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Warning Signs: Is Your QuickBooks File Getting Too Big?

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Have you ever had a dream where you desperately needed to run fast (you’re being chased by Sasquatch, say) but your feet just won’t go? Your feet can only go in slow motion?

Is your QuickBooks file slow as molasses?If some of your QuickBooks reports seem stuck in molasses, or it’s taking a minute or more to save an invoice, that’s about as fun as a bad dream.

Performance problems in QuickBooks are one warning sign that your QuickBooks data file is probably getting too big. (How big is too big? We’ll look at that in a minute.)

Another warning sign is when you get random errors or crashes in QuickBooks. It doesn’t crash ALL the time, and you can’t reproduce the problem whenever you want (as if you want to!) But QuickBooks sometimes flakes out and crashes. This is probably related to the file being oversized.

Or maybe there IS one particular process that QuickBooks consistently fails on (backing up, verifying, rebuilding, and upgrading are the most common.) Since we troubleshoot these kinds of database problems all the time, we see lots of QuickBooks data files, and many of the files with these kinds of problems happen to be very large files.  In my opinion, that’s no coincidence.

Here are some comments QuickBooks users have made to us about their large files:

  • “Speed has degraded over the years and causes systems to lock up.”
  • “slow due to too much data”
  • “slowness, occasional crashes”
  • “Generally slow but the file is so huge that when we try to do a tax report it crashes every time”
  • “Cannot upgrade because file size is so big”
  • “Data file is really big, very large number of DB file fragments, cash reports take a LONG time to run, some reports won’t export to excel at all”

So, how big is too big?

Some say that 100MB is the effective upper limit for QuickBooks Pro or Premier files. I don’t agree with that; we talk to people with files in the 100-200MB range all the time who are doing alright.

Really, the proof is in the pudding. If QuickBooks is performing well for you – consistently fast and stable – then your file size is probably fine. Especially if it’s under 250MB. If it’s not performing well, then there’s a good chance it’s getting as unhealthy as that poor guy in the “Supersize Me” video.

Enterprise Series is designed for more simultaneous users, more transactions, bigger lists, and larger files. How big is too big for Enterprise? Again, it’s not a hard line, and the most important issue is how well it is performing. I’d say if the file is bigger than 750MB, or is running into performance/stability issues, then you might look at options to bring the file size down.

What options?  What can be done if my file is showing warning signs?

You can run the Cleanup command in QuickBooks (aka Archive/Condense). This will bring the file size down some, but in many cases not enough to make a difference.

We can supercondense the file, which can reduce its size by 50%.

Or you (or us, or others) can recreate your file from scratch, creating a blank new file and bringing selective information from the old file into the new file. File size reduction of 90% is common here.

The main thing is this: If the performance or stability of your file is becoming suspect, it is good to be proactive and take steps to address the problem sooner rather than later. “Later” in that scenario often becomes “crisis”.

About the author: Shannon Tucker is an accounting database specialist and the President of AccountingUsers, Inc. You can reach him at 719-395-8750 or tucker@accountingusers.com

2 Responses to Warning Signs: Is Your QuickBooks File Getting Too Big?

  • Keith, those are good examples and observations; thanks!

  • I frequently run into clients with these large slow file issues in Enterprise or Premier as well.

    I recently advised a service-based QuickBooks Enterprise 11.0 client with a very slow to open 1.4GB .QBW file (but a 20 KB .TLG file since they were backing up each week within the program) that had 90,000 active customers.

    I suggested that since they were tracking the customers with a Point of Sale type appointment scheduling software that they might want to divide up the duties so to speak and use the QB financial for their financial records only. I also suggested that they check all their network cables and ports and make that they were gigabyte type devices. My final suggestion was to make sure that no more than 3 users were logged into the same module within the program. They usually had five into A/R and that was the module giving them the most problems. It is interesting that the Sleeter book says not to go over 100,000 combined names in lists.

    Another manufacturing client using Enterprise 10.0 couldn’t understand why it took forever to open their 780 MB file.

    Well, 10,000 open sales orders that had never been converted into invoices, another 5,000 open estimates, several thousand still active customers, a ten year old never condensed company file, never backing up their company file within the program (simply copying the company file to a portable drive only copies a corrupt file if the file is corrupted), and still using old network (10/100) devices didn’t help things.

    So, yes, Virgina, large files aren’t a good idea.

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Nancy Smyth, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor

Nancy Smyth, Sunburst Software Solutions, Inc.
QuickBooks Construction & Payroll Expert


I've been using and supporting QuickBooks products since the early 1990's. I've worked with thousands of contractors, assisting them with QuickBooks setup, Certified Payroll Reporting requirements, AIA Billing and Weighted-Average Overtime.


QuickBooks is a powerful product, but learning how to use it in your construction business can be difficult. I hope you find resources available here to be helpful.

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