatest Hits. Awesome! (If you can find that old CD player!)

But you don’t want to buy a used copy of QuickBooks? Why? Because it won’t work, even if you know the original install codes. Actually, it might work for a little while, but you won’t be able to use it on an ongoing basis.

Why? Because you won’t be able to register it, and pretty soon the program will stop opening.

When you install QuickBooks software on your computer, you enter the install codes (the license number and product number) and that lets you open the program. To keep using the software, however, you have to register it. And if your copy has already been installed and registered by someone else, that’s a big problem.

Intuit (QuickBooks’ maker) knows who that copy of the software was originally registered to. When you try to register it (with the original install codes) on your computer, it makes you enter some of the original registration information. Then Intuit’s auto-verification system will confirm that it’s really you by sending you a confirmation code to the phone number or email address of record for that registration account.

And since that’s not you, you can’t get the confirmation code. So the QuickBooks registration process comes to a grinding halt. And so does the software.

That’s why almost all QuickBooks products for sale in the aftermarket are new, and any used ones are sold “as is”, with uncertain claims about registration history. QuickBooks doesn’t work used.


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45 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Buy a Used Copy of QuickBooks

  1. This….is very good information. I would never consider a used copy of financial management software 🙁

    and you said “Stevie Ray Vaughan”…and even spelled it correctly. Now I’m a huge fan! lol

  2. So, you pay a lot of money for the program, but you don’t actually own it. This is one of the reasons I despise Intuit, even though I rely on the program.

    • Hi Off,

      That is actually true of all off-the-shelf software, including Windows, Office, all the biggies. You buy a license to use the software under certain conditions, but you never own the software. The only way you can usually “own” software is to write it yourself, or have it written for you (with an agreement with your programmer that you are retaining all ownership rights). Thanks for your comment.

      • Also, don’t forget that if you use Open Source Software, then there are no licences that you need to buy and that the community owns the software and you can use the software forever, or until the licencing of the software changes (which is rare). Even if the software licence is changed, the software is usually ‘forked’ and another project using the same software is created and continues as Open Source, therefore you never succumb to the dreaded vendor lock in that proprietory software often forces you into.

        • Hi Julian,

          Yes, that’s interesting. Do you use open source accounting software? Accounting software is hugely complicated (I helped write some of Sage’s software back in the day, so I know!) How do open source offerings do as far as bug fixes and maintenance?

  3. Could always contact Intuit QB support and have the registration changed. It’s difficult but it sometimes work.

    • Hi Not,

      I think this is an appropriate thing to try when you have bought a business, for example, and QuickBooks and its company data are being transferred to you.

      I’d be interested to hear of any users’ stories about their experience in doing that.

      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Even when you buy your own multi-user Premier version, and then it gets older, Intuit do not want to issue new installation codes as and when you need to change hardware or re-install..

    Whilst Quickbooks has been hugely helpful to us, we are now in a situation that when one particular PC fails, our (small) business will be at risk. I currently do not know what will happen.

    We can not buy an update to our version.

    Quickbooks has shifted its primary business model to either Cloud based which we are not prepared to use due to security and liability issues. Who is responsible for client data security? How do I get existing clients to agree to a third party holding their data?

    Quickbooks has shifted its desktop offering to a subscription service which based on my experience could just as easily be scrapped as supported, in the same way Intuit now refuse to give us installation codes.

    The cost of both methods is prohibitive as we also maintain the accounts for 2 charitable organisations in addition to our own business, this we can do with our existing licence but the “new” method demands licence fees per account!

    When we purchased Quickbooks we knew full well we were purchasing a licence, we did not expect to own the code, but there was no mention that Intuit would basically make the licence worthless when they decided we’d had enough use.

    On one occassion when we called for a re-installation code the Intuit operator said “you can’t have it, you’ll have to upgrade”. When I pointed out we didn’t need to upgrade, nor wanted the cost, her response was “you’ll have to, you’re a business, you can afford it”
    As soon as I demanded to speak to her supervisor, we were provided with the required code.

    I am very disappointed in the way Intuit has acted, it leaves my business vunerable.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply.

      So you are using a UK version of Premier, I think? Is that now a subscription license…you have to pay every month, or annually, for the software to work? In the US, that is true of Enterprise edition, but not Pro or Premier.

      Yes, it’s tricky when you need to reinstall and don’t have your codes, especially when you don’t have a support plan with Intuit and/or you want to reinstall an older version.

  5. Yes, it is the UK version. Each re-installation requires a unique installation code generated by Intuit. I’ve tried installing using existing codes as I’ve been meticulous in recording all installations as we’ve gone on.

    Subscriptions for 2 users and stock control per year, per account.
    for the online version is £300 (approx $390 today)
    for desktop £792 ($1032)

    I bought time unlimited licences and while I accept we are running beyond sunset, that doesn’t give Intuit the right to close our software down, they should provide us with total unlock if they are not going to support ongoing unlocking. Ghosting hard drives is one option, that I’m about to try.

    Sadly, I recommended this product to colleagues who are also now in the same situation, which embarrasses me.

    I’m now in the situation where I have to look away from Quickbooks, and no I wouldn’t recommend the UK division to anybody, but there is just so little competition out there.

    • OK, that’s pretty different than the licensing and registration practices Intuit uses for US editions. Sorry you’ve run into a wall there! Thanks for the explanation, and good luck in figuring out how to move forward.

  6. This is morally fraudulent issue that everyone should be aware of. Non transferable licenses should be struck down, if we had courts that actually protected it’s citizenry instead of being corporate lapdogs. The idea that you “don’t own” and can’t re-sell what you paid hard earned money for is ludicrous.. (watch what starts happening to the software in.. the ECM of your cars engine.) Where else but in the software world does one appear to sell a product but not really sell a product?

  7. The only way I’ve been able to make a used copy of Quick Books to work for me is if I had the registration code obtained originally. You then would have to choose “Register by phone” (If that’s even still an option) and enter the code as though it had been given to you by Intuit over the phone. Down side? You can never obtain any updates for that installation.

  8. Don not let this happen to you. Before purchasing an unsealed copy of Quickbooks, obtain the License number, a 15 digit code in the format Like xxxx-xxxx-xxxx-xxx, AND the Product number, a 6 digit code in the format xxx-xxx from the seller.You Can’t Buy a Used Copy of QuickBooks.

    • Hi Global,

      That’s not quite enough. You also have to have all the registration info., per the details in the blog. If you only have the info. you described, you can install the product but not register it. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Im wholy ticked off with the way Quickbooks Support is operating.

    The back of my box for Premier 2016 says VERY CLEALY, on the FIRST LINE of small print;

    “Intuit will support Quickbooks Desktop Premier 2016 until May 31, 2019 as set fourth in our full support policy available…”

    Yet no matter who i talk too, I CANNOT add a 3rd user license to my software, yet its barley 10months old, it wasnt purchased until Oct of 2016 and not installed until after that.

    This is complete and utter gouging of the general public by telling me i MUST upgrade to 2017 or 2018 in order to add a user license, yet my software and the box and everywhere you look, says i can add it very easily if they would just generate a Validation Code for, so I can enter it into my computer on the add user license screen.

    Your telling me, I have to spend another $800+, less than 1 year after purchasing my software, inorder to use one of the MAIN features of the software??

    This is completly insane and Im going to make sure the news stations and everyone i can get this msg out too, on intuits business actions, ASAP…

    3 days of calls and emails, and I cant get a bloody validation code for software only 1 year old, with a support guarauntee until 2019. Wow, such flagrant false advertising and disreguard for small businesses, wont stand

    • Hi T’d,

      What if you just go on Amazon, order a single-license copy of Premier 2016, and install it on your third workstation? It’s still for sale out there, and Premier supports up to three licenses. Or am I missing something?

  10. no its not, not the CA version….

    And even still, im not pay another 300-400 for a whole new license number snad such, when I only need 1 additional user

  11. Intuit talks about trying to help small businesses, but this is bogus how they treat someone looking for 1 small thing only 9 months after the year ends.

    Why cant they generate a validation code for me to enter???
    It cant be more than a few click of their mouse, and charge me what ever $150 to my CC

  12. they are trying to force ppl to update, for a lot of money, when they new versions dont have ANY features i want or need, and I dont use the payroll, so I dont need the tax tables…

    I have no reason to upgrade now, and I only bought this 1 year ago barely NOW, so why would I pay more than double what I already paid, for someone I dont want, a year later?

  13. I’m from south africa. purchased a second hand 2014 pro version on Gumtree. I phoned QB beforehand and they said i must contact them when i have the software. I purchased it, phoned them, gave them all the CD codes etc, they gave me a 6 digit code to enable me to register the product. The product was successfully installed and activated online and still using it (obviously the seller now does not have any access to the product anymore since his registration has now been cancelled.

  14. I inherited the software and installation disk on a company laptop computer. I don’t know who purchased it, which department, I don’t even know which subsidiary purchased it. They’re all long gone. I got a new laptop, and now I’ve got this problem where I can’t complete the registration. Can I just keep reinstalling it every 30 days? It’s not like it takes that long. I put a copy of the installation files on my HD (SSD).

    • Hi AA,

      I don’t know if it will let you keep recycling through installing/uninstalling/reinstalling. Maybe so. You’d want to installed updates each time also. If it were me, I’d just buy a current license, register it, and move forward. Thanks for your question.

  15. I went through all the problems everyone mentions and lost all access to my Quickbooks premiere manufacturing edition. I live in Mexico and ended up buying Quickbooks Pro from Mercadolibre which is like Ebay. One year later it stopped working and it turns out it was not a legitimate program and I lost all my info and Intuit told me It was my problem. Now I want to purchase Quickbooks Pro thru the net in tbe US but a 2017 or 2018. How long will I be able to use it without having to upgrade?

    • Hi Margarita,

      Intuit supports a version of QuickBooks until it’s three years old and then it discontinues supporting it. So here in April 2019, they are getting ready to discontinue support for the 2016 version.

      So if you buy the 2017 or 2018 version now, Intuit will support it for one or two more years, respectively.

      All that said, though, Intuit will not force you to upgrade either of those versions. You can keep using them as long as you want. You just won’t be able to get support for them through Intuit (including payroll updates, merchant services, etc.)

      Hope that makes sense. Thanks for your question.

  16. I’ve been using a used version of QB for quite a few years without registration. I had no idea it was going to shut me out by requiring me to register. Can I at least backup my QB information somehow so that I can have the information available without being able to use the program?

    • Hi Janet,

      Well you could print out a bunch of your most important reports to PDFs and access them that way. Or to Excel files. But there’s really no substitute to getting the info. you need directly out of QuickBooks. If you are going to be needing to access the info. a lot, maybe worth it to just get a new copy of QuickBooks. Thanks for your question.

  17. What if I buy a copy that’s no longer supported, like 2015 or older? Will a used copy register with the original codes? I’m really trying to save a buck here.

    • Tom,

      You’d be able to install it with the original codes. But when you then try to register it (which is different, and required), it will ask you for some information associated with the original user. That’s where you’d likely run into difficulty. It’s not about whether the version is still supported or not…

      Thanks for your question.

  18. I have a 2015 copy given to me with all codes and registration zip code. When I install this will the other party be able to get my info? Such as my account info and personal info.

  19. The one I got has 5 licenses and they said they only needed one. I took the risk and got it and I just hope they can’t somehow see my info when I register it on my computer. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

  20. Thinking of buying a sealed version of QB 2015 0r 2016 as I need to upgrade but don’t want to be on their current online cloud. Wondering if this sealed old version will work even with the provided registered codes? Thoughts…?

    • Hi Andre,

      If it’s a new version and you have the install codes, it should be fine. When you register it, you’ll provide your own information. Hope that helps. Thanks for your question.

  21. I enrolled in the QuickBooks ProAdvisor program and started my own bookkeeping business. However one of my new client is still using QB 2018 and I need QB Accountants 2018 in order to work with them through accountant’s copies. There is no way to buy a new QB Accountant 2018?

    • Hi Chris,

      Since you are enrolled in the ProAdvisor program, you should be able to download a copy of QB Accountant 2018 from Intuit’s website. Intuit keeps changing up their website, but as of today, you can access the download link from

      Since you are enrolled in that program, there is no extra charge to download the software.You can download Enterprise and other prior versions also.

      Thanks for your question.

  22. If you do get an older version, and if it does lock up as in the description, your computers registration can be altered to permit it to continually run.

    I have helped numerous friends continually use theirs. The registry change is simple and most IT people can adjust the registration. The code depends upon the version, operating system, etc.

    I agree to upgrade every 5 years or so, but the QB online subscription is wasteful to a company’s bottom line, the whole reason Intuit wants the subscriptions. It is a situation of profit over performance.


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