Cloud Accounting QuickBooks

Converting a QuickBooks Windows File to QuickBooks Online

Written by Charlie Russell

Intuit has recently started introducing a new procedure for converting a QuickBooks for Windows (desktop) file to QuickBooks Online. They refer to it as “three clicks in three minutes or less”, and it provides a streamlined method of converting your file to QuickBooks Online that is being rolled out in QuickBooks 2010 through 2013. Let’s take a look at how this works.

Keep in mind that QuickBooks Online is very different than QuickBooks for Windows, so make sure that this is the conversion you want to make. There are many features in QuickBooks for Windows that aren’t supported in QuickBooks Online. One of the nice things about this conversion process is that you can run the two programs in parallel with your real data – at no additional cost for the trial period of 30 days.

Editors note: Some of the information here is out of date, as QuickBooks Online has evolved since the article was written. You can find some updated information in another article in our blog. We are working on an updated article.

Can I Do It In Three Clicks?

Just about – although it might actually take a few more than three. However,it works very smoothly.

To start, select Company from your QuickBooks company menu and select Export Company File to QuickBooks Online.  Note that you might not find this option – I’ll explain more about that later in this article.

You’ll get the introductory window:

Step 1

Click the button to continue (that is one click, not counting the menu choice). The program will examine your current company file and then list the features that you will lose if you move to QuickBooks Online.

Step 2

That is odd, I thought that QuickBooks Online had inventory tracking now? Well, it is, but only in QuickBooks Online Plus, and this conversion creates a QuickBooks Online Essentials file. Essentials doesn’t support inventory. In any case, it is nice that they give you a list of the things that you’ll be losing. Click the button to continue (that is the second click).

Step 3

You can create a new account, or you can use an existing account. This is your “Intuit account”, not just a “QuickBooks Online account”. You may already have one if you are a ProAdvisor or if you have signed up for any App Center apps in your QuickBooks for Windows installation.

Click on the button (that is the third click) and your data is uploaded to Intuit. How long this takes will depend on how large your file is to start with – it only took a few minutes with my small sample file. When that is done, you get the following:

Fourth click?

OK, so to finish the process it takes a “fourth” click (sorry, Jessica) – but that is OK, this was a smooth process. You don’t have to provide a credit card to start your trial (I really like that), you don’t have to make copies of your desktop file, you don’t have to go out and find the right website, it is all done in one smooth process that you start right inside QuickBooks.

Within a short time after completing this you will get an email message saying that the conversion is complete. With my simple test file I received this message within a few minutes. It could take longer with larger files.

Conversion Successful email

There are some variations that you may run into (which may add a few more clicks). If you already have an Intuit ID and you log in, you may see a screen that lets you choose to create a new company, or override and existing QuickBooks Online company that you already have. Be careful as the “replace” option is NOT a “merge”, you lose any existing data, and there isn’t a way to undo that.

Choosing a company

I did run into one problem with converting a file from QuickBooks 2013. I couldn’t convert the file – it would give me this error message

Conversion Error from QB 2013

Apparently this is due to a problem in this particular test file – I had no problems converting OTHER company files from QuickBooks 2013. At this point it isn’t clear what the problem was with the file – Intuit is looking at it to see what the problem was.

Where Is This Available?

This new feature is being rolled out for QuickBooks Premier in the 2010 through 2013 versions, although sometimes it is a bit hard to find:

  • You need to have the most current “revision” of your copy of QuickBooks. Older revisions might not include this feature. If you go to the QuickBooks Product Update page you can find what the current release is for your product (press F2 in QuickBooks to get your product info, including revision).
  • This feature is only found in Pro and Premier in the Windows desktop versions. It is not available in the Mac or Enterprise versions. QuickBooks Mac users have to first convert their file to QuickBooks Windows (and that is a whole story by itself). Enterprise users can use the “old method” that I describe later in this article.  Intuit figures that people using Enterprise are less likely to be happy with QuickBooks Online. I don’t understand why the new method is not available when they do offer the old method anyways?
  • If you have QuickBooks Accountant you won’t see the feature, but you can “Toggle” to one of the regular editions and then you will see the new feature..

If you try it with QuickBooks 2013 you may get a “Server” error message that says the conversion cannot be completed. This should be resolved soon.

How Well Does Conversion Work?

If you aren’t working with inventory part or inventory assembly items, the conversion seems to work pretty well, but it is very important that you compare the converted file with the original file.

Let’s take a look at what the conversion did for me. The first thing to look at is to see if your financial statements match between your starting Windows file and your ending Online file. I recommend that you look at your balance sheet, profit/lost statement and aging reports (both receivables and payables) to compare.

Here’s a portion of my balance sheet from the starting point in QuickBooks for Windows:

QuickBooks Desktop balance sheet

Here’s the matching report from QuickBooks Online:

QuickBooks Online balance sheet

As you can see, everything matches. The same held true for the other financial statements in my test case.

I also looked at the major “lists” in the two files. Here’s my customer list in QuickBooks for Windows– note that there is one customer marked as “inactive”.

Customer list in QuickBooks Windows

Here is the customer list in QuickBooks Online. All customers, including those marked as inactive, have transferred over. You might want to try to clean up your data on the Windows side before you start the conversion.

Customer List in QuickBooks Online

Inventory is a tougher nut to crack, though. As I pointed out before, they list inventory as being one of the features not available. QuickBooks Online Plus DOES support inventory, but this conversion sets up a more limited QuickBooks Online Essentials file. You CAN move up to QBO Plus, but you won’t get your quantity on hand back if you do. I’m not sure why Intuit isn’t offering the option of converting with inventory balances.

Here is a portion of my item list from QuickBooks for Windows:

QuickBooks Windows item list

Looking at the product/service list in QuickBooks Online you’ll see that the quantity on hand column is empty, and again that all inactive items have transferred over.

QuickBooks item list in QBO

Looking at the item list you can see some other differences. Look at the inventory item “APC”. You’ll see that there now are three items, “APC”, “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset”. For any transaction that uses “APC” there will be added detail lines for “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset” to properly adjust your accounts.

For the most part it seems that all of the details carry over without any problem. You won’t see ALL of your data, of course, since QuickBooks Online is a very different product than QuickBooks for Windows. Some lists won’t transfer, such as customer and vendor types, since QuickBooks Online doesn’t support those. Certain types of transactions won’t transfer either, such as estimates or pending transactions. And as I mention, anything dealing with inventory will be changed.

Here’s a few additional thoughts on the process:

  • Clean up your data in the Windows side of things BEFORE you convert. Why carry over bad or obsolete data? You can use the Data Remover by Karl Irvin or the Transaction Pro Delete Wizard from Baystate Consulting – both companies produce wonderful tools. Note that Baystate Consulting is working on a “Delete” tool for QuickBooks Online that should be available in the near future if you decide that you need to delete data AFTER the transfer.
  • Your QuickBooks for Windows file must be smaller than 200MB to be converted. If you have a larger file then you can use the condense feature, or get one of the services to do a compression for you (such as
  • You cannot convert a file that is using the multi-currency feature.

Comparing to the Old Method

We’ve had a QuickBooks for Windows to QuickBooks Online conversion routine for some time now, so what is special about the new approach? It is very easy! Prior to this we had a multiple step process:

  1. Select Copy Company File for QuickBooks Online from the File/Utilities menu. This would create a copy of your company file.
  2. Create a new QuickBooks Online account by going to their website.
  3. Log in to that company using Internet Explorer. Even though Intuit says that Firefox and Chrome work better with QuickBooks Online, you must use Internet Explorer for this conversion.
  4. Select the Company tab, and select More/Import QuickBooks Desktop Data.
  5. Click Continue in the welcome window.
  6. You may have to approve the installation of an ActiveX component.
  7. Click Continue in the feature comparison window.
  8. If you have compatibility view enabled in Internet Explorer you will get a warning that may be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with this (and you’ll have to click a button).
  9. Check a box to say that you are ready to continue, and click another button.
  10. Select how to import, and click another button to continue.

The end results of the older process are pretty much the same as the newer process, but you have a lot more steps to go through. It is nice that they are making it easier to do, and all from within QuickBooks without having to go out to other websites, etc.

You do have the option in the old method to convert JUST lists, and not transactions, but you can cover that by deleting transactions in your QuickBooks for Windows file with the condense feature.

Note that if you want to convert an Enterprise file you will be using the old method.


This was only a simple test, but outside of the issues I point out (inactive records, inventory quantities) it seemed to work well. The actual conversion process “under the hood” is probably the same as before, the new feature is a streamlined process when compared to the old way. This is much simpler to do!

I am glad that they provide a 30 day trial so that I can play with the converted file, AND that they don’t ask for a credit card up front (I hate having to do that for trials).

QuickBooks Online is a very different product than QuickBooks for Windows. I’ll be going into the differences in more detail in a future article. If you are an inventory-centric business, this might not be what you want to do. However, if you need access while out of the office, or you are operating from multiple offices, it might be worth considering.

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About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has 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 an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. 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, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been the managing editor and primary writer for the Sleeter Report since 2011. Charlie can be reached at

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • The biggest surprise I had in my last conversion happened in the Item List. All two sided items were converted to 1 sided items. This was something we had not anticipated and did not realize had happened until several weeks after the conversion. Is there a comprehensive list of the differences between QB Desktop and QBO and the unintended consequences with the conversion of data?

    I really like my QBO file, I would like to disclose all of the issues to a client before we do a conversion, instead of explaining after the fact.

    Thank you Charlie, for your thorough and exhaustive reviews and analysis.

    • Vickie, I’ll take a look at that issue at some point. As far as a comprehensive list of differences – there really isn’t one that is TOTALLY comprehensive. I’ll be writing an article on the differences between the programs in the next few weeks, but it won’t be aimed at conversion issues. Note that the Intuit KB article I refer to in this post has a lot more info on how things will convert.

  • Charlie, Merry Christmas. 🙂 This is a great article. One caution I would also throw out (and this applies to all SDK and IPP apps) is that integrated apps with no longer work with the new QuickBooks Online account. All the id numbers will be different so it is important we educate customers about this as well.

    • Right, Danny – your QuickBooks Online installation is totally separate from your Desktop installation, and third party apps don’t carry over. Many apps you have for the Desktop version aren’t even available in the Online version.

  • This is the type of article I can give my desktop clients who want to switch to the cloud, the “holy cloud” and suggest that perhaps they should upload their company data file and run the two side by side in both systems during the trial. While it involves double entry it is less expensive than getting married and divorced a week later.

    I have already heard from several clients that they wished that they hadn’t switched from their desktop version to online due to a perception that the online version is slower (I then suggest that maybe they should use a hosting service instead and put the program elsewhere).

  • Thank you for mentioning in your blog that you can’t use accountant edidtion to upload the file with the new method. I toggled to the general edition of premier and it worked great. That saved me a phone call to tech support. Who do they think is going to be doing these conversions any how?

    • I would suggest that you give them feedback on this in the feedback options in the programs, Mark. The product manager that I talked to was a bit surprised that I thought it should be in the Accountant versions (and he also is the person who pointed out the workaround to me). This is a new feature, so they are probably very open to feedback.

  • Thank you, Charlie, for this very useful article. One thing I noticed immediately in your presentation of the before and after results is the lack of an indication on the QBO balance sheet that it was on the accrual basis (which your QBDT report showed). I think it’s very important to know whether any report you are looking at is accrual or cash based. I assume QBO does both, but then how can you tell which basis you are looking at?


    — Ron

    • Ron, I just trimmed that notation off of the screen shot when I made it narrower. You can print reports in QBO in cash or accrual basis, and there is a notation in the upper right corner that will show you which you are using. There is a “customize” button on the report (such as in a P&L) that lets you switch between cash and accrual.

    • QuickBooks Desktop is tied to Internet Explorer – any time it opens a browser window from an internal menu option or button the window will be an IE window. So, yes, it still requires Internet Explorer, because QuickBooks uses that. This isn’t an issue of the conversion routine, it is an issue of QuickBooks Desktop in general.

  • During the export process, Quickbooks Pro Plus 2013 only offers me the opportunity to export my data to Quickbooks Online Plus — I want to use Online Essentials … would appreciate any comments as to how I can do that.

    In advance, thanks – Mark

    • Mark, to tell the truth, I’m not sure. You may have to call Intuit sales on that. I asked one of the Product Managers but haven’t gotten a response yet. It may be that you would change over to that after conversion, or perhaps at the end of the trial run, but I’m not sure.

    • Mark, I finally got an answer from Intuit on this.

      If you start with the desktop product like described in the article, and create a new QuickBooks Online account in the process, it will default to QuickBooks Online Plus as you mention.

      If you want to use QuickBooks Essentials, what you need to do is to FIRST create your account with QuickBooks Essentials. Then go to the desktop product and start the export. It will ask you if you want to create a new file or overwrite an existing one, and you would choose to overwrite the data in the Essentials file you already created. In this case, your data is imported into the Essentials file.

      This may change in the future, but it is the way to handle it at this time.

      • I’m confused. this article says it converts you to Essentials throughout, and in this comment, says that it converts you to Plus automatically.
        Am I understanding correctly that it is all based on whether you create your online account BEFORE conversion vs. DURING conversion?

        • Tap, my apologies, I can see where the confusion comes from.

          There is a difference between the “features” and the type of subscription. The conversion process will convert the file with the features of an Essentials subscription – mainly with regards to how it handles inventory. That is what I was referring to in the article. Inventory is converted like it is an Essentials file.

          The type of subscription you get will be a Plus version if you create a new account during conversion. If you create an account prior to conversion, you get whatever you subscribe to.

          Is that clearer?

        • Tap,

          Hello! I am a QBO rep here at Intuit. What we call “Beanstalk” is our new import process. To answer your question, if you set up a Quickbooks Online company prior to importing, it will let you choose what subscription you would like to set up with. If you start the import and set up a company within that process, it will automatically default to our Online Plus option, because that is most like the desktop edition you are familiar with.

  • Hi Charlie,

    I am new at using Qbooks Online Essentials.
    I am working with a small company that sells Auto Parts.
    I have looked everywhere online, for a little bit of guidance on how to set up the inventory asset accounts and how to properly invoice them.

    “Looking at the item list you can see some other differences. Look at the inventory item “APC”. You’ll see that there now are three items, “APC”, “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset”. For any transaction that uses “APC” there will be added detail lines for “APC:COGS” and “APC: Inventory Asset” to properly adjust your accounts.”

    I saw that you mentioned, in this paragraph three separate accounts for that one inventory item. However my question is, which one will I use when I invoice a client… all three? And is it the same for services rendered?

  • Just wanted to note (at least in QuickBooks Premier 2011 Accountant) I had to do the update through the program (Help > Update QuickBooks) even though I had downloaded the R13 patch from the website. I guess they don’t include all the updates on the website for some reason.

  • Hi Charlie,

    Does QuickBooks Online work in the same way that the Cloud based software does or is this easier? Is QuickBooks Online more Mac friendly?

    Any feedback, insight or advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • Yvette, I’m not sure what you mean. QuickBooks Online IS a cloud based product.

      Do you mean is it the same as the desktop product? No, it isn’t the same. Easier – that is in the eye of the beholder.

      You can use QBO on a Mac – you are just running it through a web browser…

  • I share the attitude of Vicki from December 2012 that Intuit should inform prospective customers of all the deficiencies they have not corrected yet in the conversion process. I am not impressed that the sales team or online support does not make you aware of the issue first.

    The major issue we are dealing with is that all the inactive customers are now showing as active and these go back to 2008. Each of our customers are only set up for a one day event and there are easily 150 clients or more that need to be marked inactive. It is inappropriate not to be told in advance and then to be informed that their is no method to do a bulk ‘inactive’ process.

    I am hoping that Odyssey who is managing the conversion will fix this, I do not feel that the suggestion of opening over 150 clients one at a time to mark them inactive is professional solution.

    The other issue is bank reconciliations which were up to date and are now the bank account look like they have never been reconciled from the very beginning.

    It is frustrating that this is not escalated to a higher level of support with Intuit.

    It is only possible to communicate with Odyssey via email and you have to wait for days for them to respond.

    • Intuit doesn’t support converting from Enterprise to QBO. You could export your List information (customer list, vendor list) and import that to a Premier file, then convert that to QBO. If you want transactions then you have to use some third party programs or services to convert more from Enterprise to Premier.

      • I just purchased the 2015 Plus Premier to use with another client. Can I upgrade my 2013 Enterprise Solutions to Plus and then export to Online?

        • Not easily. You cannot easily convert an Enterprise file back to Premier. There are ways to do that – take a look at the utilities found at for that. However, it is a lot of work. You may want to work with someone who already has these tools and who can help you with the transition.

  • Hi Russel. I am having some issues with QuickBooks and any help would be appreciated.
    I am using an online version of QuickBooks but it’s not ‘Quickbook Online Plus’ as shown here. You can find the version i am using here –

    When i exort data from options, the file gets exported to the destination folder but it doesn’t appear there when i try to locate it. Please help.


    • Udit, there are multiple products listed at the QuickBooks web site. The Online version, in the US, has “Simple Start”, “Essentials” and “Plus”.

      Are you using a US version? Do you have the version with the menu across the top in tabs, or the version with the menu down the left side of the screen?

  • Hello Mr Russell,

    Is there a solution now to the conversion error in making all inactive customers active? Or could you direct me to any specialist who can manage this problem?

    I have been able to work on the day to day for my client, but attempted to make the past customers inactive only to find that it is not possible. We used the job allocation function from the desktop version. Not only did Odyssey make all the customers active again, they also took the job allocation of expenses to mean that each customer has to be billed the portion of the vendor bills, even though these details were used to judge if the profit margin was appropriate for each function. The very difficult end result is that I can only make the customer event (the business is a rental hall for weddings, etc) inactive if i disassociate each event with the supplier invoice. Considering that we are talking about 8 or more years of events (or what was once inactive customers), I am sure you can imagine the massive scope of the project to fix the error resulting from how Intuit handled the conversion.

    I discovered the problem together with QB online support and we were both shocked at the conversion error with no immediate possibility of rectifying the problem.

  • Thank you for the informative article to convert quickbooks desktop to quickbooks online. I’m going to have two businesses to convert to quickbooks online, one from quickbooks 2010 and one from quickbooks easy start 2009. Can I convert two separate quickbooks companies from two different quickbook versions to my quickbooks online account?

    thank you for your help.

    • Veronica, you can convert both into separate QuickBooks Online accounts, although you may find that you need to convert the Easy Start 2009 file into a Pro or Premier file first. The big issue here is that you have to pay for a separate QBO account for each company – only one company file per subscription.

  • I am writing this in 2014, and hoping things have changed over the past few months. I have QB’s Premier, and unfortunately for me Multi Currency is turned on. Had QB’s found a way to convert a desktop file that has the multi currency feature turned, to QB’s online?
    A QB’s rep put me in touch with a software website that apparently takes the multi currency off, I paid my $200 and it did not work.
    Frustrated and hoping things have changed.


  • I have been using QuickBook Premier Nonprofit Edition 2010 in windows computer. Now i have Mac Pro so wanted to transferred the back up file to mac. But it says that you are using multi currency when i tried to get the copy Company files for quick book. Please suggest me how can i get the data for the mac. Even i can not delete the currency columns.

    • Once you turn multi-currency on, you cannot turn it off. There isn’t a simple way to convert that file to the Mac version. You can export list information and transfer it in, sometimes, but that only gets some info. You can try exporting your lists and transactions using Transaction Pro Exporter, then import that to a new QB Windows company file (without multi currency turned on) using Transaction Pro Importer, then transfer THAT file to QB for Mac, but that takes a lot of work. It usually works best if you find a QB expert who can do the transfer for you.

      Alternately, you can run QB for Windows on your Mac using Parallels or one of the similar Windows emulation tools.

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