I was contacted by a reader who was in a panic over his QuickBooks data file. Here are the salient excerpts from his email:

“Jack…help! My QuickBooks data file seems to have gone corrupt! I can log in, but it’s behaving strangely locally and will not work over the network. What can I do about this? I do not have a backup of the datafile and, without this file, I cannot do business. Please help.”

I really don’t need to point out one very important, glaring issue with the above communication, do I? Okay, I will anyway.

No backup? Are you kidding? This is your livelihood. You should not only be backing this up, you should backing this up to an external drive, to a network drive, to an online service, and even a flash drive. That said, here’s what you should do.

  1. Log in to the data file as the admin user.
  2. Set the data file in Single User Mode.
  3. Do a verify on the data by clicking File | Utilities | Verify Data.

Depending on the size of your data file, this could take some time. If this doesn’t complete, you will need to do a rebuild of the data file. Even if this doesn’t complete, you will probably want to do a rebuild. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Copy the data file from the server to a desktop machine that runs QuickBooks.
  2. Open the newly moved data file on the desktop it was copied to (you might have to enable hosting temporarily on that machine).
  3. Log in as the admin user.
  4. Click File | Utilities | Rebuild Data. You will be required to make a backup of the data file.

The rebuild process will take even longer than the verify process. It is crucial to let this process complete uninterrupted; I wouldn’t even use the PC for anything while this is happening. After the rebuild is complete, do the following:

  1. Click File | Save Copy.
  2. Select Portable File.
  3. Save the portable file to the desktop of the PC.
  4. When the file is created, copy that portable file back to the server.
  5. Turn off hosting of the data file on the desktop.
  6. Open the data file by restoring from the portable file.
  7. Give the new data file a different name than the previous data file.

This should have you up and running with your data file. If it doesn’t, you will need to contact Intuit and have them walk you through the process of submitting that data file for repair. It can be a minimum of three business days if Intuit has to repair the file, so hopefully, you can avoid that process.

And, if you do get this data file up and running, set up a backup strategy!

Ask Jack: If you have a DIY question, email it to me, and I’ll do my best to answer it. (Read guidelines about submitting DIY questions.)