General Tips

How to Make a Test Company

There are times when I just want to play around with my QuickBooks data without affecting my “real” company information. Today I’m going to discuss how to set up a “test” company. On the surface this might seem to be simple, but there are a few issues I’d like to point out that many people miss.

There are a number of reasons why you might want to set up a test company. You may be training a new employee. Although QuickBooks is a fairly easy accounting system to use, it isn’t always obvious how to deal with certain tasks, so you might want to try out a few ideas to see how they work out. Or, you may be trying out a new plug-in software module and want to see how it works. QuickBooks allows you to have an unlimited number of company files, so rather than messing around with your “real” company you should set up a test company.

There are sample company files that come with QuickBooks. In addition, you can easily set up a new company. The drawback of either of these approaches is that they aren’t using your “real” data, so the tests might not reflect how things would work in your situation. The best way to test something is on a copy of your own company data.

The first step is very simple. Make a backup copy of your current company file using the QuickBooks backup facility, and then restore that backup with a different company name such as “Test Company”. Simple! Obvious! What more is there to do? Just use the restored backup for all of your tests and training!

Unfortunately, if you stop here, you are leaving yourself open to some problems. It is very easy to forget which company file you are logged into. You could be entering invoices, making adjustments or reconciling checkbooks in the test company when you think you are working with the “real” company. I’ve seen this happen many times, and it can be a serious time waster. As you know, it is difficult to transfer selected information from one company file to another (we’ll talk about how to do that in a future posting), so “real” work done on a test company may be wasted effort.

Another problem is that you could print a report from the test company, such as a profit & loss statement, and not realize that it is from the test company and has bogus information.

I would like to make a few recommendations that will help alleviate these problems.

  1. You should also change the Company Information settings in the test company. Select Company from the main menu, then Company Information. At the very least change the Company Name field to something like “Test Company”. This is displayed at the top of your main QuickBooks window and on most reports, and this makes it obvious that this is your test company instead of the real one.
  2. Go into the User List and change the Admin password to something different than what you have in the “real” company. You still want to have an admin password, you still want to keep this a secret from most employees. Remember that this file has a copy of your actual company data, so you still want to limit who can see different things. AND you don’t want someone coming in and changing the company name back to the original value.
  3. Also in the User List you should either delete all other users and create new ones, or at the very least change the password on all of the other users. This can be tedious, particularly in the Enterprise edition where you can fine tune the permission sets. It is fairly simple to make changes such as changing the name of the user, or the password, without having to redo all of the settings. This is very important to do! When you log in as a user it is easy to not pay attention to which company file you are logging into. The last one you used is displayed, and if you don’t pay attention you could log into the wrong company. Then you are posting real transactions into the test company, for example. By changing the user names or at least the password, the user has to stop and think about which company they are logging into. This step is often not done, and it is the simplest way to avoid problems

I highly recommend setting up a test company to use in training and for trying new procedures or features. If you do, please follow these simple steps to avoid extra work down the line.

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  • I am fairly new to QuickBooks and currently have 2009 Premier Manufacturing Edition. My company has never used the “Creating inventory parts” advantage to the software. We enter all manufactured items as “non-inventory parts” by a model number, using the model numbers to invoice, no record of the individual items needed to build the model.

    Leary of charging in, if I create a Test company and enter my inventory part items and add an inventory assembly item for each manufactured item, can I take all the data entered from the Test company, back to my “real” company if I decide it works well for us?

    Thanks in advance

    • GTC: Moving your data, like the inventory assembly items, from one company file to another is a bit of a pain. You can do it, but there are some issues and it takes a few steps. “Merging” two companies is not simple.

      I would just use the test company to enter a few items to play with and see if you like the way it works, rather than entering EVERYTHING and then wanting to move the data over.