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February 22, 2008

Keeping track of our family expenses and investments would be far more time consuming and less accurate without Quicken. The ability to download transactions for bank accounts, credit cards and investment accounts is a huge time saver.

But in my experience it tends to have issues with file corruption and other errors that creep into one’s electronic records. Dealing with the issues tends to be time consuming, but not fatal.

I was moved to write this entry because several weeks ago Quicken stopped downloading transactions for one of my credit card accounts. Quicken’s diagnosis was that this was due to some data corruption and its suggested remedy involved copying my entire database of transactions to a new file, running a data integrity check and then setting up online access for all my accounts again. As described, this was a couple-hour process, but the process of setting up online access for all my accounts again resulted in the past 600 transactions for over a dozen accounts being downloaded by Quicken. Each of these duplicate transactions needed to be deleted by me manually and individually– they weren’t hard to find, but this process consumed several hours itself.

Now at the end of this process, some balances appear to be off by thousands of dollars. I’ll take a shot at trying to figure out what might be the cause of any large discrepancies, but I’ll eventually just have to put in dummy balancing transactions. Not great, but not the end of the world either.

Several days’ perspective allows me to see this multi-hour fix as worthwhile for the convenience of the application, but I was not so sanguine immediately afterward!

This episode had me wishing for several things:

  • Data being kept online and accessed by a web app so that mine could not be corrupted. There is a beta of an online version of Quicken, but even when released it will lack the features of the desktop application.
  • Better ways to automatically reconcile online balances and online transactions so that Quicken’s records don’t get to far from the online records maintained by my financial institutions.
  • Better support for large files or a good way to archive old data. I now have about 16 years worth of data in my Quicken database, which I am sure causes performance and data integrity issues. Unfortunately, there is no good way to do incremental archiving.

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