Converting to QuickBooks: The How-To Guide
By Esther Friedberg Karp, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor
I once read about an American P.O.W. who had been held for months in a tiny cell with just a straw mat on the floor. Eventually freed and back home, his first night out of his prison cell found him unable to sleep. The problem was the bed; it was foreign. To sleep, he had to lay down on the floor. He was so accustomed to that way of sleeping, a bed was going to take some getting used to.
In accounting, not using QuickBooks is the straw mat on the floor and QuickBooks is the vast improvement of the bed. Sometimes your job is to liberate clients from the prison of their own habits and older accounting systems.
But to clients (and maybe some accounting professionals, bookkeepers, and consultants) the conversion process can seem daunting.
That's why I developed the following guide on converting a client's accounting system to QuickBooks. The guide is designed to help you help your clients, by removing much of the uncertainty of conversion and shortening the process.
Converting to QuickBooks A How-To Guide
This guide deals with several ways to deal with conversions.
We'll start with the easier cases. They include the following scenarios:
- You inherit a client for whom you will be maintaining the books (that is, the client does not have his or her own financial software) and you have files from Peachtree, Microsoft Office Accounting, or Microsoft Small Business Accounting software.
- The client comes to you and wants you to maintain the books but has Quicken files for you to work with.
- If the client is converting from a source other than Peachtree or the Microsoft packages, you may want to consider contacting the QuickBooks Data Conversion Team. In some cases they are able to assist clients who have just purchased QuickBooks in converting other data sources.
Then we'll turn to those cases - which we hope are fewer and further between - in which you decide to undertake the conversion of records yourself, manually.
In the easier scenarios, you have tools and other resources to help with the conversion.
The QuickBooks Conversion Tool
Yes, Virginia, there is a QuickBooks Conversion Tool to help with clients whose records are currently maintained in
- Microsoft Office Accounting
- Microsoft Small Business Accounting
You can learn more or download the tool from http://accountant.intuit.com/products/conversiontool/qbconversiontool.aspx 
The tool automates many of the manual steps in the step-by-step game plan that is listed below, including bringing over lists, balances, and transactions.
Caveat: Keep in mind that QuickBooks sets parameters on lists, such as unique names and no more than 41 characters. You also have to be aware that some information will not be brought over, including payroll info, year-to-date employee compensation, and paychecks.
Resources on the above site include FAQs and a technical whitepaper. These are well worth the time to download and print.
Example: I had a very simple Microsoft Small Business Accounting File and I had never used the conversion utility before. It worked quite well, even bringing over memos on transactions. I still had to enter the Company Information and file preferences, but it saved a boatload of work.
Quicken Converts from within QuickBooks
If you are converting from Quicken, you can start directly from within QuickBooks. Just click on File > Utilities > Convert > From Quicken. You will create a new data file based on the QDF or QDB Quicken data file that you specify. Many of you have converted Quicken files to QuickBooks and you know that the transactions come over as well.
Data Conversion Team
There is also an Intuit Data Conversion Team that can provide assistance to users converting to a newly purchased copy of the software, although certain conditions apply. [See Editor's Note below. ]
Assisted data conversion includes a one-time conversion case which can be applied to multiple files. Assisted data conversion must be completed with-in 30 days from the date you or the client registers the software.
The team can deal with most current balances but will not be able to provide you with transactional and some other levels of detail, depending on the software program from which you are converting.
For the current phone number for the Data Conversion Team, please see our QuickBooks Conversion Tool page .
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