From Patrick Bonnaure, founder of ProLedge Bookkeeping Services
Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks, releases new versions of QuickBooks on a regular basis. Some are called “Updates” and those are free. Some are called “Upgrades” and those need to be purchased.
When using QuickBooks, you will often get a warning telling you to update or upgrade. These messages can be a bit intimidating. Understanding what they mean helps you make the decision on what to do next more comfortably.
Intuit has multiple QuickBooks products. The first distinction to understand is that they have desktop versions (Pro, Premier, Enterprise, etc…) and online versions (Online Essentials, Plus, etc.). The online versions get updated seamlessly in the background, so this discussion of “upgrade” vs “update” applies only to the desktop versions.
Within each desktop product (Pro, Premier, Enterprise,…), Intuit launches a major new version each year. These versions are branded differently. For instance, in the Fall of 2012, they will most likely launch QuickBooks Pro 2013. Even if you are already on an older version of QuickBooks Pro, you will have to pay full retail price to get QuickBooks Pro 2013. Once you’ve installed QuickBooks Pro 2013 on your PC, QuickBooks will guide you to open your company file in this new version. In the process, it will modify the database to match the new features of the product. This is what they call an “Upgrade”. Upgrades are not backward compatible, which means that once your company file has been upgraded to the new database structure (QuickBooks Pro 2013 in this example), it can’t be opened by older versions of QuickBooks anymore.
Once you have a given version of QuickBooks installed, Intuit will make small fixes throughout the year. Those are called “Updates” or “Releases”. They are free. You will get a notification when you launch QuickBooks that an “Update” is available and it will ask you if you want to install it. You don’t have to install it right away, and you can skip this message a few times, but eventually, you should install it. Those are important updates, because they fix bugs and they plug security holes. Sometimes, they even add features, but that is not the more important part. What you should really care about are the bug fixes and security patches.
In other words, if Intuit suggests that you “Update” to a new “Release”, go for it. It’s free and recommended. If Intuit suggests that you “Upgrade”, that’s a marketing message to convince you to buy the new version of QuickBooks. It might not be a bad idea, but it requires more thoughts than a simple “Update”.