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Why Can’t QuickBooks Restore Backups Correctly?

May 17, 2012 | By | 21 Replies More

Spring is in the air and that makes me sneeze, which makes me easily irritated. So I’m going to take it out on Intuit today, to complain about the way that QuickBooks handles backups, particularly how backups are restored. Making backups of your critical data is an essential business process, one that I find that most businesses don’t do properly. A backup is only good if you can easily restore it when you need to, so why does QuickBooks make restoring such a pain?

I’m talking about the Restore a backup copy function that works with a “QBB” file, a backup file that you create from within QuickBooks itself.

When I tell people that they should be using the QuickBooks backup feature regularly, many of them look at me blankly and say “why?”. They may be making a full system backup of their server, or they may be using one of those automatic backup products that save your updated files to a cloud server behind the scenes without your having to do anything yourself. Well, those are all good procedures, but they aren’t enough in my opinion. You still need to make a QuickBooks backup, a QBB file, on a regular basis.

Why Make a QuickBooks Backup?

There are a lot of reasons, depending on how your computer system is set up and how you are making backups. You are making backups, right?

  • Some automatic backup systems can’t make backups of a file that is open at backup time. The QuickBooks database manager can often hold the file open, interfering with these kinds of backup systems. File open, no backup!
  • In some cases, some data may be “buffered” or still in the database manager’s memory, not flushed out to the hard drive. Worse yet, some of the data may be in a transitional state or partially recorded, with half of the data written and half not. A full system backup may take a snapshot of the database as it exists on your hard drive at the time, but that might not be a useable snapshot. The database can be in an intermediate state that when restored, is not useful. Restoring that gives you a corrupted database!
  • Some backup systems are set up to focus on particular files. I’ll often see systems set up to focus on the QBW file, your company file. Well, that may be MOST of your QuickBooks data, but it might not be ALL of your QuickBooks data!

Have you checked your backup system to see if it is backing up a useable set of data? Have you checked your backup system to see if you can restore the data, and that the data you restore is complete? Lots of people set up backup systems but don’t test if they are working, until that first time that you need to restore data because of some disaster. That is way too late to be testing your backup system.

Another reason for a QuickBooks backup is that if you create a QBB file, with “complete verification”, then QuickBooks does some housekeeping. As time goes on, if you aren’t doing this, little gremlins are creeping into your QuickBooks data and messing things up (that is a technical description…). Errors start accumulating, which you may not notice at first and may not create problems. However, over time, these accumulated small errors can lead to data corruption and a big, big problem. A properly managed QuickBooks company file should have a full backup using the QuickBooks backup feature once a month in my opinion.

In addition, QuickBooks is keeping a transaction log as you use it, and this transaction log continues to grow. As it grows, it takes up space, and a big log file can slow things down. Making a QBB file clears out the transaction log properly. Sure, you can just erase the log every once in awhile, but then you have lost one of your disaster recovery features, and that isn’t good. For more on this see my article What is the QuickBooks TLG File.

What is in the QuickBooks Backup File?

If you make a QBB backup file, using the File/Create Backup menu option and selecting a local backup, it will include the following:

  • QuickBooks Company File: The QBW file. That makes sense – this is all of your transactions and lists from QuickBooks.
  • Business Planner: the BPW file is included if you use it.
  • Cash Flow Projector: The CFP file is included if you use it.
  • Letter Templates: If you use the the Invoice Letter feature, your letters and templates are included.
  • Loan Manger: The LMR file for the Loan Manager is included if you use it.
  • Logo’s and Images: If you add your logo to any order templates, or any other graphic images, these are included. This includes images that you add to the item list in the Inventory Center in Enterprise 12.
  • Printer Settings: If you modify any of your printer settings in QuickBooks this information is stored in the QBPrint.QBP file. This is included in the backup. Also the PrintEng.ini and wpr.ini files.
  • Dictionary: Personally, I turn off the spell checking feature in QuickBooks, because I have too many technical abbreviations. However, if you are adding works to the dictionary, it is good to know that the user dictionary.tlx file is backed up. The spell.ini file is included as well.
  • Transaction Log: This is included as well, and it can make the backup very large.
  • QuickBooks Network Data File: The “.ND” file is a configuration file for network access.
  • Little Green Box: Ah, the “.lgb” file. This contains encrypted information about user names and passwords, and is used by SDK based add-on programs to connect in unattended mode.

What is NOT in the QuickBooks Backup File?

That is a key question! Intuit does a fair job of catching all of the different files that are a part of QuickBooks, but there are (at the time I’m writing this) a few omissions. It is important to know what they are so that you don’t lose key information!

The biggest omission that I’m aware of is your attached documents if you are using the Doc Center in QuickBooks 2012 or later. All of your attachments are stored in a series of folders under the “Attach” folder that is found where your QuickBooks company file is stored. I can see why they aren’t included in the QBB file – the documents could take up a LOT of space, making the backup file unmanageable. However, it is important to know that these aren’t backed up, so that you can be sure to make your own backup. Personally, I don’t think that any business larger than a one-person company should rely on the Doc Center feature for key storage anyways.

Are there other files that are missing? If you know of one, please leave a comment here.

Restoring Isn’t All That Simple!

Making the backup is the first step, obviously, but if you can’t restore the backup then it doesn’t do you any good. That is what makes me tear my hair out sometimes, the QuickBooks menu function for restoring backups doesn’t restore everything to the right place.

If you restore from that QBB file a new folder is created in the restore location, Restored_xxx_Files, where the “xxx” is your company file name. You can see that there are a number of sub folders here, and a text file.

Restored QuickBooks Backup Files

Many of the files are not restored to the proper place, instead they are placed here. You have to manually move the files to their proper place.

I can see some situations where you might need to do this – if I’m trying to restore some portions of the data and not others. However, that should be an option in the restore process. You shouldn’t have to manually move things around. I hear this very often – “QuickBooks didn’t restore all of my data”. People don’t’ realize that you have to manually move things around, and that is bad. Arrghh!

If you open that txt file you see instructions that tell you what is included in the backup, and what is not restored to the right place.  You can tell that they haven’t been paying attention to this for awhile, if you look at the date they refer to. That URL for additional help is no longer valid (same with the other “get help” URL’s in this file).

QuickBooks Restore Text

The contents of each of the folders that are found here must be manually moved back to the proper location if you are making a complete restore. The files that don’t go back to the right place are:

  • Your image files (logos, item list images, etc.)
  • Printer settings.
  • Word templates and letters
  • Cash Flow Projector
  • Loan Manager
  • Business Planner
  • Spell checker
  • LGB

If you depend on any of this to operate your business it can be very frustrating to not have access to the data, such as when you are moving your files to a new computer system or file server.

So, Intuit, please make a full restore an option in the restore process so that all of these files can be placed in their proper location, or at least add a utility that will resolve this problem.

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Category: Charlie's Rants, Expert's Corner

About the Author ()

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He's been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had a one-floppy disk drive system, loading the program from one floppy and then replacing that with the other floppy to hold the data. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise. He also is a Xero Certified Partner. Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. Charlie can be reached at charlie.russell@sleeter.com He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog Connect with Charlie at Google

Comments (21)

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  1. William Murphy says:

    I just love it when you ‘rant’ on anything QB or Intuit! Way to go, especially in this ‘most warranted’ of cases.

    They preach, and we are preached to, and we (as ProAdvisors preach) to our clients the importance of the QB Back-up, even though we know that not all of the ‘data’ (or what we really believe is ‘the file’) is backed-up at all. Intuit knows there is a better way, don’t make the application perform the back-up, but make the database server make the back-up by tying the utilities to the database manager so that it can go and reach out to all the related files, like even preserving a copy of the pre-backup TLG just in case, even if the ‘full verify’ is performed. Even better yet would be to tie ‘replication manager’ technology from Sybase to the database manager and simply do a full replication which can be restored via the same mechanism. Everything should be in the backup not just the QBW data.

    Of course if they did this right, that would give us one less thing to ‘rant’ about wouldn’t it?

    Murph

    • Some of the features in QuickBooks that have separate databases are created originally by either an outside vendor, or perhaps by a small team inside Intuit that has just been playing around with things (Intuit lets people take time to play with developing features on the side). Outside vendors, and I’ll guess these small inside teams, don’t have the ability to add tables or structures to the “real” database. So the information has to be stored outside in a separate database.

      On the other hand, if they included the attached documents in the actual database (QBW) that would bloat the thing so much that people would complain.

      And, Murph, think about it. With all the hassles we face with the QBW file, all the ways that corruption creeps in, all the odd things that suddenly stop being accessible, do you really want to have MORE things being thrown in there? The thought makes my viking helmet shudder…

  2. Scott M says:

    I don’t think the Date through which the books are closed is stored either. When moving from one computer to another, that info doesn’t seem to make the trip.

    • Scott, the “Closing Date” is stored in the database, and it should restore properly if you are using a QBB backup file, which is what I’m talking about here. I would think that it should with a portable company file as well. I tested the QBB backup file just now, to double check.

  3. Randy Shaw says:

    The Fixed Asset Manager isn’t backed up. You could do a lengthy article on that issue alone; but particularly on migrating the FAM from one version to another.

  4. Andrea Lee Carter says:

    I’m glad you mentioned Loan Manager. According to this knowledgebase article http://support.quickbooks.intuit.com/support/Articles/SLN40518,

    “When you move the company file or restore a backup, the .lmr file does not get moved automatically to the new or backup location. When you open the company file from the new location or backup, and then open Loan Manager, Loan Manager creates a new .lmr file. However, the new file does not contain the loans.”

    So, I wouldn’t count on the Loan Manager being backed up…well, the Loan Manager program may be backed up, but the loan information may not be there when you do a restore of the backup, especially if the backup goes to a new location. Fortunately, the article gives the steps on how to get the loan information into the new company file location. Still, it’s a shame we have to go through such machinations to get important information reconnected to the restored data.

    • Andrea, that is what I’m saying in the article. Loan Manager IS backed up, just not restored to the right place. Once you restore the backup, the file is in that sub folder, and you just have to copy it back to the right place. The KB article is a bit more involved, as it gets into issues like what happens if you cahnge the name of the company file when you restore, and more.

      There are a lot more issues with restoring backups than what I’m ranting about, thanks for pointing out the KB article because it raises the issue of what happens if you change the name of the QB company file when restoring.

  5. Eric Pulaski says:

    I’d also like to point out that it’s important to have an off-site backup of your QuickBooks data. SmartVault can make a safe backup of your QuickBooks company files in “the cloud”, and I believe avoid some of the problems associated with traditional backup solutions and the QBB file restore process.

    SmartVault won’t try to backup a file that’s open, to eliminate many of the problems discussed above, and you can configure SmartVault to automatically backup the file every time (or every X times) you close the company file. [It happens in the background after you close the file. SmartVault does what you would do if you waited for the company file to be closed, then copied all the files named like "CompanyFile.*" to a ZIP file; it does not make a QBB file.]

    Since your backups are in “the cloud” with SmartVault, you can easily restore to a different computer, such as your home computer, or an accountant can use SmartVault to instantly get the latest and greatest copy of a client’s QB data (very handy for those of you not using a hosting company).

    I’m not aware of any restore problems, like Charlie is mentioning with restoring QBB files, but I’d love to get any feedback if anyone has had any issues restoring using SmartVault.

    And, of course, with SmartVault your documents are always secure and safely stored off-site, where you always have anywhere, anytime access to all your data and documents — so you never have to worry about backing up your QB data or attached documents again!

    In a nutshell, don’t forget about the importance of having an off-site backup of your QB data and documents. And with your data in the cloud, it’s also easy to securely share with others.

    • Eric, that is great (and I talked about this a bit in my article at http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2012/05/smartvault-for-quickbooks-document-management-and-beyond/). This “rant” wasn’t focusing on good backup techniques overall, mostly just on the hassles with QuickBooks backups. A proper backup procedure will encompass many levels of backups, and an off site backup such as SmartVault provides is an important component.

      I’ll note, however, that the SmartVault backup (done the way you mentione) doesn’t catch all of the files that the QBB backup will catch. You can get those backed up with SmartVault, but as I understand it, you have to do a number of things manually.

  6. Lella says:

    Charlie,

    When I train my clients to backup I tell them to restore to the original location the file was in, and for most of them I’ve had them set up the company file in a folder in My Docs where they can find it. I’ve not noticed these problems you mention, but maybe I just haven’t noticed? Does restoring to the original folder make a difference?

    Thanks for all your hard work and for passing on such valuable information to us.

    Lella

    • Lella, if you restore to the same location that the product was in before, you might not notice the problem. It would only be apparent if you restore to a new location (such as, a disaster recovery when you are restoring to a new computer). But you can get burned if you restore to the same location and don’t pay attention. If you restore your backups, some of those files are placed in the holding location, not in the correct location. If you run QuickBooks now, without moving things to the proper place, the files that you see (loan manager, etc) are NOT the restored files, they are the last ones that were in that place. Your restored files are in that other location.

      Now, this may be OK, but you do have to keep in mind that these are not the files from the backup. Depending on the reason for the restore, this might not be what you want.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Another great article — thank you! You mention the importance of checking your backup system to make sure it is creating a useable set of data. What is the best way to do that?

    • Cheryl, this “rant” wasn’t intended to be a full tutorial on backup/restore procedures. However, here are some thoughts on that. Essentially you want to run the restore and then check to see that you can access a complete and useable copy of the files. My preferred method would be to restore the files to another computer, one that is not your “production” system. Then open the files to make sure that they are useable.

      I’ve seen cases where the backup seemed to run fine, but when you went to restore the files you either found that the files were damaged in some way, or that you didn’t have a complete backup of all of the necessary parts. You don’t want to restore to your production system because IF the files are damaged you just restored the damaged files on top of your good files – not nice! So I want to restore that backup to a different system, then examine each of the components to see that they are all in place.

  8. Cliff says:

    I have had to restore from our backup files two different times.
    I don’t recall any issues after restoring the backups.
    We have experienced a disappearing Invoice Logo, and a Purchase Order signature logo, but I don’t remember if that occurred after restoring a backup.
    I do not recall any Printer setting issues.
    I guess we are lucky we do not use the word templates and letters, Cash Flow Projector, Loan Manager, Business Planner, Spell checker, or LGB(do not know what LGB is).

    After reading this article, and out of curiosity, I will look at our server on Monday for the Restore folders,

    • Cliff, if you are restoring into the same place that the original file was at, you wouldn’t notice anything. It is just that those files that aren’t restored to the right place – the file in the right place NOW is the one that existed before, not the restored one. In many cases that isn’t an issue.

      If you had to go back to an older version, or if you are installing into a new system such as when moving to a new computer, then you would run into this particular issue.

  9. Mike Branch says:

    We’ve had a cold spring here in the Northwest, and allergy season looks like it will continue on into the summer. Like you, I continue sneeze and be irritated with some of Intuit’s inexplicable design decisions. So I’ll use this forum to vent about another aspect of QB backup that I’ve always found annoying.

    This is probably not a big deal for the average QB user, but for those of us who work with many different QB files every day, it would be nice if we could set a default backup folder so we don’t have to navigate to the desired folder every time we back up a new file. The backup folder text box should never, ever, be blank. Let us set a default, and then change it if necessary. And stop complaining about backing up onto the local hard drive. The (or at least one) correct way to manage backups is to back up onto the local hard drive, and THEN use a backup utility like Mozy or Carbonite to back up the backup file.

    There, I’m done venting (for now). I’ll go take some Benadryl. I won’t get much work done, but at least it will help me relax.

  10. Hi Charlie,

    I love reading your articles. They always teach me something I didn’t know.

    I have a client that sends me a backup of his QB file every month to do his bookkeeping. He does the invoicing himself using a customized invoice with his company logo on it. He complained that the logo was not on the invoice when he restored the backup file I sent him after I finished his bookkeeping. I told him that images didn’t get backup and would see if there was a way around this. He told me not to worry about it, he would just add it back to the invoice when he restored.

    A good portion of my bookkeeping for clients is done using a backup. I have a new client that wants to attach receipts, copies of payments from customers and other things to transactions in QuickBooks. I see in this months file that he has added documents to the Document Center and there is a customer name next to them, so I’m assuming he did attach them, but of course I’m using a backup and can’t see any of the documents. I use Share File to transfer his QB back and forth. If he sent a .qbw. instead of a backup would I be able to see the documents?

    Thanks

    • Glad I can help, Jo Ellen!

      No, the QBB won’t contain the documents. They are stored in a separate folder named “Attach” that is stored in the same place as the QBW file, but they are not backed up at all. Note that after you use the feature for awhile you would have a very large volume of attachments, probably, so a backup that would contain this would get unwieldy.

      This is a perfect situation for SmartVault! Then you and your client would have access to the same store of documents. I highly recommend it…

  11. Maureen Eijsten says:

    Hi there,

    I realize this is a very old thread, but on the off chance you might have an answer, I thought I’d ask: What about using a QBM file (QuickBooks Portable Company file) as a backup instead? A few years back while working for a client, I encountered a major corruption in a restored QBW file that we’d been trading back and forth as a QBB file. There was simply a ton of missing data for the current year, and it really shook my confidence in using QBB files for anything – not only for trading a file back and forth, but for backing up in general. I’ve never had any problems using a portable company file in lieu of a QBB file – in fact, I’ve had far better luck, and find my data has always remained intact. Is there any reason that QBM files are inferior to QBB files as backups?

    Many thanks!

    • Maureen, it is impossible for me to talk about what happened with that particular QBB file without having hands on the file (and the original QBW). I’m going to guess that there were a couple of issues there. First, that the original QBW file most likely had some corruption in it to begin with. Second, I’ll guess that when the QBB backup was made for you by the client that they did not pick the option to verify the file, which would possibly have pointed out that there was some corruption in the original file. In general, the QBB file process is considered to be very safe as long as you verify the file when creating, and you don’t have a bad file to begin with.

      Having said that, the portable file (QBM) is specifically designed to make it easy for you to exchange a file easily. It is also very safe, but also depends on having an original file that isn’t corrupted.

      If you JUST want to transfer the file so that you can see it, possibly make adjustments, then the portable file is fine. It includes all the QuickBooks transactions and data. However, if you are moving an installation from one computer to another, or wanting to make a complete backup of an installation, it might not be the best. The portable file doesn’t include things like the logo files you use for invoice templates, any Word letter templates, ancillary files like the cash flow projector and loan manager, printer settings, your dictionary, and more. Things that you as an accountant may not need, but that are important to make backups for disaster recovery.

      See my article at http://www.sleeter.com/blog/2012/05/why-cant-quickbooks-restore-backups-correctly/ which lists the files that are in the QBB backup.

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