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Migrate QuickBooks Desktop to Online – Data Conversion Guide

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Due to QuickBooks Desktop’s sunset policy, limitations as a local software, or the recent discontinuation announcement, you might want to migrate QuickBooks Desktop to Online.

Although the process is quite easy, you need to prepare your files to ensure a seamless transfer. Not only this but setting up your QuickBooks Online is also required after migration. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry; we will help you throughout the process with this detailed guide.

This blog discusses step-by-step instructions on getting ready for migration, moving your data, and setting up QuickBooks Online to run your accounting operations from anywhere.

Exporting your QuickBooks Desktop data to QuickBooks Online can be time-consuming and tedious. We recommend connecting with our QB ProAdvisors, who can perform the migration for you with no data loss. Dial 800-580-5375 now!

Is Migrating to QB Online a Right Decision?

QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online are both powerful tools for managing your accounting needs. However, there are still some things you should consider before migrating your company data.

The success of migration depends on the complexity of your QuickBooks file. If you are a QuickBooks Enterprise user and have a large file that has extensive histories, inventories, and overall file sizes, migrating it to the Online version may not be a good choice for you. You won’t be able to move all of your data and need to enter the rest of it manually.

If you have a small or medium-sized company in QuickBooks Desktop Pro, Premier, or Premier Accountant, you can proceed with migration to QuickBooks Online. Your company file’s complexity will likely be relatively low, making it easy to migrate all your data.

What will be and what cannot be moved to the Online version?

When switching from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online, you can easily transfer most of the information without re-entering it manually. However, some types of information won’t convert or transfer automatically when you migrate.

Here’s what type of information you need to enter manually in QuickBooks Online:

  • Bank and credit card information 
  • Profit and Loss report
  • Audit trail
  • Closing dates
  • Paychecks & Sales Orders
  • Additional information about employees 
  • Transaction details

Let’s Move QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online

In this section, we have covered everything from preparing to migrating your company file to QuickBooks Online. Once the migration is complete, you will also learn how to set up the Online version. Let’s get started in exporting your data:

1. Do Some Preparation Before Migration

Before you start the conversion process, you must take a few steps to ensure your information migrates properly. Follow the steps below and ensure everything is ready to migrate.

a. Backup your company file

You must regularly backup the QuickBooks company file to ensure the safety and protection of your company data in QuickBooks Desktop.

  • If you currently use QuickBooks in multi-user mode, go to the File menu and click Switch to Single-user mode.
  • Again, move to the File menu and select Create Backup. Then, choose Local Backup.
  • In the popup window, click on Local Bacup and click Next.
  • Move to the Local Backup Only section and select Browse, then choose the location where you want to save your backup
You are using a sample company file
  • You can also choose the number of backups you want to save.
  • Before saving, it will run a test to ensure your backup file is in good shape.
  • Once you are ready to create a backup, click OK.
  • Now, choose Save it now and tap OK.
  • You will get a confirmation message when your backup is complete.

In QuickBooks Online, your company data is stored securely in the cloud—there’s no need to back up manually.

b.  Update QuickBooks Desktop

Ensure to update QuickBooks Desktop by following the steps below:

  • Ensure your QuickBooks is in single-user mode.
  • Go to Help at the top menu bar.
  • Then, choose Update QuickBooks Desktop.
  • Move to the Update Now tab.
  • Now, click Get Updates and wait until the updates download.
Update QuickBooks Desktop
  • Restart your computer and reopen QuickBooks Desktop.
  • When asked to install the updates, click Yes.

c. Review your total targets

If the Targets number exceeds 700,000 for Canada and over 500,000 for the UK and South Africa (ZA), you are only eligible for list and balances conversion. Let’s check the number of your Total Targets in the QuickBooks Desktop company file.

In QuickBooks Desktop, press the F1 key on your keyboard to open the Product Information window. Now, move to the File Information section where the number of your Total Targets is displayed.

Product Imformtion

d. Remove Ministere du Revenu (companies outside of Quebec only)

Remove Ministère du Revenu from the supplier’s list in QuickBooks Desktop, which helps prevent data duplication and errors. Learn how to remove it by following these steps:

  • Navigate to Suppliers and then choose Supplier Centre.
  • Look for Minsitere du Revenu.
  • Now, open your supplier.
  • Move to the Sales Tax Settings
Minsitere du Revenu
  • Uncheck all the checkboxes.
  • Mark the supplier as inactive at the lower left corner of the screen.
  • Click OK to close the window.

e. Disable Payroll in the QuickBooks Desktop file

It is recommended that you disable payroll in QuickBooks Desktop to avoid payroll issues during the migration.

  • Navigate to the Edit menu.
  • From the dropdown menu, choose Preferences.
  • Select Payroll & Employees from the left pane of the Preferences window.
  • Move to the Company Preferences tab.
  • Finally, click on the No Payroll option.

f. Save your Sales Tax Liability report

We recommend you save or print a copy of your Sales Tax Liability report. You might need to enter adjustment entries after you migrate. Follow these steps to save this report in QuickBooks Desktop:

  • Navigate to the Reports menu.
  • Hover over to Suppliers & Payables and choose Sales Tax Liability.
  • Choose All under the Dates dropdown.
  • Click on Save as PDF from the Print dropdown.
  • Select the folder where you want to save the report and then click Save as PDF.
  • Once you save the file, you can get a print whenever needed.
Sales Tax Liability

g. Export your reports and lists

Important Note: Moving your crucial reports and lists is optional, as it’s only needed if your company file has more than 700,000 targets. If this isn’t the case, it is recommended that you skip it and create a QuickBooks Online account.

Exporting your reports or lists before migrating prevents you from setting up each item from these lists individually when starting with QuickBooks Online.

Here’s how you can export your reports and lists from a QuickBooks Desktop company:

  • In QB Desktop, go to the Reports menu.
  • From the dropdown menu, choose Report Center.
Report Center
  • Look for the report you want to export and open it.
  • Now, choose the date range from the Dates dropdown.
  • Click on Excel on the toolbar to save it. To save the report as PDF, select Print or Email.
  • To update this report in the Excel workbook, choose Create New Worksheet from the Excel dropdown or click on Update Existing Worksheet to update the existing one.
  • Locate the workbook on your computer by clicking Export.
  • If you want to format the data specifically, choose Advanced. Otherwise, skip this step.
  • During the process, you might see a message saying your report has too many columns. In that case, select Advanced. Now, uncheck the Space between columns checkbox and click OK.
  • Once all is done, click OK to export the report.

Repeat the above steps for each report or list you’d like to export.

h. Create a QuickBooks Online account

    To prepare QuickBooks Online for the migration, create an account and get the subscription. Review the list of options to choose the suitable plan, and check the system requirements for QuickBooks Online given below to ensure you have what you need for the best experience:

    Connection Speed

    The internet speed required to run QuickBooks Online varies depending on the system you use it on; web and mobile browser.

    On Linux operating systems, you can use QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Online Accountant, QuickBooks Self-Employed, and QuickBooks Time in a web browser, but you cannot use the QuickBooks Online Advanced desktop app.

    Supported Web Browsers

    It is recommended that you use the current or two previous versions of your browser as older versions are not usually supported.

    You can run both mobile and web versions of QuickBooks Online on the following browsers:

    Note: The Internet Explorer browser is no longer supported.

    Google Chrome: version 78 or newer

    Mozilla Firefox: version 76 or newer. Note: If you want to preview and print forms on Mac OS, you’ll also require the Firefox PDF plugin.

    Microsoft Edge: version 79 or newer

    Safari: version 12 or newer (Mac only)

    Opera: version 68 or newer

    Samsung: version 10 or newer

    Important Note: You can only move a company file within 60 days of signing up to QuickBooks Online, so ensure you convert your files within the same time frame once subscribed.

    When prompted or asked to sign in, use the same credentials as your QuickBooks Desktop. If you don’t remember the details, you need to reset your passwords.

    Your files or reports are now ready for migration to QuickBooks Online, which we will do in the next section.

    2. Migrate your data 

      Depending on the edition of QuickBooks Desktop steps for data migration to QuickBooks Online also vary. Below, we have mentioned the steps for each edition; ensure to follow them accordingly:

      Note: If you are using a version older than 2017 QuickBooks Desktop, you will need its trial version to convert your data.

      QuickBooks Desktop Pro or Premier

      • In QuickBooks Desktop, log in to the company file you want to import as an admin.
      • Navigate to the Company menu and click on Export Company File to QuickBooks Online.
      Export company file to QuickBooks Online
      • Choose Get Started.
      • Click Select Destination and then sign into your QuickBooks Online account.

      QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise

      • Log in as an admin to the QB Desktop company file you want to export.
      • Open the Product Information by pressing the F2 key.
      Product Information
      • To start the process, press CTRL + B + Q and click OK at the bottom of the Product Information page.

      If you track inventory in QuickBooks Desktop, do this to migrate inventory to the Online version:

      • When prompted, click Yes to bring inventory over and specify the starting date.
      • Launch the Product Information window by pressing F2.
      • If you want to set up new inventory items in QuickBooks Online, click No.
      • Once the conversion is complete, you will get an email. In that email, click the Complete your setup button.
      • Sign in to your QuickBooks Online account.
      • Then, choose the company file you want to open.

      Finally, the QuickBooks Online dashboard will open.

      QuickBooks Online Dashboard

      3. Move your lists

        You previously exported your data from QuickBooks Desktop to import it into QuickBooks Online. However, you might need to transfer some of your payroll lists separately. Here’s what types of lists you will need to move:

        • Chart of Accounts
        • Products and Services
        • Customer
        • Supplier

        4. Set up inventory

          Here’s how to set up your inventory in QuickBooks Online if you didn’t move it above:

          • Go to Settings and then choose Account and Settings.
          • Select Sales.
          • Move to the Product and Services section and click on the Edit icon.
          Product and Services
          • On sales forms, turn on the Show Product/Service column.
          • Now, enable both Track quantity and price/rate and Track inventory quantity on hand.
          • Finally, click Save and then Done.

          QuickBooks Online uses the First-in-First-Out method (FIFO) to calculate your inventory costs from the start date of inventory. It will also recalculate any existing transactions on or after this date under FIFO. Because of this, it is recommended to use the first day following your company’s last tax filing period to avoid filing amended forms.

          Note: If you prefer not to use FIFO or enable inventory in QuickBooks Online, select No, don’t turn on inventory, and don’t track quantity on hand during setup. You can change these settings later, but if you do, you must set up new inventory items. We recommend contacting a tax professional if you need help making this decision.

          Know What to Do After Migration

          Once you have successfully exported your data to QuickBooks Online, verify the accuracy of your accounting data and reports. Additionally, you need to configure company settings, connect your bank accounts, and set up the online version to get started with your accounting operations.

          1. Check your data by comparing reports

            To ensure that your data is transferred correctly, you must compare the below reports in QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop:

            • Balance Sheet Report
            • Trial Balance – All Dates
            • Customer Balance Summary – All Dates
            • Supplier Balance Summary – All Dates
            • Sales Tax Summary Report for the most recent period
            • Any other reports you’d like to check

            To verify your reports, run the reports by All Dates and set your accounting methods to Accrual in both QuickBooks Desktop and Online.

            2. Confirm company settings

              Although your accounting data is transferred to QuickBooks Online during migration, it doesn’t move information such as company name, address, and email details.

              You will need to enter all this information manually in the QuickBooks Online; here’s how to do it:

              • Choose the Gear (Settings) icon at the top of your screen.
              • Click on Account and Settings from the dropdown menu.
              • Move to the Company tab, and enter your company name and contact information.
              • Now, type your email address in the Company email box to get the monthly invoice for your QuickBooks Online subscription.
              • Your customers might contact you using the same company email. If you want to use a different one, enter the email address in the Customer-facing email box.
              • Finally, click Save.
              Accounts and Settings

              3. Configure your sales tax settings

                Configuring sales tax settings in QuickBooks Online ensures accurate taxation compliance, streamlined invoicing, and financial reporting.

                • Choose Sales Tax from the Taxes menu.
                • Now, click on the Set up sales tax button.
                • You need to choose the province or territory where you do business, then click Save.
                • Fill in the required information on the screen and click Save.
                • Click OK on the next option.
                • If required, you can go back and change these settings whenever needed.

                4. Connect bank and credit card accounts

                  For your safety, bank or credit card details aren’t shared when you migrate to the Online version. Therefore, you need to connect these accounts manually. To do so, follow these steps:

                  • Go to the Bookkeeping menu and choose Transactions. Then, click on Bank Transactions.
                  • From the landing page, select Connect Account or select Add Account if you have already created your account.
                  select Add Account from here
                  • Now, choose the account you want to connect to. Then, click Continue.
                  • Enter your bank’s username and password in the pop-up window.
                  • Select the accounts you want to connect.
                  • For each account, choose the account from the dropdown menu. These accounts are the ones on your chart of accounts.
                  • Choose the date range to download your transactions.
                  • Finally, click Connect.

                  5. Clean up bank reconciliations

                    As a new user, you haven’t performed bank reconciliation in QuickBooks Online. So, it assumes that none of your transactions have been reconciled.

                    To clean up the reconciliations, you need to mark all transactions up to the conversion date as reconciled in QuickBooks so that it only considers future transactions for reconciliation.

                    • Click on the Settings icon and then choose Reconcile.
                    • Further from the dropdown menu, select the suitable bank account and add the Ending balance and Ending date. Then, click Reconcile Now.
                    Which account do you want to reconcile?
                    • It will display a list of transactions. Select the checkbox to choose all these transactions.
                    • If it displays the data in two columns, ensure to choose all the transactions in each column.
                    • Now, find and uncheck transactions that still need to be cleared. Once the Difference is zero, the reconciliation is completed successfully.
                    • Click on Finish Now.
                    • Repeat the same steps if you have multiple accounts connected to QuickBooks Online.

                    6. Link payments and credits to open invoices

                    If payment is not linked to invoices in QuickBooks Online, it won’t be properly recorded against the customer’s outstanding balance, potentially leading to inaccurate accounts receivable or accounts payable reports.

                    Let’s link them to the open invoices by turning on the Automatically apply credits preference:

                    • Select Settings at the top right corner of your screen.
                    • Choose Account and Settings.
                    • Move to the Advanced tab and choose Automatically Apply credits.
                    • Then, click Save.
                    choose Automatically Apply credits from here

                    7. Review your accounts’ detail types

                      After conversion, QuickBooks Online saves and keeps your sub-account hierarchy. However, it uses an additional level of account type to save your transactions, called Detail type.

                      Details types are specific subcategories that allow you to save the transactions into more precise categories. During the conversion, it assigns detail types to accounts where the detail is obvious.

                      If some account details aren’t as clear as they should be, the conversion process assigns a generic detail type, such as Other Miscellaneous Income. Correct it now and save the transactions from Other Miscellaneous Income to Detail type by following these steps:

                      • Select Business Overview and click on Reports.
                      • Look for the Account List report and open it.
                      • Check or review your accounts.
                      • Choose the account name to edit an account detail type.
                      • From the Detail Type dropdown menu, select the correct detail type.
                      • Finally, click Save and Close.
                      Account List Report

                      8. Complete payroll setup

                        During migration, your transactions and payroll accounts are converted to your books, but the details of the transactions, such as payroll item breakdowns and employee year-to-date numbers, don’t convert.

                        Other payroll data, such as liability refunds, adjustment transactions, and opening balance transactions, affect accounts converted to journal entries.

                        Complete your payroll setup:

                        • Go to the Payroll menu and choose Employees.
                        • Navigate to the Paid in [Year] column and ensure each employee who received their paycheck this year is selected to Yes. Employees without a paycheck in the current year are automatically listed as No.
                        • Now, select Complete Payroll Setup to add or verify your employee’s information and year-to-date payroll totals.
                        • Complete the setup by following the on-screen instructions.
                        • Once the setup is done and you’re ready to pay your employee, click Run Payroll.

                        While running the payroll, you may be asked to match your payroll items if your pay types from QuickBooks Desktop were not mapped with a standard QuickBooks Online pay type.

                        Follow the steps below to map your pay types with QuickBooks Online:

                        • In the QuickBooks Online column, select the (Choose one) dropdown.
                        • Choose a pay type that closely matches the one used in the Desktop version.
                        • To ensure the pay type matches, check your QuickBooks Desktop file and see how the pay type was set up.
                        • Once the mapping is complete, click Save and Close.
                        • Proceed with the same steps for each unmapped item and select Continue.

                        Don’t see pay types options to choose from? Some pay types are not imported in QuickBooks Online Payroll during migration. In that case, you can select Skip for now in the bottom right of the screen. Remember that you cannot go back to map your pay types once skipped. Therefore, you’ll have to create employee pay types to complete the payroll setup manually.

                        9. Link your Payments account

                          While you can’t transfer your existing Payments account to QuickBooks Online, you can create a new one. Follow these steps to enable Payments in QuickBooks Online:

                          • Go to the Settings (Gear icon) menu, and choose Account and Settings.
                          • Now, select Payments.
                          • Move to the QuickBooks Payments section, and click on Learn more.
                          • Choose Set up Payments. It will open the signup window with three sections.
                          • Select Start in the Business section and fill out the form. Then, click Next.
                          • In the Owner/Proprietor section, click Start. Choose Add a new bank connection and search for your bank.
                          • Select the bank account where you want to receive your customer’s payment.
                          • To sign in, enter the info for your bank. Then, select Connect.
                          • Once all is done, click Activate Payments.

                          10. Add users

                            If you want to add any user to QuickBooks Online, ensure they have the proper access. To view your current users, go to Settings> Manage users.

                            Add additional users:

                            • Go to Settings and then select Manage Users.
                            • Then, click on Add user.
                            • Choose the user type you want to create. Depending on the user type you select, more options will be displayed on the screen.
                            • Finally, enter your new user’s name and email address, then select Save.
                            Add a new rights

                            After completing these steps, the new user will receive an email from QuickBooks. Ask them to follow the link in the email, which will prompt them to sign in or go to the account creation page.

                            11. Invite an accountant

                              In QuickBooks Online, you can invite at least two accountants and work with them. Invite an accountant by following these steps:

                              • Go to Bookkeeping and then choose My Accountant.
                              • In the email section, enter your accountant’s email address and click Invite.
                              • Another way to invite an accountant is to select Manage Users from the Settings menu.
                              • Choose Accounting Firms and then click Invite.
                              • Enter the information in the required fields and select Save.
                              Choose your Accounting Firm from here

                              Get Started with QuickBooks Online

                              Now that you’re set up in QuickBooks Online learn about its features and functions to get started.

                              Know your dashboard

                              The QuickBooks Online dashboard serves as the homepage for all your activities; in other words, it’s a base from which you can start any operation. The dashboard is divided into three parts, making everything easy to access: Home, Cashflow, and Planner. These tabs help you keep track of your essential tasks and get the work done faster.

                              Personalize company information

                              QuickBooks Online offers advanced features allowing you to manage your company information according to your preferences. Go to Settings> Account and settings to access the feature and start adding your company’s information.

                              Import your data

                              Want to import your suppliers, customers, inventory, or a chart of accounts lists from another company file or different accounting software? Don’t worry; QuickBooks Online provides you with a way to import those transactions easily.

                              Set up sales tax

                              In QuickBooks Online, you can easily add or set up sales tax to your invoices or pay receipts, and makes it easy for you to track how much you owe. Further, it will automatically calculate the sales tax for you and let you know when the tax payment is due.

                              Enable and receive payments

                              QuickBooks Payments is an optional subscription feature that allows customers to pay online using trusted payment methods. When you receive a payment, the system auto-matches deposits and invoices as they flow through the system, making it easier to keep track of your income. You can easily enable Payments from your QuickBooks Online dashboard.

                              Turn on payroll and add employees

                              With these additional features, QuickBooks Online also offers payroll, which is an optional subscription feature that enables you to run payroll and pay employees through direct deposit or printed cheques.

                              Customize and send invoices

                              Creating invoices from scratch is difficult and time-consuming. Invoice customization makes it easy to create and customize invoices using a template, which is a simple yet effective way to enhance business communications.

                              Add and manage users

                              QuickBooks Online allows business owners to control access by adding, editing, or removing users with specific roles and permissions. Administrators can assign roles such as standard user, company admin, or reports-only, tailoring access to the business’s needs. Managing users effectively enhances security, data integrity, and workflow efficiency within the accounting system.

                              Run and customize reports

                              QuickBooks is home to dozens of financial reports that provide a snapshot of your business. Within the Reports tab, you can run basic financial reports or apply filters to customize them, helping you focus on specific details.


                              So, this guide was all about how to migrate QuickBooks Desktop to Online. The stepwise instructions provided above should help you move your QB Desktop data to  QuickBooks Online. However, if you face an issue or have further queries, reach out to our QB ProAdvisors at 800-580-5375. Our team of QuickBooks ProAdvisors will help you convert from QB Desktop to QBO in no time.

                              Frequently Asked Questions

                              Can I use QuickBooks Online if I have QuickBooks Desktop?

                              Yes, you can easily switch your QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online. Most of your company data will be transferred to the Online version. Rest, setting up, and manually adding up the data will ensure continuing your operations seamlessly.

                              How long does it take to migrate QuickBooks Desktop to Online?

                              Data migration to QuickBooks Online takes about 30 minutes to complete. Keep QuickBooks Desktop running until the migration is done.

                              Why is QuickBooks Online better than QuickBooks Desktop?

                              QuickBooks Desktop is good for users who require accounting benefits. However, for real-time collaboration and access from wherever you want; QuickBooks Online is better what you need.

                              Can you have more than one accountant user in QuickBooks Online?

                              Yes, QuickBooks Online allows you to invite up to 2 accountant users/firms in QBO SimpleStart, Essentials, and Plus. However, if you are a QBO Advanced user, you can have up to 3.

                              Can two people work in QuickBooks Online at the same time?

                              Yes, two or more people can work in QuickBooks Online simultaneously from different workstations. However, the features they can access depend on the permissions granted by the administrator.

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