On 04-Jan-08, Intuit released a patch for QuickBooks Pro for Mac 2006 to resolve a widely reported problem where all files on a user's Desktop, including subdirectories, could be permanently deleted if automatic updates were enabled. Instructions for manually updating QuickBooks are available from Intuit. All QuickBooks users should immediately apply this patch, even if you manually disabled automatic updates.
The QuickBooks Fiasco -- Several weeks ago, just as we (and many others) were starting to wrap up for the holidays, some users of QuickBooks Pro for Mac 2006 experienced failed automatic updates that deleted the Desktop folder and its contents. The update would fail partway through the process, alerting the user that "There is not enough space to install." The updater would then delete the Desktop folder. The files were permanently deleted, not moved to the Trash. Only QuickBooks 2006 users lost any data; QuickBooks 2007 users merely had extraneous folders placed in their user directory when the update failed. Intuit issued an initial patch on 18-Dec-07, but it was still possible to download the bad patch accidentally under certain circumstances. The new patch (version R5) disables the automatic update mechanism.
Intuit reportedly responded slowly to the problem at first, but later sent an email message to at least some affected users offering assistance in recovering files using Prosoft's $99 Data Rescue II. Users near an Apple Store were directed to the Genius Bar for help, and those who couldn't visit an Apple Store were provided with instructions for using Data Rescue II, with both groups being reimbursed for the software. (If you're still dealing with this situation, contact Intuit at email@example.com.)
Unfortunately, data recovery isn't always easy or even possible after file deletion, depending largely on whether the computer was used after the deletion happened. In some situations, users have been forced to resort to professional data recovery services such as DriveSavers that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Intuit's public statements haven't discussed whether or not the company will reimburse users for such expenses; they merely say, "If you have already performed a data recovery activity before this email was sent, please inform us at firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can work with you on a one-on-one basis."
As always, remember that the best protection against unexpected data loss is not data recovery software, but regular backups. There's a reason why Joe Kissell's "Take Control of Mac OS X Backups" and "Take Control of Easy Backups in Leopard" ebooks are so popular.
Should Mac Users Support Intuit? Intuit has had a tumultuous relationship with the Macintosh community ever since dropping, then reviving, support for Macs in 1998 (see "Intuit Drops Quicken for Macintosh", 1998-04-20). QuickBooks Pro for Mac 2007 lacks many features of its Windows-based cousin, including critical features like credit card processing support. While Intuit offers an online-only version of the product (QuickBooks Online Edition), it too runs only with current versions of Internet Explorer on Windows.
While software updates that introduce additional bugs are more common than we'd all like, issuing an update that permanently deletes unrelated user data is absolutely inexcusable. It's mind-boggling that this update passed through Intuit's quality assurance process.
Speaking as a small business owner who runs his business on Macs, I have yet to find an accounting solution I'm satisfied with. When I started my business in August 2007, I enrolled with QuickBooks Online Edition, which I access by running Windows in Parallels Desktop. It initially appeared to meet my accounting and payroll needs, but I recently ran into an obstacle that's forcing me to look at other options. QuickBooks Online Edition does not support any type of file import - not even Intuit's own widely used data exchange formats. Since my corporate credit card isn't supported by a direct online link within QuickBooks, I must manually enter all transactions even though my credit card provider offers QuickBooks-compatible downloads.
Since I'd rather spend my time writing TidBITS articles than hand-entering receipts for every snack I pick up at the airport, I started the process to export my data out of QuickBooks Online Edition and into a desktop version of QuickBooks. The limitations of the Mac version gave me pause, and I was about to purchase the Windows version when this update problem became public.
Being a firm believer of putting my money where my mouth is, I've reconsidered supporting any Intuit product and am downloading an evaluation version of MYOB FirstEdge. [For what it's worth, we've long used MYOB AccountEdge for the TidBITS business accounting. -Adam] I'm open-minded, and may consider returning to Intuit in the future if they improve the quality and reliability of their Mac products, but for now it's time to explore options from companies that treat their Mac users better.