Making the Transition: QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online – What You Need to Know

Is QuickBooks Desktop ending? Do I have to switch to QuickBooks Online? In this article, we debunk the myths and help you weigh all your options.

Misleading marketing from QuickBooks has caused QuickBooks Desktop customers confusion, and now they are concerned about what they should do. A few months ago, they got a Stop Sell Notice stating, “QuickBooks Desktop is planning to stop selling several products to U.S. new subscribers after July 31, 2024.”

Additionally, notices have been sent to QuickBooks Desktop users about Service Discontinuation (Sunset), in which Intuit requires them to upgrade to a supported version of QuickBooks.

Here are some other reasons QuickBooks Desktop customers are considering a change:

  • Marketing TV and Social Media advertising
  • Change of ownership or business structure
  • Feedback from peers regarding their experience with QuickBooks Online
  • Need for new functionality, features, and better performance
  • Cost: looking for savings due to price increases

When making a change to your accounting solution within the Intuit platform, there are some terms you need to understand and plan accordingly.

Migration vs. Conversion

Before we get into the options, it’s important to understand a few terms that are sometimes used interchangeably. People often ask, if I am moving from one QuickBooks product to another, isn’t it a simple step to do? Aren’t the products similar? Well, this depends on which action you are taking and which product you are moving to. Let’s discuss the difference between data migration and data conversion so you can feel informed and knowledgeable about the process.

Migration moves the data seamlessly within the same product line, such as from QuickBooks Desktop Pro/Premier to QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise or QuickBooks Online Simple Start to QuickBooks Online Advanced.

Conversion, on the other hand, takes the data file and converts it into another platform. The data moves over to the new platform; there might be data that does not make the journey if the field/function/feature does not exist between platforms. Running a trial conversion lets you decide if it’s needed. A data conversion would be from QuickBooks Desktop Pro or Premier to QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Enterprise.

Understanding The Options

#1 Stay in your current version of QuickBooks Desktop

Stay in Pro or Premier, meaning you would need an annual subscription for that version of QuickBooks. You will upgrade your Desktop file by opening the file once the new version is installed.

What will happen if I stay put?

To continue running your Enhanced Payroll subscription, you will need to purchase QuickBooks Pro/Premier Plus 2024, a subscription-based product that renews annually. Intuit is making substantial price increases to encourage the natural discussion around making a move.


  • No training staff—This will be the easiest to learn if you or your staff already use QuickBooks Desktop Pro or Premier.
  • No downtime


  • You must purchase a QuickBooks Desktop PLUS subscription by May 31st, 2024.
  • Significant Price Increases—The days of $299 every two or three years are long gone. Pro ($649) and Premier ($949) are now available.
  • Maintain an active subscription – If your credit card fails, you may lose access to the subscription.
  • No new Features will be added; patches only.
  • “Not If, but When”—It will eventually end on a date determined by Intuit. No announcements have been made public yet.

New Price Example

$949 1 user Premier + $1,380 Enhanced Payroll = $2,329 per year

Old Price was $100 +$1,380 = $1,480 ($849 increase)


#2 Migrate to Enterprise

Migration will require purchasing a new subscription to the QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise version. Then, you migrate (open) your company file in the new Enterprise version.

Upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise is the most effortless Pro/Premier file migration. The navigation learning curve is next to nothing; the file is essentially upgraded and opens just like you would in the Pro or Premier Edition. Enterprise is priced differently but is worth a second look as the pricing for Pro and Premier has drastically increased. You will probably find that it’s more cost-effective in QuickBooks Enterprise, especially when you bundle enhanced “Do it yourself” desktop payroll.


  • Features—Enterprise has included significant accounting features and add-ons with robust features comparable to QuickBooks Online without additional cost.
  • Easiest to Learn – The menus and navigation are the same. Its larger file size will increase performance.
  • Handles larger files faster—Enterprise was built to handle multiple people working on a file simultaneously.
  • No downtime – You open or restore your existing file, which is a seamless migration.
  • Bundle & Save – Enterprise will save you money when using QuickBooks desktop payroll. Check pricing here.


  • Uncertain Future – Intuit says Enterprise will be around for the foreseeable future, but it is ultimately in their control.
  • Cost significantly more than Pro/Premier – It’s more expensive than previous price points, not as big a gap as before.

New Price Example

(1 User Premier with Enhanced Payroll with 10 employees)

QuickBooks Enterprise 1 user Gold Edition = $1,537* per year

Old Price was $100 +$1,380 = $1,480 ($57 increase)

*Price is current as of the date of publishing this article with the CBG 20% lifetime discount. To verify current pricing, click here.

#3 Convert to QuickBooks Online

Purchase a new subscription for QuickBooks Online and convert your financial data from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online.


  • Access anytime/anywhere—There is Nothing to download, save, store, or backup. If you have an internet connection, you can access your QuickBooks. Mobile app transactions are synchronized in real time.
  • Bank Feeds—The bank feeds in Quickbooks Online are superior. Once you connect the account, QBO automatically downloads transactions for you, allowing you to save time. Rules and machine learning also expedite the entry of transactions.
  • There is no need to upgrade; it is always the latest version. Updates and upgrades are automatically applied when you log in.
  • 1-year incentive discounts to migrate or convert.


  • Downtime – Plan to convert and test data conversion to minimize downtime and evaluate workflows.
  • Learning Curve—Even though it’s QuickBooks, it is a completely different way to navigate your data. To simplify the transition, you can download an app to your desktop. We highly recommend QuickBooks Online Advanced, which includes training and support.
  • One subscription per data file – Multiple entities will need multiple subscriptions.
  • Feature parity to desktop.

What if I own QuickBooks Premier 2021, a stand-alone edition, and subscribe to Enhanced Payroll with 10 Employees?

Cost Comparison of the Three Options

  • STAY PUT: Upgrade to QuickBooks Premier Plus 2024 $2329
  • MIGRATE: Migrate to QuickBooks Enterprise $1537
  • CONVERT: Convert to QuickBooks Online $1525-$4710

As you can see in this example, the easiest solution is to migrate to QuickBooks Enterprise and continue business as usual. Since they use the payroll feature, converting to QuickBooks Online will require planning and analysis.

Additional Workflows You Should Take Into Consideration Before Making a Move


  • Payroll needs to be set up in QuickBooks Online. The migration tries to do the lion’s share of that for historical data, but there is likely going to be more setup necessary. We recommend registering for the Elite Payroll service since Intuit will assist with onboarding as part of that service.
  • Inventory—The cost calculation for inventory in Quickbooks Online will be on a First-in/First-out (FIFO) basis. So cost reports moving forward may differ, and Intuit explains that when using Inventory, you should always run them on an accrual basis.
  • Sales Tax – Sales tax is handled very differently in Quickbooks Online, so the desktop configuration will need to come over but may ultimately not be utilized in the QBO company moving forward.
  • Attachments – Attachments saved and linked to transactions and lists will need to be uploaded and reattached to Quickbooks Online.
  • Reconciliation Reports – The reconciliation status of a transaction comes over, but the reconciliation reports that are saved in the desktop company file do not. They can be saved and uploaded in QB Online, but not automatically.
  • Other Names – The Other Names list does not exist in QuickBooks Online. All Other Names become vendors in the migration process.

New Price Example

QBO Advanced $2,160 Plus Elite Payroll $1350 +$100*12 = $4,710

QBO Simple Start $320 Plus Core Payroll $485+$60*12 = $1,525

Old price was $100 +$1,380 = $1,480. ($45-3230 increase)

Note: Direct Billing Discount for First Year Only

Best Practices for Converting from Desktop to QuickBooks Online

The best thing to do is start by running a trial conversion. Leave the active live file alone, grab a copy, and run the conversion. This way you can evaluate the outcome to decide if it’s the right time to make the move.

The first step is to do your Pre-work & Prepare the data file. You will want to ensure you have the proper tools in place. Install the desktop file locally on the machine on which you plan to run the conversion. Communicate with the client what is expected of them. How will they get you the file and administrative password? Discuss if there are any file size issues and what the appropriate steps are. Reiterate that this is a test; do not touch the live file! Create a scope of work and estimated completion time so everyone knows what to expect.

The second step is to run the conversion as an Accountant User. Admins can perform the conversion but will not get the Summary report with details of what did not make the journey.

The final step is to review the outcome. Basically, you want to check the financials. We’ve compiled a checklist of things to do after the conversion to set up your file. This is a great time to meet and discuss the outcome to see if this is the right time to move to QuickBooks Online.

Payroll After the Conversion

Payroll services between QuickBooks Desktop and Online are not transferable. QBO payroll services are all full service, meaning the taxes and form filings are done for you, so there is a significant setup difference between the two. The migration makes every effort to set up and transfer the current year’s payroll history, but that isn’t guaranteed for various reasons. After the financial data is converted, the migration attempts to move the payroll data and set that up for you. Depending on the desktop setup, if QuickBooks online has a matching payroll feature, it should be able to set that up and then migrate the YTD history. If there is a setup issue, payroll history might not have been successfully transferred, but the financial history and the impact of the payroll would have already made the journey. We have a lesson on what to look at regarding payroll after the migration.

Get the Best Pricing on QuickBooks Software

Complete Business Group offers exclusive deals if you are ready to make a change and curious about QuickBooks pricing. Take advantage of CBG’s exclusive pricing on QuickBooks here.

Need Guidance?

Schedule a consultation with our team if you need guidance on selecting the right QuickBooks version for your business needs. If you want someone to handle the migration or conversion for you, our expert technicians also offer support services.