Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Things I learned about QuickBooks

Computer services, Lagos, NigeriaMy PC finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago. It had worked smoothly for four years, I figured it was a pretty good innings. And I was prepared. Everything was backed up. So I bought a new PC with Windows Vista and began the task of installing all my old software. It was a rather tedious and lengthy process, but I managed. Until I tried to install QuickBooks.

My version of QuickBooks wasn’t compatible with Vista. I called the local support number and was informed that there is no upgrade available, I’d have to buy the full program again. Cost: R1000

I decided to see if I could purchase & download the software online. The South African site doesn’t offer a download option, so I started making enquiries on Twitter. I found out that there are a whole host of online applications that look really good and at reasonable prices (some even have basic versions for free).

This didn’t solve my problem of how to access my old files though, so I investigated further. Then I discovered that QuickBooks is available as an online version. There is a free version, a “basic” at $9.95 per month and a “plus” version at $34.95 per month. The basic looked fine for my needs, until I noticed that it doesn’t allow one to import data from the desktop version. $34.95 a month was too much for me so I continued my search.

I was then alerted to the fact (via Twitter once more) that there is a free version of QuickBooks available called “SimpleStart”. Its free to download from the U.S. In South Africa it costs R1000, remember?

I went for the free version of course! It was an enormous 320MB download. Once downloaded I installed it without a hitch. Then I tried to restore my backed-up files from the old version of “SimpleStart” (Which I had paid R1000 for a few years ago) I got the message “This file was not created with the U.S. version of QuickBooks” and it refused to open the files. A few minutes on Google told me that others had experience similar issues with non-U.S. versions of QuickBooks.

So I’m still not sure how to resolve this issue, but will probably end up doing the following:

  1. Pay R1000 for the South African version of QuickBooks SimpleStart.
  2. Access my old data (which hopefully it will allow me to do).
  3. Print out all the information I need (invoices, clients etc)
  4. Open an account with an online service such as Freshbooks
  5. Manually enter all the data into Freshbooks
  6. Uninstall QuickBooks, and throw away or burn the disks


The lesson I learned: Where possible I’ll use online applications. Gmail has lead the way for me. If my PC crashes, all my contacts are still available online and I can access them from anywhere. No conflicts with new operating systems.

Now back to the task of retrieving my accounts…


My Twitter stream


  1. This is the reponse I recieved via email from a QuickBooks representative (who follows me on Twitter) in the U.S.A:

    Hi Graeme,

    Thanks for sending!

    I really apologize that our US version of Simple Start was not compatible with your South African one... when I asked the engineering team a similar question (different country, different product version) a while back, I learned that we license the QuickBooks name and underlying code to local companies who then make it compatible with that country’s laws, regulations, terminology, and sales tax (among other things.) So the code gets changed in the process of making it work for that country. That’s why you couldn’t just upload your South African copy into the US version you downloaded.

    But I really apologize for the fuss and bother (and waste of time) you encountered doing this – I wish we had messaged that better so you would have know it wouldn’t work, and could have saved yourself the hassle.

    PLEASE do not hesitate to let me know if you have any other feedback for us... I encourage you to also contact the South African QuickBooks folks (there should be a contact address on your old software box) and let them know your feedback as well.

  2. Another note: The comments above were made by a very kind & helpful QuickBooks employee, not acting in her "official" capacity.

    The great thing about social networks like Twitter is that you are able to get a very quick response to an issue, which is often much more informative & much quicker than calling a call center number.