QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery

Written by Charlie Russell

Auto Data Recovery is a new feature that was introduced in QuickBooks 2011 R6 and QuickBooks 2010 R12 (US editions), but only in the Pro and Premier versions. It wasn’t something that I was familiar with, but now I’m starting to see questions from clients about this feature. What is it doing?

If you have one of those versions of QuickBooks you may see an additional folder show up on your computer, with a few new files. This is the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery folder, and it will show up on it’s own.

QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery

The QBW.ADR file will be the same size as your regular QBW company file, the QBW.TLG.ADR file should be much smaller but will grow. The two “old” files won’t show up until later.

Essentially, this is a backup copy of your QuickBooks company file, and a matching transaction log, that QuickBooks makes for you automatically. You cannot turn this feature off.

Why is Intuit Doing This?

I was able to interview the Intuit product manager for this feature and gain some insight.

Intuit technical support gets many calls from clients who “cannot open their QuickBooks file”. Over the past two years they have been working on improving methods of diagnosing, fixing and preventing these kinds of issues. Several tools have been developed by them to help:

  • Many of the problems were networking issues – improper permissions or other configuration errors. Intuit developed the QuickBooks Network Diagnostic Tool to help gather information about the user’s network setup, and hopefully diagnose the problem.
  • Later, the QuickBooks Company File Diagnostic Tool was introduced. If you couldn’t open your company file due to file corruption, this tool would help detect the error, diagnose the problem, AND hopefully repair the error.

These tools resolved many of the problems, but they can’t always fix everything. If they don’t work, and the user still cannot open the company file, the next step would be to send your company file to be repaired by the Intuit Data Services team. There also are third party repair services such as www.qbornotqb.com that can be used (I highly recommend this company).

This isn’t a great situation – there are fees involved, and  you are going to be without access to your QuickBooks company file for several days.

One alternative to sending your file out for repair is to have a good, relatively current backup copy of your QuickBooks file. Restore that file and pick up from the time it was created. That works very well in many situations. But, unfortunately, experience tells us that many QuickBooks users just don’t do a good job of making backups. Either they don’t have backups at all, or they have a poorly implemented backup plan so that the backups are not useable.

Any good accounting professional should be able to set up a proper backup plan to minimize problems. There are many good backup products available, and a proper backup procedure will include multiple kinds of backups (I like Gillware Online Backup as one element of a good backup plan). However, Intuit can’t assume that a user has implemented a good backup plan, so they have implemented the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery feature.

How Does QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery Work?

Roughly one hour after you open a QuickBooks company file the QuickBooks Auto Data Recovery feature will perform some internal diagnostics on the file. If the file has been opened, and passes the test, the program assumes that this is a good file and a backup copy is made into the ADR folder.

After the initial copy is made the ADR transaction log will contain all transactions added to the file from that point on.

Every 12 hours after the first copy QuickBooks will make another copy of the file. This won’t happen if you don’t have QuickBooks open – it occurs the next time you start the desktop program. Since you can open your company file the program knows that it is accessible, and it will again run some short internal diagnostics. Note that the TLG file undergoes some diagnostic tests also, because a corrupted TLG file could also prevent you from opening your QuickBooks company file. If everything passes, the first ADR copy is renamed to “old” and a new ADR set is created. Only one “old” copy is kept around.

So now you have two copies, one that is up to 12 hours old, and one that is up to 24 hours old.

How Do I Use This Feature?

You don’t have to do a thing to make the backups. That is the purpose of this – to provide a good, clean backup file without any operator interaction.

How do you restore using this backup? The original intent was for this to be used by Intuit technical support staff. It wasn’t a feature that was being presented to end users (or ProAdvisors). However, Intuit has published details on how to restore files in Intuit Support Article #HOW13772.

To summarize, you will replace the original QBW with the ADR copy, and match it with the ADR TLG file. The TLG file contains all transactions that have been entered since the copy was made (see this article on the standard TLG file for more info on TLG files). When you open the ADR copy, QuickBooks will recognize that this is a special copy and it will apply the TLG transactions automatically. IF for some reason the TLG file itself is compromised, it won’t be applied and you will have your restored backup without the last 12 (or 24) hours of activity.

Intuit does not expect customers to do this on their own. The intent is that the backup files are there for Intuit technical support staff to work with as a last resort, short of sending the file to Intuit Data Services for repair.

Is it Good, or Bad?

This is always the tough call. My usual answer for that question, in relation to anything about QuickBooks, is “Yes”.

This is NOT A FULL BACKUP SOLUTION – keep in mind that this is just one more cog in a well oiled machine. You should not rely on just this feature to provide all of your backup needs!

There are some downsides. You can’t turn this off. I’ve already seen complaints about that, as people don’t want to see something taking up more space on their hard drive. Yes, I know that hard drive space is really cheap and available now, but people still complain and some businesses still have space constraints.

There are several reasons why this is set up this way.

  • First, it only works if it is on. If someone can turn it off, then the user has squashed an important part of the technical support process for Intuit, and they don’t want that. Remember how we used to be able to turn off the Audit Trail? Now it is always on, and users cannot turn it off.
  • Second, this is (in my words) a pilot project. It is hard to beta test something like this because you only see if it works if you have someone who gets a corrupted file. Beta tests aren’t likely to run into that kind of problem often enough to be a good test. So they have not provided a way to turn it off. I understand this, but I’m not sure I like it.

All of these files are in one particular folder (which was one of their design goals), so you can decide to not include the folder in any system backup processes you have, if that is a consideration. That is a point on the “good” side.

This feature is only available in the Pro and Premier versions of QuickBooks (starting with QuickBooks 2011 R6 and 2010 R12). That was one of my key questions for Intuit – why just these versions? For Enterprise, they didn’t want to roll this out as a pilot project (again, my term for it) because Enterprise files tend to be much larger, and they wanted to test this in smaller environments first. For the Accountant’s edition – Accountants usually are working with multiple files from multiple clients. This feature doubles up the space that you need to store your company files, and if you have a lot of company files that could be a problem.

So, I have mixed feelings. In general, I like the idea. I wish there was a way to make it optional, for those cases where we really don’t want it, but I understand their approach. I would like to see it expanded to Enterprise (perhaps making it an option there, but not optional in Pro/Premier?). I also would like to have it as an optional feature in the Accountants Edition, since I do have multiple clients who run their business with that edition, who aren’t accountants (so they can get all the features they need). Optional, because an accountant might not want it.

I’ve not come across any real technical issues yet, other than complaints about the space it takes, but then it has only been out there a short while. I would have liked it better if Intuit had informed ProAdvisors of what this was, rather than sneaking it out. Yes, it was a feature listed in the update pages, but they never really did explain what it was in detail.

Many thanks to Carlos Rodriquez and Kim Amsbaugh at Intuit for providing information for this article.

About the author

Charlie Russell

Charlie Russell has been involved with the small business software industry since the mid 70's, and remembers releasing his first commercial accounting software product when you had an 8-bit microcomputer with one 8 inch floppy disk drive. He has a special interest in inventory and manufacturing software for small businesses. Charlie is a Certified Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor with additional certifications for QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Enterprise, as well as being a Xero Certified Partner. Charlie started blogging about QuickBooks in 2008 (Practical QuickBooks) and has been writing for the Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Report) since 2011. He retired from accounting and QuickBooks activities in early 2018.

Visit his CCRSoftware web site for information about his QuickBooks add-on products. He is also the author of the California Wildflower Hikes blog.


  • One thing I am doing for my customers in Greater Seattle is to insist that they make a backup whenever they exit QuickBooks and at a minimum that they shut down once a day or week. This works well for users who aren’t on a network. For my network clients, I have them do a back up from the server if the program has been installed there or by copying their QBW and TLG files to a local machine and doing it there.

  • Charlie – First of all, another great article full of informative insights.

    Now for my ‘typical grumbling’. As you know, I have spent a great deal of ‘study’ about the QB Database and the underlying Sybase technology. While this new feature does in fact make good use of some of that technology, it is indeed a complex procedure (at least for a typical User) and while explained very well in the Knowledge Based Article on the subject, NO where in that article did I find any reference to ‘Users’ should contact technical support for assistance before or in performing the steps. In fact the introduction of the How13772 KBA makes it clearly sounds like, if you can’t wait for Technical Support (Intuit Data Services) to recover your file here are steps you can take to do it on your own. In addition the very bottom of the article, is exactly the same as all published KBAs saying essentially, ‘if this doesn’t work for you look on the Intuit Community site or contact Technical Support’.

    It would seem if they didn’t intend for the ‘average Joe’ to follow these steps on their own, then they would not have published the KBA (to the outside world) in the first place and just kept the steps of how to use it ‘secret’ via an “Internal version of the KBA” (alone), as they do with many other topics.

    It also seems odd that absolutely none of the ProAdvisors I know really had any ‘advance notice’ (or not much) about this, or even given a ‘published description’ in the ProAdvisor Newsletter (I guess it is far more important to let us know that courses/tests for 2 year old certifications are ‘about to expire’, then the newest QB technological issue on the block.

    In the long run, pilot “experimental” program or not, I wonder how much good will come out of this new feature (which does work if you follow the steps) as contrasted to how may other file issues will be created by failure to follow the steps??? But then again, even Mad Scientists begin with an experiment…..so why not a software giant “it’s Alive”!

    William “Bill” Murphy – Oklahoma City

  • Thanks for keeping us “in the know” Charlie! I always tell my clients to choose Update Later, so I can see what you are saying about the releases. And since this one is bound to produce client inquiries, I’m glad I have them wait. It is curious that these types of changes are not explained better to us by Intuit. Thanks again!

  • As always, your explanation is way better than anything Intuit has released. Kudos and thank you!

    • Yes, not in Enterprise, and ALSO not in Premier Accountant’s Edition. So ProAdvisors won’t have that feature, won’t be able to get familiar with it unless they install a retail copy of Pro or Premier (non-Accountant) somewhere. I find that very frustrating, as our client’s see features that we don’t see.

      • Shoot. Why don’t they make this clear on their website? I searched and searched for that auto recovery file and thought I had disabled it or something. I spent a lot of time looking for something that isn’t ever going to be there!

        • I haven’t talked to Intuit about it since this article was written, but at that time it was (1) a pilot project that they were testing, so it might not be available to everyone, and (2) intended mainly for their own tech support staff to help fix problems for customers. I guess they assume that ProAdvisors would be smart enough to do backups regularly, or something like that.

          • What’s the saying, the cobbler’s children don’t have shoes, or something like that. I do regular backups of my c drive work onto an external hard drive. I had two large QBs files (> 100 MB), that I put on the external drive that were unfortunately not being backed up. Those two files (1 QBW and 1 QBA)are now, for some unknown reason, at 0 bytes.

            Intuit support can’t help me because the two files show that they have 0 bytes in them. I tried PC Inspector, and while it pulled up over 16,000 lost files, none of them were QBW or QBA. It also pulled up some deleted files, but they aren’t what I’m looking for either.

            It seems to me the files must still be on the hard drive, but I don’t know how to get them. Is it possible to use a client’s original QBA transfer file and merge it with the TLG file? If not, is there any way to read the TLG file?

            Re-entering transactions will take several hours, but at least the TLG file would ensure that I enter all of them. Any suggestions you might have would be appreciated.

          • Natalie, very few people can work with the TLG file. It isn’t something that you can work with on your own. You can talk to Intuit about it, but I’ll guess that they’ll decline. You might also talk to the folks at http://www.qbornotqb.com, or at http://www.accountingusers.com. However, I think that the time and cost taken in recovering the TLG file will be less than the few hours of reentering.

            When you have a backup system set up, you never know if it is working unless you do a test restore from that backup.

  • Intuit lied. I just upgraded to QB Enterprise 2011 from Enterprise 2008 and am having space issues with the new ADR ‘enhancement’. The ADR folder alone is consuming 15GB on my shared server. If I don’t figure out how to turn it off soon my RAID will crash. Thanks Intuit!

    • Brandon, I’m not sure about the “lied” part – but I do know that at this point you can’t turn off the ADR feature.

      You might be able to upgrade/change your installation to the Accountant’s Edition – that doesn’t include ADR at this time (but no guarantee it won’t be implemented there later).

      In the ADR folder there will be one or two files with “TLG” in the file name. You could periodically erase those.

      Also, you might be running into a different issue if the TLG files are really, really big. Try turning off the search feature. Select “Edit” then “Preferences”, look for the “Search” preference. In Company Preferences, uncheck the “update automatically” box. Erase the TLG files, see if they grow as large as before. Keep in mind that if you erase TLG files that you are losing one portion of your QuickBooks backup system.

  • 🙂 One more question. Going through the restore process. I need to provide a location as where I want to restore the backup. Does it matter if the restore location is on the local drive or external drive? Is it safer to keep everything on the external drive? Thanks again

    • Alex, where you restore depends on a number of things. If this is a single-user situation, I would store this on the local drive, not on an external drive. If it is multi-user then you need a drive on a Server that all users can access.

  • @all/@author; it seems that a nice ‘offline’ backup capability has just opened up with this feature. While you might not be able to schedule backups of the company file while it’s in-use, you could backup these ADR files, though possibly not the TLG files, since they shouldn’t be locked. In simplest terms; “a backup of a backup”. I’ll give this a try and see if it works…

    • Interesting idea, Tim. Note that the ADR backups won’t have all of the same info that a regular QBB backup will have, I believe. And you don’t always know when these are being updated. You may still run into some issues.

      • I believe the ADR file is simply a copy of the QBW and TLG files with a different extension. The QBB backups are all of the files, including DSN and ND files, compressed into a single file.

  • Charlie – thanks for the writeup, very well explained.

    The ADR process can be turned off. The following works on QB Enterprise Solutions 13.0 on Server 2008 R2 (would also work on Windows 7).

    Open the file qbw.ini located in “C:\ProgramData\Intuit\QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 13.0”

    In that file locate the following 2 lines:

    Change the 1 to 0, like this:

    Save the file and reboot.

    If you do like the ADR process but want to do it on your own terms here’s the command to do it. Running this command from an elevated command prompt will create the ADR files. Knowing this you can script something that you can run at a time schedule that you choose. I do not know of any way to change the location of the ADR files though, it creates them in the same place. Here’s the command:

    “C:\Program Files (x86)\Intuit\QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions 13.0\AutoBackupEXE.exe” /FC:\QBDATA\TestCompany1\TestCompany1.QBW /R

    This assumes your installation directory is the same as mine and your QBW file is in “C:\QBDATA\TestCompany1\TestCompany1.QBW”. Adjust your paths accordingly.

  • my adr files are backing up to my desk top, not a folder. is there a way that I can change this? I am running QB 2013 PRO. only loaded on one computer. any help would be great

  • Quickbooksautodatarecovery is an excellent way for a small business user to protect themselves against loss of data. But for service providers like use who receive copies of client data files so we can do our part, it leads to an accumulation of unneeded duplicate files on our servers that have to be manually removed.

    • Scott, if you are using a current ProAdvisor version of QuickBooks Accountant or QuickBooks Enterprise Accountant, it isn’t supposed to create the ADR files. Once in awhile I see them popping up by mistake, but in general they aren’t supposed to show.

  • ADR has caused me to lose transactions, necessitating restoring backups. The first time I observed this, I blamed it on QB Sync, and turned it off on all my companies. I have no need of it, since I can remote into my desktop from anywhere with a connection. Since turning off Sync, I have on three occasions performed a backup, then came back into my company, for three different company files, and noticed I was missing all the transactions from my latest entry session. From this article, it would seem that maybe closing QB every time I finish making entries might alleviate this problem.

    • Sync Manager won’t cause you to lose transactions. And, it has nothing to do with being able to “remote into your desktop”. The primary reason for Sync Manager is to get your data into the cloud so a cloud based add-on product can access the data to provide you with a feature you don’t have on the desktop.

      ADR shouldn’t be causing any problems as it just makes a backup, UNLESS you are doing something to destroy your file and manually moving the ADR file to cause it to restore an older version. But that only happens if you manually manipulate the file.

      I can’t follow your process exactly as you don’t give details, but it sounds like something else is going on here. It isn’t likely to be anything involved with ADR or Sync Manager.

  • ‘And, it has nothing to do with being able to “remote into your desktop”. ‘

    Well DUH!

    As noted, I’ve eliminated Sync as a potential cause of the data reversion. Here are the particulars again, with a bit of added detail: I have 4 different entities, each in a subdirectory off of “My Documents”. On at least 3 or 4 occasions, I’ve opened a company file and found a lot of transactions missing. My hunch is that a whole session’s entries are gone. NO files have been moved. This MAY take place after backup is made, which MAY be a contributing factor. I am not sure of this. When I’ve observed this. I’ve closed the company file and looked at the files in the subfolder dedicated to my QB company files. What I see is several *.conflict files, including the transaction log (*.tlg) and the ADR file. In each case, there was a recent backup that would contain the missing transactions. Something in the ADR process is acting on its own to drop transactions. I’m making a habit of closing company files and NOT letting them open after a session.

  • Excellent page full of some good advise and useful info, I wish more Quickbooks users would pay attention to the information here. There is nothing that replaces a verified and working offsite daily backup routine.

    There are two type of problems Quickbooks users typically face, first would be data loss, such as a crashed hard drive or deleted file. Often these problems can be solved by an “over the counter” recovery software or seeking the help of a professional data recovery company.

    The second would be some type of database level corruption, most corruption based issues can be solved by a simple rebuild or using Quickbooks file doctor. There are however a small percentage of damaged database that are beyond the ability of these utilities to fix. In these cases you have a few options. You can contact Intuit directly, or you can seek the help of a reputable company that offers database repair for Quickbooks. There are only a few of these companies out there but in most cases they will be much quicker than Intuit’s service and offer comparable pricing.

    Prior to any do-it-yourself recovery attempts we suggest that if possible you make copies of your current .QBW and .TLG files, you will want to preserve these files. If you are unable to fix the problem yourself and re-entering the data by hand is not an option, you will likely need to provide these files to whatever company you choose to repair your database. Lastly, if you have suffered some type of physical hard drive crash then I strongly suggest you seek the help of a professional data recovery company, these recoveries require specialize clean room facilitates to open and repair the damaged drive.

    Lead Tech.

  • I lost my hard drive. My company back up file doesn’t seem to import. When I name it, nothing appears in the folder I choose.

    I went into my ADR folder. Chose what I thought was the correct file. I removed the ADR extension and tried to open it with the “open company file” Quickbooks comes back with the file being corrupt. I then ran through the repair wizard, which I was prompted to do. I asked me a bunch of questions about servers and work stations, but choosing either option didn’t help.

    Do I need to do something with the TLG file?

    • Look at the detailed instructions in the Intuit support article I reference. Note that you need to have a TLG file to work with it. And one problem is, if the original file had some corruption, the ADR probably has that corruption, and you can’t always restore it. I would be concerned about the integrity of your system if your regular backup can’t be restored, also. Something else may be going on here.

    • The problem that so often arises from pulling data off a damaged hard drive is that so many of the what I like to call “over the counter” utilities used to recover data from these drives works fine for documents and pictures, but when reading proprietary extensions like a .QBW or .QBB file they drop the ball. What you end up with is a file header showing what the file “should be”, but the “meat” of the data is either garbage or not recovered at all.

      We see it all the time, in the files we receive for repair work. A quick way to check if this is the case is to take the file in question and compress it using Winzip or similar program. Then inspect the results, if the original size is lets say for argument sake 200MB but after compression the resulting .ZIP is reduced to a extremely small size of say just a few 100 bytes, then you know for sure this is the problem. Your looking at some header information with no substance behind it. Compressing a populated .QBW will result in at best a compression ration of about 40%, less in most cases. If its a .QBB that will be reduced to maybe 10%. So any unusually large compression ratio is usually a kiss of death for these databases.

      An option you have would be to seek the assistance of a Professional Drive Recovery Service and allow them to work with the drive directly. We often find in cases like this, if we are allowed to work with the drive and perform the recovery, we are able to properly recover the original .QBW with no further file repair necessary.

      Applying a .TLG to an ADR file is not particularly difficult, but there are some strict constraints on this process, both files must be in good condition and the ending data in the .ADR file must meet or overlap the starting data in the .TLG. If there is a gap this process will not work.

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