Recently, there seems to be a rash of inquiries concerning – or reports of – QuickBooks (desktop) files that either will not back-up, or will not reset the QuickBooks Transaction Log (.QBW.tlg) file when a completely-verified internal back-up of QuickBooks is performed. In this article we will attempt to discuss the various causes for both of these events.
The QuickBooks (Desktop) Back-up Process and Options
QuickBooks offers a back-up process for your QuickBooks Company (.QBW) file using an internal utility that makes a ‘somewhat’ condensed version of your data including the company file, the transaction log, financial statement designer, cash flow projector, loan manager and some other related files like templates, letters and images. The extent of compression is not nearly as significant as that associated with the QuickBooks Portable Company file utility.
As part of configuring a QuickBooks Back-up users have three options related to verification of their company data which check for various forms of data integrity and corruption. Typically, all files should be backed-up using the ‘Complete verification’ option; however, many users complain that this option takes too long, and requires the Admin user to have the file open in single-user mode. As such, many users option for either ‘Quicker verification’ of ‘No verification’ when backing-up their file.
QBDT Back-up Options
The Relationship Between the QuickBooks Back-up and the QBW.tlg file
QuickBooks (desktop) uses a transaction log file to track changes to your data since the last time you performed a completely verified back-up of your company file. In case of an accidental data loss, the transaction log file may be used by data repair services, in conjunction with your most recent backup, to recover your data up to your recently saved transactions. The transaction log file has the same name as your company file, but with a .qbw.tlg extension. For example, a company file called, MyCompany.qbw, should have a transaction log file named, MyCompany.qbw.tlg. Both files should be located in the same windows directory.
Whenever you perform a ‘completely verified’ back-up, QuickBooks confirms that the data in your Company file matches the data recorded within the transaction log file. When the two files match, and the data in the Company file is being written to a back-up, QuickBooks should reset the transaction log back to a starting point (somewhere around 320kb or smaller).
QuickBooks transaction log files can ‘grow’ very large if they are NOT reset via a completely verified back-up, and they will continue to increase in size until such a back-up is performed. You should never ‘delete’ a .QBW.tlg file, since the file may contain essential information needed to repair corruptions or lost data associated with your Company file.
Why Your QuickBooks Back-up Fails when using the Complete Verification Option
Any form of data corruption, either within the data structure or the actual data itself, that would normally prevent the QuickBooks Verify utility from completing normally will prevent a QuickBooks Back-up from finishing normally. If you have errors that exist within your QuickBooks data, you may see a message telling you that “QuickBooks was unable to back-up your company file” or that the “Back-up failed.” The bullet-points below represent several of the other triggers impacting your back-up, even though they typically don't result in a failure of the Verify utility.
- Long file names, especially those with non-Alpha or non-Numeric characters (such as symbols), can trigger a failure of the back-up file. QuickBooks files should be no more than 35 characters in length. One of the problems occurs by default when the file is created because QuickBooks attempts to name your file from the Company Name entered in the company information window. If your real company name is something like XYZ Company, Inc. dba: XYZ MarketB!ast you are going to have problems due to the total number of characters, as well as from the use of symbols and punctuation. (And yes, I do realize that I put an exclamation point in place of the letter L in Blast, that's part of my illustration here.) You need to actually change the name of the company file to something far more streamlined (it doesn't really have to match your legal or dba name). Really, you should just call your file XYZCompany.
Murph's best practice is to never put punctuation, special characters, or even spaces in your file names unless absolutely necessary to differentiate one file from another.
- The path to the company file, or to the back-up location, is too long. Always make certain that you are making a back-up on the same computer as your Company file is located, and that you are saving the back-up to the same computer.
Do not make a back-up to an external drive or flash drive, always backup to a resident drive first, then copy the back-up file to your external drive or flash drive.
- Never build extra file name extensions onto either your company file or the back-up file you are saving. In other words, don’t use file names like Company.com.qbw or Company.qbw.901
It's QuickBooks job to create the appropriate file extensions, your job is to leave them alone.
- Insure frequent enough ‘complete backups’ of your company file that you are not attempting to produce a back-up across multiple QuickBooks release updates, or versions. Always perform a ‘complete backup’ of your file before updating to a new release or updating to a new version. Changes in the data schema of updated files may conflict with data within the transaction log that was recorded prior to the schema change.
Keep your 'completely verified' QuickBooks Back-ups current. That keeps your QBW.tlg file manageable in size.
- The size of your QuickBooks Company file can also be an issue. Last I heard, QuickBooks won’t perform a back-up of a company file when the file is 3 GB or greater. There can also be an issue when the combined size of the Company file and transaction log being backed up are too large for the compression utility to handle during the back-up process. Creation and restoration of a Portable Company file may sufficiently reduce the size of your company file in order to permit a ‘complete verification’ back-up to be performed.
If your file sizes are getting too big to back-up, it’s time to consider a file size alternative (new file, condensed file, split file, etc.).
What to Do When QuickBooks Fails to Back-up Your Data
In the event of a back-up failure, always run the QuickBooks Verify utility, prior to performing any Rebuild of your data. Furthermore, always review the QuickBooks QBWin.log for errors that maybe reported during the Verify sequence. Not every error triggers the Verify utility to fail, but that doesn’t mean that such errors will not prevent a QuickBooks ‘completely verified’ back-up from finishing.
In my opinion, you should NEVER run the Rebuild utility without examining the QBWin.log first, as some errors causing Verify or a Backup to fail can actually be made worse by use of the Rebuild utility.
The ‘triggers’ discussed in the bullet-points within the section above, may also prevent QuickBooks from resetting the transaction log even if identifiable errors are NOT reported in the QBWin.log. Additional forms of corruption, typically associated with the integrity of the file structure, can also prevent the resetting of the transaction log following what appears to be a successful backup.
If you continue to experience back-up failures, or the back-up completes, but your *.QBW.tlg file fails to reset, despite the fact that you have the back-up utility set for ‘Complete verification’, it is time to consider having your QuickBooks data examined by a data service professional.