How Can I Improve the Performance of QuickBooks?

QuickBooks is a complex program that processes a lot of data.  As data is added to a QuickBooks company file (.qbw), loading and processing times increase.  Within the program, slower processing is usually seen when performing tasks that involve the entire company file, such as running utilities or preparing reports.  Since QuickBooks is typically used every day over a period of years, it’s highly likely that at some point you’ll find a need to improve performance.

There’s no single solution that will improve performance in every circumstance, but there are a series of steps you can take that together will have a dramatic impact on QuickBooks performance.  We’re ignoring the “common sense” recommendations of “buy a faster computer with more memory” or “upgrade to the latest version/update to the latest release.”  Spending money on new or upgraded hardware and not running outdated software will improve performance.

We recommend that you:

  1. Close your company file before exiting QuickBooks and reduce to a minimum the amount of windows that do open once you open your company file.  This will dramatically reduce the time it takes to load QuickBooks, which is one way users measure performance, but it won’t have any impact on performance while working in the program itself.
  2. Perform a manual, verified backup on a regular basis.  QuickBooks maintains a transaction log file (.tlg) that is used in conjunction with its manual, verified backup routine.  This .tlg file grows and can often become bigger than a company file (.qbw) itself.  A manual, verified backup reduces the .tlg file size and improves performance.  Scheduled QuickBooks backups don’t count, nor do other backup routines that you happen to use.  When the .tlg file exceeds 25% of the size of the company file (.qbw) size, it’s time to do a manual, verified backup.  Remember that the primary purpose of this step is to reduce the .tlg file size, not to back up data.
  3. Reduce your DB file fragments if they’re too high.  DB file fragments represent the degree to which pieces of your QuickBooks company file (.qbw) are scattered over your hard disk.  The more fragments you have, the lower your performance will be.  For most organizations, DB file fragments in the single digits are reasonable.  Organizations running Terminal Services will see more DB file fragments, into the low double digits, and that’s reasonable.  If your DB file fragments exceed those levels, convert your company file (.qbw) into a portable file, and then convert that portable file into a company file (.qbw).  That conversion routine will reduce DB file fragments and improve performance.
  4. Clear the queues for forms to be printed.  Large numbers of forms with the To be printed flag set can degrade performance.  The most common example of this problem is a large number of invoices that are in the print queue.  Remove these invoices from the print queue and performance will improve.
  5. Run the clean up utility to reduce your company file’s overall size.  For QuickBooks Pro and Premier, Intuit recommends keeping data files under 100 Mb for reasonable performance.  The clean up utility can remove stale list items and consolidate closed transactions, thereby shrinking file size and improving performance.
  6. Avoid excessive use of sub-accounts, sub-items, and Jobs, which are effectively sub-customers.  Relatively speaking, a sub-account requires more processing than a top-level account, so the more sub-level list entries you create, the slower your performance will be.  The performance penalty is small, so don’t let this fact alone discourage your use of sub-level entries when necessary.  Some organizations have used sub-level list entries excessively, when other QuickBooks features would have been better suited to the purpose.
  7. Stop using Google Desktop.  Google Desktop can only index a QuickBooks company file (.qbw) when that file is open.  Google Desktop indexing routines consume processing and memory resources, leaving fewer of these resources available to QuickBooks.  That will degrade performance.  Uninstalling Google Deskop will improve performance.
  8. Consider an upgrade to Enterprise Solutions.  The database engine behind Enterprise Solutions is more robust and is capable of handling larger company files at reasonable performance levels.  If your business has grown and your QuickBooks company file can’t be cleaned up to where it offers reasonable performance, Enterprise Solutions will provide improved performance.
  9. Investigate network issues if QuickBooks is installed on a network.  For example, mismatched network interface card (NIC) settings can significantly reduce network performance.  If QuickBooks is the primary program that’s used over the network, this network configuration issue can appear to be a QuickBooks performance problem.

For some of these recommendations, the impact will be significant.  For others, it may be imperceptible.  What works or doesn’t work will be heavily dependent on your own configuration.

Intuit describes some of these recommendations in this knowledge base article.

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  1. mike corbean says:

    I’m running Enterprise Solutions already.
    I believe that most of the steps in this article are still applicable with the exception of #5 & 8.
    Is that correct?
    Do you have an article specifically for optimizing Enterprise Solutions?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Chief Mechanic says:

      #5 still applies. The clean up utility can now be found on Files->Utilities->Condense Data…

      #8 as you point out does not apply, but the others certainly do.

      However, things become more complicated with ES, because ES tends to be used by bigger firms over a network. Although networks are fast, they add another communication layer that doesn’t exist in a single user QB installation, and the more layers, the slower your system will be. ES data files use a faster database engine, but because the company using ES is likely bigger, the data file is bigger. There’s less performance to be gained by optimizing ES, because the software is optimized for bigger files and the infrastructure to support ES (e. g., a network) is typically necessary for the company running ES. There’s more to be gained by optimizing QB Pro or Premier, in part because of option #8 – upgrading to ES.