If you’d like anywhere-access to your QuickBooks software, it’s time to switch to QuickBooks Online. The good news is converting from QuickBooks Desktop to Online is easy, and you shouldn’t lose any of your past data. If you get stuck, you can contact QuickBooks support for free.
This guide will help you convert from QuickBooks Desktop Pro or Premier to any version of QuickBooks Online, except Self-Employed. If you don’t already have QuickBooks Online, new subscribers can choose between 50% off for three months or a 30-day free trial.
Tip: You have 60 days from the beginning of your QuickBooks Online subscription to make a conversion from QuickBooks Desktop. If 60 days have passed, you can cancel your current subscription and set up a new QuickBooks Online company. Multiple companies can be set up under the same email address.
Things to Consider Before You Convert QuickBooks Desktop to Online
The conversion from QuickBooks Desktop to Online is helpful for many business owners, but there are a few things you need to consider before making the switch. Although we rated QuickBooks Online as the best small business accounting software, there are a few distinct advantages to QuickBooks Desktop over QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Desktop usually is faster for experienced bookkeepers, has more options available for dealing with inventory, and can report estimated vs actual job costs. You can read QuickBooks Online vs Desktop if you’re unsure of whether the switch to QuickBooks Online is right for your company.
Most information from QuickBooks Desktop will transfer to QuickBooks Online automatically, although some features in Online are named differently and might not work exactly the same. QuickBooks provides a list of Desktop features and a description of how those features will transfer to QuickBooks Online.
The steps in this article are for converting from QuickBooks Desktop Pro or Premier (Windows). For QuickBooks Mac, you can follow Intuit’s conversion instructions for QuickBooks Mac. If you use QuickBooks Enterprise, Intuit also has conversion instructions for QuickBooks Enterprise.
Here are the eight steps to convert QuickBooks Desktop to Online.
1. Check the File Size Requirements
Open your QuickBooks Desktop file and press F2 to determine the total target count. If your file exceeds the maximum 350,000 targets, you can try to reduce the targets by condensing your QuickBooks file. If condensing doesn’t work, you’ll have to settle for transferring lists (explained later) instead of doing a conversion.
2. Prepare Your QuickBooks Desktop Data for Export to QuickBooks Online
It’s best to update your QuickBooks file as much as possible prior to your conversion so that you’re bookkeeping is not behind as you’re trying to learn the new processes of QuickBooks Online. Make sure to reconcile all bank accounts, process payroll, and adjust inventory before getting started.
It’s also a good idea to back up your company file in case anything goes wrong. You can make a backup of the data file by going to File, then Back Up Company, and then click on Create Local Backup, as shown below:
Tip: QuickBooks recommends your company file be located on a local drive before converting to QuickBooks Online. If you normally access the company file from a network drive, restore the backup file you just created onto your local drive and use that file for your QuickBooks Online conversion.
3. Create a QuickBooks Online Account
You must visit QuickBooks Online and subscribe to your preferred version of QuickBooks Online prior to starting the conversion process. If you’re not sure which version is best for your business, read our QuickBooks Online comparison.
Provide Basic Company Information
On this screen, input your company’s name and description. Then, check the box indicating you want to bring in your data from QuickBooks Desktop as shown below:
Log Out of Your QuickBooks Online Account
After signing up for QuickBooks Online, you will be taken to your company’s dashboard. Click on the gear icon (upper-right corner) and select Sign Out, as shown below:
4. Export Company File to QuickBooks Online
Open your QuickBooks Desktop program and sign in to the company you are converting to QuickBooks Online. Within your QuickBooks Desktop company, click on Company in the top menu bar and select Export Company File to QuickBooks Online, as shown below:
If you don’t see the Export Company File to QuickBooks Online option, you need to download the most recent QuickBooks Desktop update. Select Update QuickBooks from the Help menu and follow the instructions. Once the update is complete, export the company file as shown above. You may need to close and reopen QuickBooks Desktop for the update to take effect.
Tip: QuickBooks stops supporting desktop programs after three years, so you may not be able to update older programs. One workaround is to get a free 30-day trial subscription to the latest QuickBooks Desktop Pro. You should be able to export your company file to QuickBooks Online after you open it in the new program.
5. Sign Into Your QuickBooks Online Account Through the Desktop Program
After selecting the data to export to QuickBooks Online, your QuickBooks Desktop program will verify the company is ready for export. It will then ask you to sign in using your QuickBooks Online email and password.
6. Indicate Whether You Want to Import Inventory Into QuickBooks Online
QuickBooks Desktop determines the cost of inventory using the average cost method. However, QuickBooks Online uses the first-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory method, which may have a significant impact on the book value of your inventory. If you’re unsure of whether you want to import your inventory, click no. You can import your inventory later from an Excel spreadsheet.
Tip: Changing your inventory method from average cost to FIFO must be reported to the IRS on Form 3115. For that reason, I recommend consulting a tax professional before bringing over your inventory to QuickBooks Online.
7. Select Your Company in QuickBooks Online
Select the QuickBooks Online company that you want the data to import to from the drop-down list. If you have multiple companies, be careful to select the correct one as the conversion will replace any existing data.
8. Copy Data File
After you select your company, QuickBooks will work for a few minutes and then give you a confirmation screen similar to this:
QuickBooks emails you when your QuickBooks Online company is ready, but this could take several hours for a large file. Once you receive your email, similar to the one below, click on the Complete your setup button to log into QuickBooks Online and review your data.
Transferring Lists Instead of Converting a QuickBooks Desktop File
Tip: Exporting lists from Desktop and importing them into Online is only necessary if you were unable to convert your Desktop file using the eight steps above. For instance, this may happen if you have more than 350,000 targets or your desktop file is corrupt. If your conversion was successful, you’re done.
An alternative to converting your Desktop file to an Online company is to export important lists from your QuickBooks Desktop company and import them into your QuickBooks Online company. This will transfer your chart of accounts, customers, vendors, products, and services. However, you can’t transfer past transactions in this manner, so you’ll need to input beginning balances.
Transferring lists from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online is a two-step process. First, export the lists from Desktop as an Excel spreadsheet. Second, import the Excel spreadsheet into your QuickBooks Online company.
How to Export Lists From QuickBooks Desktop
By exporting the following lists from QuickBooks Desktop to Excel spreadsheets, you can save hours of data entry in your new QuickBooks Online company:
- Chart of accounts
- Products and services
Tip: When importing Excel workbooks, QuickBooks Online only imports the first worksheet within a workbook. After exporting Excel workbooks from QuickBooks Desktop, be sure your data is in the first worksheet, or tab, at the bottom of the Excel screen.
Exporting the Chart of Accounts From QuickBooks Desktop
- Navigate to your chart of accounts by clicking on Company from the top menu bar and then selecting Chart of Accounts.
- Display a list of your accounts by clicking on Reports at the bottom of the screen and selecting Account Listing.
- Export the Account Listing report as an Excel spreadsheet by selecting Excel, then Create New Worksheet and following the prompts to save the worksheet to your computer.
You’ve now exported your chart of accounts to an Excel spreadsheet. Make a note of where you saved the spreadsheet so you can import it into QuickBooks Online later.
Exporting Customers From QuickBooks Desktop
- Navigate to the Customer Center by selecting Customers from the top menu bar and then clicking on Customer Center.
- From the top toolbar of the Customer Center, select Excel and then click on Export Customer List.
- Follow the prompts to save the new worksheet on your computer to import it into your QuickBooks Online company later.
Exporting Vendors From QuickBooks Desktop
- Navigate to the Vendor Center by clicking on Vendors in the top menu bar and selecting Vendor Center.
- From the top toolbar in the Vendor Center, select Excel and Export Vendor List.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to save the worksheet so you can import it into QuickBooks Online Later.
Exporting Products & Services From QuickBooks Desktop
- Go to the Item List screen by selecting Customers from the top menu bar and then clicking on Item List.
- At the bottom of the Item Lists screen, click on Excel and then Export All Items.
- Follow the on-screen prompts to save the items as an Excel worksheet.
- QuickBooks Online will only import the item types Inventory Part, Non-inventory Part, and Service because other item types are part of work-flows that differ slightly between Desktop and Online. Open the Excel workbook you created in the previous step and delete all line entries for items other than the three that will be imported into QuickBooks Online.
Tip: Sort your Excel worksheet by the Type column to group your items by type and make deleting lines faster.
How to Import Lists into QuickBooks Online
Fit Small Business has an online tutorial to help you learn how to use QuickBooks Online to manage your business efficiently. The three lessons below will teach you how to import the worksheets you created above as well as how to input items manually into your QuickBooks Online company.
- How to Set Up Customers in QuickBooks Online
- How to Set Up Vendors in QuickBooks Online
- How to Set Up the Products and Services List in QuickBooks Online
Get Up to Speed With QuickBooks Online
Fit Small Business has also created a free QuickBooks Online course that includes 39 video tutorials and written step-by-step instructions. The good news is that you’ll be able to skip a few of the lessons because you’ve already imported much of your company’s data from QuickBooks Desktop.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Switching From QuickBooks Desktop to Online
Can you use both QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online?
You cannot use QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online for the same company. QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online are two separate platforms that are not compatible with one another.
What’s not imported when you move from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online?
While most of your data will import when switching from QuickBooks Desktop to Online, there are a few items that will not convert, including:
- Bank and credit card account reconciliation reports: Once you convert to QuickBooks Online, you will need to start your reconciliations from where you last ended them. If you need access to prior reconciliation reports, you can still get them from your desktop version as long as you don’t delete the files.
- Recurring credit card charges: You’ll need to cancel your existing recurring credit card transactions in the Merchant Center. Once that’s done, rebuild them in QuickBooks Online by creating recurring sales receipts.
- Audit trail: There is nothing you can do about your past audit trail other than to retain a copy of your desktop version and the information contained in it. You will, however, get an improved audit trail with QuickBooks Online going forward.
- Inventory from QuickBooks for Mac: While you can’t transfer your inventory from a Mac computer, if you have access to a computer running Windows, you can make the transfer there.
- Reports: QuickBooks Online contains a variety of reports that can replace many of those you’ve been using in the desktop version. The best solution is to find a new QuickBooks Online report and begin using it.
Congratulations on successfully converting from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online. Once you’ve had a chance to check out a few of our video tutorials, please let us know what you think—we would love to hear from you.