QuickBooks Updates and the Home Page Error

| June 23, 2010 | 26 Comments

Every day that goes by, I learn something new about QuickBooks. Today I’ll pass on some information I learned about the QuickBooks Automatic Update process. It all started with a number of complaints from people who said that their QuickBooks Home Page appeared blank

Over the past few days a number of people started leaving messages in the Intuit Community Forum about problems with their “Home Page” disappearing. I hadn’t run into this problem myself, and none of my direct support clients had reported this problem to me (and there was a reason for that, I determined later). I wasn’t paying attention to this issue until my friend Kathy Ivens at CPA911 pointed it out to me, along with a link to a KB article that Intuit had posted about it.

It appears that an update sent out by Intuit has affected users of QuickBooks 2008, 2009 and 2010. The Home Page window disappeared, and nothing that you could do would open it up again!

This article provides three solutions:

  • Manipulating the QuickBooks update feature.
  • Downloading a “batch” file that will try to fix the problem.
  • Manually renaming some files in your “program files” folders

From what I hear, the last solution is the one that usually works. According to Kathy Ivens the second option only works if you have installed your programs to the default location, which many people do not do, so it can fail. It might not work in Vista or Windows 7 because of differences in folder names. The last solution might be technically difficult for some people, if you aren’t familiar with the kinds of things you have to do to be able to get to these folders in Vista and Windows 7.

An Interesting Statement About Updates

What caught my eye in this KB article was the following statement:

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Wait – background updates? Minor updates downloaded automatically?

If you have worked with QuickBooks for very long you know about updates, and should know about automatic updates. I post articles in this blog whenever I hear about a new update. Sometimes they are important, sometimes you might want to wait awhile to install them.

Normally you know about an update. You can also press the F2 key to find out what revision you are using. But, in this case, the “revision” information doesn’t say that there was a new update. This “minor” update does not update the revision information.

So, we have an update that apparently was pushed out to QuickBooks users, but we weren’t notified about it and we apparently can’t use the normal means of detecting what revision we are on. This raised a LOT of questions in my mind!

There Are Updates, and then There Are Updates…

I asked some of my contacts at Intuit about this issue, and I received a very quick reply. Here is what I understand to be happening, in my own words.

Intuit delivers several types of updates to QuickBooks customers. Some are the primary maintenance releases that we know about, which have revision numbers. Typically (but not always) these will be available through a “manual” update for a period of time before they are sent out through the “automatic” update feature.

In addition, there are additional updates that are usually targeted at specific features and services. This can include payroll, the help system, sync manager, and “flavor” updates (related to the “type” of QuickBooks you are using). Some updates are enabled when you sign up for a service, some are available to everyone. These are secondary or off cycle updates. As I understand it these should not be updating the core program code in QuickBooks itself, they only update some of the ancillary files.

One of these secondary updates was the root of the “Home Page” problem – most likely having to do with a payroll update (which would explain why I didn’t see it on my system), although I’m not certain about that. It could also have been a maintenance update.

You DO Have Control

A few years ago I wrote an article about automatic updates, where I explained that they are important, but that you might want to control how you get them.

As I said earlier, none of my direct support customers reported this problem – that is because I have them turn off automatic updates and only do updates when I tell them it is OK. So none of my customers got this minor update. However, I don’t recommend that you turn this feature off unless you closely monitor the update cycles, as the updates are important. You need to be aware of what they include and if they are useful. I always try to keep on top of this in my blog, posting info on the new updates when they come out.

We also have some features that give us a greater degree of control over these secondary updates. Select Help and then Update QuickBooks to open the update window. Click on the options tab:

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There is a list of features in the scrollable window that controls these secondary updates. If a feature is checked, you are eligible for getting one of these updates. These aren’t restricted to the primary updates, they can occur at any time. You have the option to un-check these options. However, think about this carefully before doing it – you must have a good “update plan” in place so that you periodically get these updates, they can be critical.

How do you know if an update has been installed? Well, you don’t, as far as I can tell. You have SOME information by going to the Update Now tab:

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Look at the last checked column, you can see that some updates were installed on 6/23/2010. If I press the F2 key, the versions used on file section tells me that I opened this file with the R7P release (the most current 2010 release revision at this time) on 5/26/2010.

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So, I installed the last primary release, the one I knew about, back in May, but QuickBooks installed some other update in June that I was not aware of until now.

Using the Updates window doesn’t give me a history of the secondary updates, it only shows me the most recent time that the program checked for updates and if one was installed. I can’t, for example, tell if there was an update installed in maintenance releases prior to June 23.

The Good News

One piece of good news for people who have been affected – you don’t have to try the complicated update steps that are listed in the KB article. Intuit already has a fix for the “fix” – the same automatic update feature will correct the problem. I’m not clear if that has been released already, or if it will be available tomorrow (Thursday) – and these updates are only installed when you close and restart QuickBooks. Intuit determined what the problem was and was able to correct it quickly.

Another piece of good news is that these kinds of updates, as I understand it, generally should only affect ancillary features, not your core program. You won’t get program updates that will change how a basic accounting function operates, you won’t get an update that will cause compatibility problems when you send your file to your accountant. The “Home Page” program was annoying, but everything on the home page was still accessible via a menu item somewhere, so it wouldn’t be a show stopper.

The final piece of good news is that you DO have control over this. You can turn off the updates, either the individual secondary updates or even the primary updates. However, BE CAREFUL if you consider doing this. If you turn off these updates, and you forget to install the manual updates periodically, you may run into problems! If you are using an Intuit payroll product, I strongly recommend that you do not turn this feature off.

As long as the kinds of updates involved here are in fact minor, as the Intuit representative specified, I don’t see this as a major red flag. I do wish, though, that there was some better way for me to know what is actually going on and what I (or a client I’m working with) am running.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Program Updates, QuickBooks 2008, QuickBooks 2009, QuickBooks 2010

About the Author (Author Profile)

Charlie Russell is the founder of CCRSoftware. He’s been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70’s, focusing on inventory and accounting software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor. Look for Charlie’s articles in the Accountex Report blog, as well as his California Wildflower Hikes blog.

Comments (26)

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  1. Steve Gill says:

    Is it just me, or has Intuit consistently “laid an egg” which all of their updates over the past 6-9 months? Surely they recognize the sorry state of their QC process over updates at this point, but I haven’t seen any apologies ala the recent network outage.

  2. Joe Woodard says:

    Might the QBWIN.LOG show a complete history of updates including secondary updates?

  3. Thanks for this post – I had no idea these secondary updates were going on either.

    You would sure think that an issue like this would have been addressed via an article (or three) in the ProAdvisor newsletters that appear from time to time. Wait – they were too busy trying to sell us things.

    As Steve mentioned, this is just another black eye that Intuit has received from poor QC on their updates and poor planning for their service outages.

  4. Charlie says:

    Steve, and Greg: As a programmer myself, I understand that rolling out updates is a tough thing to do when you have a complicated program like QuickBooks. It is hard to be perfect, even though we as consumers need them to be.

    I have two differing opinions relating to QuickBooks updates and releases, regarding their testing processes.

    First: I understand that sometimes errors will occur, as it is impossible to test absolutely every configuration of system that their program will run in. Mistakes will happen, no matter how much testing they do. A measure of the reliability of a company and it’s product is not only how much effort they place in pre-release testing, but also how quickly they can respond to fix problems once they are discovered. IN THIS INSTANCE, I would say that Intuit seems to have done well. The problem was quickly identified by them, and it took a very short time to get a patch out for affected users (the KB article), and a fix was then pushed out to people through the update system (as I understand it, because I can’t test this myself) very quickly. If you use complicated software, problems will occur with updates, but if they get fixed quickly (and if they don’t destroy data), that is good. Intuit worked responsibly and quickly to take care of this. How many of you would have known about this problem if it hadn’t been pointed out to you?

    Second: Looking at the overall test and release procedures that Intuit goes through, I DO have to say that I think that there are flaws in their process. This particular incident isn’t an example of that, really. But we can go back over the last year or so and see some major flaws in their procedures (in my opinion). I’ve expressed this on multiple occasions to some of my contacts at Intuit. I’ve been involved in “beta” tests of new major releases of QuickBooks and I’ve been very unhappy with certain aspects of their process. Having said that, I can say that I’ve seen improvements in at least some aspects of their process over the past year. They are paying attention to this, and they are working to improve things. But I think that they have a long ways to go.

  5. Charlie says:

    Greg: When was the last time we (as ProAdvisors) got a notification of a problem? Either I’m not getting my ProAdvisor newsletters, or they have stopped sending them as often as they used to. I know that they let go of the person who was creating the ProAdvisor newsletters…

  6. Charlie says:

    Joe: Regarding QBWIN.LOG – I hate looking at that because there is SO MUCH information, and we don’t have a good explanation of what is in there. I took a quick look, and I’m not sure that I see anything there.

    HOWEVER, there is another log – QBInstall.log, that looks to have a lot of this information. I’ve not looked at this in detail before now. Some interesting stuff. But, without some sort of key or rosetta stone, hard to interpret. I can see that there are update actions going on “off cycle” – other than the major revisions that I install. So, yes, there is activity being logged and I can see it. BUT, without any explanation of what is going on, I’m not sure that this is useful to me. When we get a major revision we at least get a description of the major changes. I’m sure that we never get a description of ALL changes. That is also one of my gripes about the release of a new edition each year – we don’t get a full list of changes, just the major changes. There are lots of little things that get changed that we just have to “discover”.

    And, Joe, it is going to get worse in the future – just wait until we are allowed to talk about the “QuickBooks Advantage” plan…

  7. Nancy says:

    Charlie
    To focus on just the “developer” side of things for a second instead of the ProAdvisor side.

    When as a developer have you been notified of even a normally scheduled QB Maintenance release or what it contains?

    Like you I sit on both sides of the Intuit fence (as both an Advisor and Developer) and if it weren’t for being an Advisor I would never know when those releases occurred or what they contained.

    Yes, Intuit has a long way to go – and like you, I’ve voiced my concerns over many inconsistencies to seemingly deaf ears.

  8. Charlie says:

    Whoa, Nancy, don’t get me started on Intuit relations with third party developers!!!

    That is one of the reasons to be enlisted as a ProAdvisor, so I hopefully get some notices. But, even as ProAdvisor, they are falling down on the notices.

    The best source of updates I have found has been through the Intuit Community Forum, as an “allstar” I have access to a private forum, and SOMETIMES we are lucky enough to get a notice of an update being available the day it comes out. Never in advance. And not always.

    And never these “off cycle” updates…

  9. Steve Gill says:

    Charlie,

    Any news on the update to fix this update? Has it been released? I walked into a client office today and, sure enough, they had the “problem”. Puzzling thing was that they are in a multi-user environment and the problem was only on one computer (not the one the QB file is on, either). If the update has been released, maybe I have to have them close and restart QB.

  10. Charlie says:

    Steve, since I’m not entirely sure WHICH of the “off cycle” update files were involved with this, I don’t have a way to determine if this has been fixed in an update or if that update has been released. That is one of my complaints about how this process works.

    If you have automatic updates turned off on that system, you won’t have the update. You should manually run the update, close the program down and restart it.

    There is always the fix that Intuit listed in their KB article…

  11. Paulina says:

    I just discovered your blog and want to say thank you for all the great information you have here. My opinion of QB is that they love to sell you their products, but they are not interested in the support aspect. Due to lack of time to shop around I recently upgraded and renewed my payroll subscription, but one of my ongoing problems has been with payroll updates. I suspected it was my internet connection because I am in a rural area and satellite is my only option. There is nothing QB support can do to help this situation and they really could care less, so I look forward to the day when I have time to shop around for a different system. In the meantime, I am upgrading my satellite internet to a supposedly speedier and more costly package just to be able to download QB payroll updates. Thanks for allowing me to vent my frustration.

  12. Cathy says:

    We’re in a rural area and can’t afford satellite nor any other connection but dial-up. Everything is written assuming a high-speed connection. Sometimes I can update via our home DSL, but even that has failed lately. QB can’t seen to “find” the connection.

    • Charlie says:

      Right or wrong – the computer industry is heading towards “cloud” computing. That will make it important to rural users to find ways to get connected, unfortunately. It is a tough situation.

      Payroll updates – look into an alternative payroll system that doesn’t work just over the Internet (I don’t have recommendations, I don’t work with Payroll). Or have it managed by someone who IS connected.

      Cathy, if you are talking about QuickBooks updates, then find a ProAdvisor who IS connected, who can put the manual updates onto a CD or DVD and then mail them to you. Manual updates work just as well as automatic updates.

  13. cynthia says:

    Quickbooks 2011 is also having the same problem with the Home Page. i called Intuit to get support and of course they refused saying I would have to pay for it. I have to pay for a problem of their making!!!! Intuit is the most frustration company to deal with and their poor customer service is legendary. I’ve used their product since 2006 and its always been pitiful for support and its NEVER their problem. Its time to switch I am so fed up with the lack of support for a vital program.

  14. Charlie says:

    Cynthia, I’m not seeing that problem in my copies of QuickBooks 2011, nor have I had any reports of it from any of my direct support clients. Do you know what revision you are using? If your press F2 an info window opens, the revision is at the end of the product line. The most current revision is R8, although it is more likely that you would have R6. If you have something older than R6 then you should update.

  15. CINDY says:

    Hi Charlie
    Im using QB 2008 and when I started using it my invoices updated its overdue period automatically when I invoiced. Now, recently when I invoice, it doesnt change the overdue date. Please help m tired of doing it manually 1 by 1.

    • Charlie says:

      Cindy, are you using the US version?

      I haven’t run into that problem, so there isn’t much that I can offer to you. Try using a different “terms” in a test invoice, see if that makes a difference. Perhaps your terms record is altered or damaged?

  16. Cindy says:

    Hi Charlie… Thnx I got the solution

  17. Peter says:

    Hi Charlie
    I have now got the missing home page on my 2009 QBpro
    I cant find the data file to do the fix (do you know how to find it??) I have looked at all the usual suspects but it is not there?

    I called intuit and they just told me my software was no longer supported unless I pay $400 for new software ..hard luck!! What a great business … screw up your software and then tell you you are on your own!

    Any suggestions

    Peter

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