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How, Why, and When to Backup your QuickBooks Desktop File

Updated: Mar 15

Regularly backing up your company's QuickBooks Desktop file is crucial in order to protect your financial data from potential loss or corruption. It's also important to backup before events like major system upgrades or transitioning to a new computer.

A woman is pictured at her computer backing up her QuickBooks Desktop file to an external hard drive.

Backing up your QuickBooks Desktop file regularly is critical to protect your company's lifeblood: its valuable financial data. Computers can fail, files can get corrupted, and hackers pose a threat to your information security. You shouldn't be waiting for disaster to strike before you implement a backup plan. Being proactive can save you from the painful experience of losing customer and vendor data and reconstructing your historical transactions--not to mention your team's lost productivity or the cost of hiring a professional to fix the issue. There are also specific occasions that you'll want to update your company file for, like moving to a new computer. Let's learn how to back up your QuickBooks file now.

Before You Start

You’ll need to decide two things before you begin the backup process. Do you want to:

  • Back up to a local storage device, like to a folder on your existing hard drive, to an external hard drive, USB drive, or to the cloud?

  • Set your backups to occur automatically or launch them manually?

Both options are available through QuickBooks Desktop, and all QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus, Premier Plus, and Enterprise subscriptions come with Intuit Data Protect, an online backup option, at no additional fee. Account Ability Consulting recommends both a local backup and an online backup. Note: Instructions and screenshots were created using QuickBooks Premier 2021. If your version varies and you're not sure how to proceed, please contact us!

How to Create a Local Backup of QuickBooks Desktop

We’ll start by describing how to create a local backup copy you can (we recommend you store this off-site). First, make sure your version of QuickBooks is up-to-date. If you've opted into automatic updates, this shouldn’t be a problem; however, you should still check to make sure a new update hasn’t been released. To check that you have the most recent version of QuickBooks, open the Help menu and select Update QuickBooks Desktop, then follow the instructions. Warning: While you can create a backup without being in single-user mode, we recommend running a full verify, which does require single-user mode and is best done from the server. Open the File menu and click Back Up Company | Create Local Backup. In the window that opens, click the button in front of Local backup, then click Options. This window will open:

This is a screenshot of a pop-up window in QuickBooks Desktop denoting what your QuickBooks file backup options are.

You’ll need to specify your options before creating your first backup in QuickBooks. Browse to find the desired location for your backup (this should not be on the same drive where QuickBooks is stored, but rather a removable storage device), then complete the rest of the fields in this window. The window that opens ask when you want to save your backup. You can:

  • Save it now.

  • Save it now and schedule future backups.

  • Only schedule future backups.

Select the second option and click Next. You have two choices. You can have QuickBooks save a backup every X times you close your company file, or you can create a schedule. To do the latter, click New. Give your backup a Description and Browse to its desired location. Then tell QuickBooks when the backup should run. You can select a specific time as well as multiple days of the week.

This is a screenshot of a pop-up window in QuickBooks Desktop. It says "Select the time and day you want to save the backup" and shows how you can automatically save backup files of your QuickBooks Desktop file.

Tell QuickBooks when you want it to automatically save backups. Once your schedule is set, click Store Password. Enter your Windows username and password so your backups can be launched when you’re not at your computer. Click OK, then OK again, then Finish. QuickBooks will then verify the integrity of your data and create your first backup. You can always go back into the Create Backup screen to Edit or Remove a schedule.

Tip: When prompted in the Save Backup Copy window, you can modify the name of your backup slightly so it doesn’t overwrite your original file. However, by having selected the "add the date and time" option as shown in the example above, your backup copy will be uniquely named and not at risk of overwriting a previous version.

How to Restore a QuickBooks Desktop Company File

Before you start, move your backup file from your external storage device or cloud service to your local hard drive. Your backup file will have a .qbb extension. QuickBooks will convert this to a .qbw file during the restoration process. Open the File menu and click Open or Restore Company, then Restore a backup company in the window that opens. Click Next and select Local backup, then click Next again. Click the down arrow next to Look in to locate your .qbb backup file. Click it to highlight it, then click Open. Click Next in the window that opens. The Save in field in the window that opens should be pointing at Company Files, which is where your file should go. Click Save. If you get a message warning you that your file is going to overwrite an existing file, back up and change the name of your company file or backup. QuickBooks will then do the restoration and open to your backup company file. Tip: You can create a smaller file that only contains your accounting data that you want to share or move. This is called a portable company file, and it lacks some of the information included in a full backup, like templates, logos, and images. Ask us how to do this.

How to Create an Online Backup for QuickBooks Desktop

We recommend enabling the included Intuit Data Protect, which we mentioned earlier in this article. You can store up to 100GB of data using this service. Backups are encrypted and automated. If you decide to go this route, we recommend you contact Intuit support directly.

Avoiding Risks While Backing Up your QuickBooks File

You need to be extremely careful when you’re working with QuickBooks’ backup and restore functions. Be sure you know which type of backup you need, and avoid overwriting data that you’ll need. We’d be happy to walk you through this process the first time until you understand it well. We often receive calls from customers uncertain that they're backing up their QuickBooks file correctly, so feel free to contact us if you need any help.

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