Another article on QuickBooks and PDF printing problems, focusing on Windows 8 (but not limited to that). Are you tired of this yet? I’m hoping that I can wrap this all up once and for all (but, for some reason, I doubt it is the last word).
I’ve written about variations of this many times. QuickBooks uses what I consider to be an odd method of generating PDF files, using some internally referenced PDF drivers, and we always seem to have problems. However, thanks to some information from an Intuit employee named Pervez and some information he posted in the Intuit Community forums, I hope that we have some final answers.
We have so many variables! What year of QuickBooks are you using? What revision within that year? What version of Windows? Is it 32 bit or 64 bit? Did you upgrade Windows from an earlier version or do a clean install? Do you stand with your left foot raised and blink your right eye when you start QuickBooks? All of these can have some bearing on the reason why a particular QuickBooks installation cannot save a PDF.
Note, this article was updated on 2/4/2013
So, a summary of what I am seeing at this time:
- Windows 8 (32 or 64 bit) and QuickBooks 2013: You want to upgrade to QuickBooks 2013 R4 to get PDF’s to work. It doesn’t always work, sometimes there is garbage left around from older operating systems (if you upgraded a system to Windows 8), sometimes there are other programs that just seem to interfere. However, with this release you have the BEST chance of success in Windows 8. Earlier revisions of QuickBooks 2013 have problems. This is the only version of QuickBooks that is approved by Intuit for use on Windows 8. If you still have problems, try the fixes outlined below.
- Windows 8 (32 bit) and QuickBooks 2012 or QuickBooks 2011: If you have a 32 bit system then try the fix outlined below, it should work.
- Windows 8 (64 bit) and QuickBooks 2012 or QuickBooks 2011: If you have a 64 bit system, you can try the fixes, but they don’t always work. You may have to upgrade to QuickBooks 2013.
- Windows 8 (32 or 64 bit) and QuickBooks 2010: You SHOULD be able to get this to work, but you may need to try one of the fixes below.
What about older versions of QuickBooks on Windows 8? I have to admit that I haven’t tried that. Older versions are no longer supported by Intuit, certain features are suppressed, and you are much more likely to have compatibility problems of one sort or another. You can try the QuickBooks 2010 fix listed below, but you may find that it is better to upgrade.
What about PDF problems on Windows 7? You have a better chance on getting QuickBooks (2010 through 2013) to work on that if you have an up to date revision, but if you do have a problem try the fixes below.
What about PDF Problems on Windows Vista or XP? Come on, it is probably time to move up to Windows 7 or Windows 8 (and probably a new computer). If you have a 64 bit system you are probably out of luck, if you have a 32 bit system some of the fixes below may work.
Fixing the PDF Problems, Step by Step
Here’s a list of possible fixes that you can try, starting with the simplest. These apply to any version of Windows and any year of QuickBooks. Note, though, that the older the year of QuickBooks the more likely that you will have a problem. And, note, that if you have a 64 bit computer system you are more likely to run into problems than on a 32 bit system.
Simple First Step
The first step is simple. If you see this kind of message when doing a “save as PDF”, try saving a second time. It might work! You’ll be more likely run into this with QuickBooks 2011 or later, which use the Microsoft XPS driver. QuickBooks tries to save, can’t, and so starts a process to install a hook for the XPS driver. Second time you try it, the driver is there!
Second Step – Update!
OK, that first fix probably didn’t work. The next step is ALSO very simple, in some cases. Make sure that you have the most current release of your QuickBooks product. Go to the Intuit Update website and see what the latest release is for your version of QuickBooks. If you don’t know what you are running, press the F2 key in QuickBooks (or, if that doesn’t work, ctrl-1) and look for the product information. In most cases, older revisions are more likely to have compatibility problems.
This is particularly important if you are running QuickBooks 2013 on Windows 8, because the only version of QuickBooks 2013 supported on Windows 8 is the R4 release (the most current release at the time I’m writing this).
Third Step – Repair Tools
Now we get to the “real” fixes, where you try to change some features in your Windows system to make this work. Fortunately, Intuit has some VERY nice tools available that can do the heavy lifting for you. These have been updated recently so if you have tried this before, and failed, you may want to try these again.
How do we get these tools? That is an interesting question. Note that the options I’m offering you at this time could be changed by Intuit at any time (let me know if they do!). If you have QuickBooks 2011 or later on Windows 8, download the PDF Repair Tool v3. At this moment this tool is NOT found in the normal Intuit support site, although that may change soon. If you have QuickBooks 2010 or older on Windows 8, download the QB PDF Repair Tool (old years). Again, this is not the tool found in the normal Intuit support site at this time. What if you are not on Windows 8? You may try the tools listed above, although I’ve not tested them on anything but Windows 8. They should work. However, Intuit has an older version of the PDF repair tool that has been on their website for awhile, and you may want to try that instead. Download the PDF Repair Utility.
Update on 2/4/2013 – Here is an updated link to the PDF Repair Utility. Intuit has combined the separate versions into one installation package – you will be asked to select the year of QuickBooks you are working with. It is a little messy, as it leaves some files on your desktop, but that isn’t too big of a deal.
Fourth Step – Permissions
Still no luck? Here’s a fairly technical thing to check. I’ve actually never had my hands on a system where I had to do this to fix anything, but Pervez from Intuit suggests this. You may have a problem with access permissions to the “temp” folder in Windows. To fix this:
- Press the Windows key + R to open the RUN command.
- Type %TEMP% and press Enter.
- Right-click an empty area of the temp folder, and choose Properties.
- Make sure that all usernames and groups showing on the Security tab have Full Control.
- Once the permissions have been set to Full Control, try saving as PDF again within QuickBooks.
Fifth Step for Windows 8 Only – Fixing XPS
Here’s the next step if you are using Windows 8 and QuickBooks 2011 or newer (skip it for older versions of QuickBooks).
Take a look at the “simple fix” section of my article Solving Problems with Windows 8 and QuickBooks 2013. It might work! It really is simple! Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work, and I can’t determine why. It worked on some of my test computers, but not all.
If that doesn’t work (and you are still on Windows 8 with QuickBooks 2011 or newer) there is a second fix I link to in that same article. Unfortunately, that is a link to a VERY long discussion in the Intuit Community Forum, and it is getting way too hard to decipher, so I’ll give you a more direct link here. DISCLAIMER: I HAVE NOT TRIED THIS MYSELF AND IT INVOLVES DOWNLOADING STUFF FROM AN UNVERIFIED WEBSITE. Take a look at the fix outlined at the Cosine Computer Services website. This has you downloading an older version of the Microsoft XPS drivers (since the cause of this problem is probably the new XPS system in Windows 8). As I said, I have not tested this. My virus checking system says the file is OK, and quite a few people in the Intuit Community Forum have used it successfully. I just don’t know these people… Update – this website page has been removed and is no longer available – you should no longer need this approach anyways.
If All Else Fails
Still have problems? Now it is getting tougher. There are a bunch of VERY technical steps to go through that are outlined at the Intuit support site for PDF problems. There are variations that depend on the year of QuickBooks, the version of Windows, whether you are using Terminal Services or not. I’m going to leave this to you to work through (sorry!).
To summarize what you will find there (beyond what I’ve already discussed):
- With QuickBooks 2011 or later you probably have a problem with the Microsoft XPS Document Writer. The Intuit site has instructions on how to test this, and reinstall it if necessary. There also can be an issue with Windows User and security permissions for this driver.
- With QuickBooks 2010 and older, on 32 bit systems, there can be problems with temporary files that are created and the printer spooler, as well as the driver itself.
- With QuickBooks 2010 and older, on 64 bit systems, you also can have driver problems that relate to printer ports.
If none of this works, someone is going to have to sit down with you and look at your computer. I can’t help you through a blog article. There are a million interfering details that are hard to pin down. Sometimes you just have to reinstall Windows from scratch, make sure you have all the proper drivers (get 64 bit printer drivers if you are on a 64 bit system), and make sure you are using the latest version of QuickBooks.
The Sad History of QuickBooks and PDF Drivers (abridged)
I’ve gone over this before, but it is probably worthwhile to summarize this, so you understand what is going on. Note that this description is a bit more up to date than ones I’ve provided in the past.
In QuickBooks 2010 and older Intuit was printing directly to a PDF driver from a company called Amyuni. This driver was very sensitive to operating system configuration issues, and often had problems with 64 bit computer systems. A lot of the fixes that are being done for these versions involve configuring the driver and the printer ports that it is using. The PDF repair tools are trying to work this all out for you rather than having you go through the gory details (you can see a lot of the details about this in an older article that I wrote back in 2008 on QuickBooks PDF problems).
Starting with QuickBooks 2011, Intuit switched over to a new approach where the program would send the data to the Microsoft XPS Document Writer, which in turn would send the data to an internal Amyuni program (I didn’t know that Amyuni was still in the picture until just now). This would avoid a lot of the issues that we saw with the older approach, and it was more likely to work smoothly, but not always. QuickBooks expects the XPS driver to be configured a particular way, and if it isn’t then there are problems. Again, this is what the PDF repair tools are trying to resolve for you without going into the gory details (I have some of those details if you want to see them).
QuickBooks 2013 introduced a bit of confusion for me at first – we could see another driver, the “ABS PDF Driver”. But it wasn’t being used? And if you dug in, you saw that it was the Amyuni driver again? Intuit cleared that up for me, MOST of QuickBooks 2013 still uses the XPS driver, but some older functions (like the Loan Manager) used the ABS (Amyuni) driver.
The extra complication came along with Windows 8 – Microsoft decided to make a big change in how the Microsoft XPS Document Writer worked, and this caused all kinds of problems. Intuit finally resolved this with the latest (R4) release of QuickBooks 2013 – I don’t know if they will fix this in other versions of QuickBooks. The proper PDF repair tool should do the trick, though.
I would like to thank Intuit for providing the PDF repair tools (a lot better than doing all the steps manually!), for Intuit employee Pervez (I’d love to talk to him directly sometime) for his information in the Intuit Community, and for Intuit engineer leader Saurabh who has always been willing to find answers for me.