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How to Back Up Your QuickBooks Desktop Data

QuickBooks Desktop Data

Backing up your QuickBooks Desktop data regularly is one of the most important things you can do to protect your business’s financial information. As a QuickBooks user for over 10 years, I have helped many small business owners set up reliable backup systems to safeguard their accounting data.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about backing up your QuickBooks Desktop data. We’ll cover types of backups, when to backup, manual vs automated backups, and step-by-step instructions on how to backup your QuickBooks data on both Windows and Mac.

Why Backups Are Critical for QuickBooks Users

Before we get into the how-tos, it’s important to understand why regular QuickBooks backups are so critical. QuickBooks contains all of your business’s key financial data, from invoices and bills to customer information and inventory records. Losing access to your QuickBooks data could be catastrophic for your business.

Here are some of the main reasons you need to have a backup plan in place:

  • Avoid data loss – There are dozens of scenarios that could cause data loss, from hard drive failures to severe weather damaging equipment. Backups give you the ability to restore lost or damaged data.
  • Recover from data corruption – sometimes QuickBooks Data can become corrupted. Backups allow you to revert to an earlier uncorrupted version of your data file.
  • Protect against theft – Backups stored off-site can help you recover from having your computer or QuickBooks files stolen.
  • Regular re-backups – Over time, your QuickBooks file grows as you add more customer information, invoices, inventory items etc. Regular backups are needed to capture all this new data.
  • Peace of mind – Knowing you have a backup copy of your essential business financial information provides significant peace of mind. You’re protected against catastrophic data loss.

Now that you understand the critical importance of backing up QuickBooks, let’s go over some of the fundamentals…

Types of QuickBooks Data Backups

There are two main types of QuickBooks backup files you need to know about:

  1. Full Backup – A full backup is an exact copy of your QuickBooks data file. All information at the time of the backup – company file data, customer info, transaction history etc. – is fully captured. Performing full regular backups ensures you have comprehensive data archives.
  2. Condensed Backup – A condensed backup (or QuickBooks portable file) contains only active account balances. It does not archive historical transaction data. Condensed backups are useful for portability, but not sufficient as your sole backup method.

I recommend maintaining both types of backups. Full backups for complete archives and condensed for easily moving data between locations.

Now let’s look at backup frequency best practices…

How Often to Back Up Your QuickBooks Data

Your QuickBooks data file should be backed up on a regular schedule. Here are my recommended minimum backup frequencies:

  • Daily backups – Perform a manual or automated daily backup to capture that day’s work. This protects you from potential data loss if there’s an equipment failure or user error that damages data.
  • Weekly backups – Do a weekly full backup to archive the entire week’s transactions. This acts as a milestone marker you can revert to if needed.
  • Monthly backups – At end of each month, backup the company file to have monthly financial snapshots. Store these for at least 7 years for tax and accounting purposes.
  • Before major file maintenance – Backup before performing any maintenance, upgrades or troubleshooting on your company file. Protects your data if any issues occur.
  • Before major company milestones – Backup before things like system upgrades, office moves, employee turnover or migrating to new accounting systems. Major events increase risk of data issues.

Manual vs Automated Backups in QuickBooks

You have two main options for actually performing your QuickBooks backups:

Manual – You can backup your company file manually by going to File -> Back Up Company -> Create Local Backup. Store the backup file in a safe secondary location. The downside is having to remember to consistently do this.

Automated – Use QuickBooks’ automated backup feature or third party software to schedule automatic backups as often as you need. This set-it-and-forget approach works for many businesses.

My recommendation is to utilize both manual and automated methods. Schedule automatic daily and weekly backups for convenience, but also do a manual monthly full backup for redundancy.

Now let’s go through step-by-step instructions for backing up your QuickBooks Desktop data…

How to Backup QuickBooks Data on Windows

Here are the steps to back up your company file on a Windows PC:

  1. Open QuickBooks and ensure all windows are closed so no data is open or in use.
  2. Click File -> Back Up Company -> Create Local Backup.
  3. Choose a location to save your backup file. Ideally an external hard drive, USB drive or cloud storage – not the same physical drive as your active company file.
  4. For backup type, choose Full or Condensed backup. Remember full captures all data and condensed only active balances.
  5. If backing up locally, choose which drives to store the file on. For cloud backups, connect and choose your storage provider.
  6. Click Next -> Save. This creates the backup file at your chosen location.
  7. Name your backup file with your company name and the date so its contents are clear.
  8. When finished, close QuickBooks and store your backup file safely.

Follow this process regularly based on the recommended backup frequency timelines above.

How to Backup QuickBooks Data on Mac

Here are the step-by-step instructions for backing up your company file using QuickBooks for Mac:

  1. Open QuickBooks and close any open windows. Click File -> Back Up Company Data.
  2. On the panel that appears, click New Backup.
  3. Choose a location to save your backup file. Local or cloud storage outside your active company file is best.
  4. Select between a Full (recommended) or Condensed backup type.
  5. By default, QuickBooks will name your backup file with the date. I suggest renaming it to your company name and date for clarity.
  6. Click Save when you’re ready to perform the backup.
  7. When finished, close QuickBooks and store the backup file securely off-site or in cloud storage.
  8. Repeat these steps regularly based on the recommended backup schedule.

Verifying Your QuickBooks Backups

It’s important to verify that your backups are working properly by opening them occasionally. Here’s how:

  1. Close your active company file and launch QuickBooks.
  2. Click File -> Open or Restore Company
  3. Navigate to and select your backup QBB or QBM file. Click Open.
  4. QuickBooks will open the backup file. Check that the data is complete and up-to-date.
  5. Once satisfied it’s a valid backup, close the file and return to your current active company file.

Make sure to test backups so you know your data is being archived properly. Catch backup issues proactively.

Storing QuickBooks Backup Files Securely

Where and how you store backup files is just as important as doing the backups themselves:

  • Store backup files on external media that can be disconnected when not in use. This protects against ransomware.
  • Consider cloud storage services like Dropbox or Google Drive for secure off-site backups.
  • If backing up locally, use external hard drives and rotate drives monthly.
  • Backup files should be kept in a physically secure location like a safe, or off-site.
  • Encrypt backup files to add an extra layer of security on top of device encryption.

Take time to think through a robust storage plan for your backups. This helps keep your data protected.


There you have it! Everything you need to know to start backing up your QuickBooks Desktop data with confidence. Following best practices for backup frequency, file management and secure storage will go a long way towards safeguarding your company’s financial records.

Be sure to train staff on your backup procedures if multiple people access your QuickBooks file. Consistency and vigilance in your backup regimen will lead to data peace of mind for years to come.

Let me know if any questions come up as you implement your new QuickBooks backup system. I’m always happy to help fellow QB users master data protection!