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Does Quicken for Windows support VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service)?

rgumpertz
rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
Does Quicken for Windows support VSS (Volume Shadow Copy Service)?  If not, why not?  If so, does it do so correctly?

I've had occasional problems with various backup and file-synching programs causing Quicken to crash when accessing the .QDF file.  Might this be an issue with Quicken's support for VSS?

I've also seen similar crashes when Quicken is attempting to do a backup of the .QDF file.

Answers

  • Chris_QPW
    Chris_QPW Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    You definitely don't want to use VSS with any database (at a random time), and that includes Quicken's data file which has a database in it.

    VSS takes a snapshot of the files at a certain point in time, but the problem is that databases can be in inconsistent states at different times.  When backing up any database you have to first ensure that the database is in a "flushed/synced" state before taking the backup snapshot.
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  • rgumpertz
    rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    I thought that was one of the important points of VSS: database programs could be informed of the database snapshot being done and do the appropriate thing.

    By the way, in the case of a backup run when Quicken is idle but open, one would expect the QDF file to be consistent and so a snapshot would be OK.  The file synch should then copy consistent data.  If not, the next iteration of the backup should get the newer data.  Only if the backup NEVER runs while Quicken is idle would it not catch up.

    So how do you recommend suggest setting snapshots for backup and file-sync programs?  For example, Acronis True Image offers the following settings:
        - VSS
        - VSS without writers
        - no snapshot
        - Acronis snapshot (compatible with an old Acronis method)

  • Sherlock
    Sherlock SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    The Quicken file extension is:  .QDF

    If you're appropriately accessing the Quicken file in a folder on a local drive, Quicken should have the file open in exclusive mode which prevents VSS from accessing the file while it is in an inconsistent state.  However, there are moments when Quicken will temporarily close the file.  If another process happens to open the file before Quicken manages to open the file in exclusive mode again, Quicken will throw an error.

    Note: VSS normally skips files open in exclusive mode.
  • Chris_QPW
    Chris_QPW Member ✭✭✭✭
    First off let say that Quicken's data file type is .QDF.  A QDB file I believe is a QuickBooks data file, which is completely different in that even though it is also a database it was designed from the start as a multiple user database and as such has is more robust, but still should only be backed up when it is in a locked state.
    I didn't go into the systems of how a database program might communicate with a backup system so that it can request that it get into that state, and inform the backup system that it is in that state, and have the backup program let it know that it can leave that state.

    Quicken on the other hand was designed as and continues to be a single user application that should never be backed up while Quicken is running.  Quicken should be stopped before any backup is performed.

    What's more when Quicken starts it locks its data file, which should indicate to any backup software to skip it (or at least wait until it is finished with it, but even that can cause problems, as I will describe below).

    The truth is that you can get lucky by when copying a Quicken data file because it does spend most of its time idle and in an consistent state, but you can't guarantee it.

    What's more because of the way Quicken has been coded "continuous" backup programs are going to cause problems.  Note it isn't setup for communicating with backup programs (and never will without a total rewrite that would take many many years).

    Quicken has its own backups.  One is the manual backup and the other is an automatic one that runs when it shuts down.  Ideally Quicken should keep the database lock all through this process, but it doesn't.  What it does is close its data file and release the lock, and then turns around to open it to do the backup.  If there is a program monitoring the data file waiting for the lock to be removed it can come in and lock that data file in the brief period.  The end result is that Quicken can't open the data file and its backup and reopening of the data file fail.  The same happens when it runs operations like Validate and Repair.  And it also closes and opens the data file to do a validation and repair after moving transaction between investment accounts.
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  • rgumpertz
    rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
    Sorry for the QDB/QDF typo.  Typed faster than I was thinking.  I fixed it above.
  • rgumpertz
    rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
    Does Quicken open/close backup files that it produces more than once?  I've even had problems with backing up my Quicken\BACKUP folder causing Quicken to crash.
  • Sherlock
    Sherlock SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    rgumpertz said:
    Does Quicken open/close backup files that it produces more than once?  I've even had problems with backing up my Quicken\BACKUP folder causing Quicken to crash.
    No.  When we save a Quicken backup file, it is the source file that may be temporary closed.  A crash when Quicken attempts to save a backup is usually an indication of a data file corruption.  I suggest you attempt to locate a good backup file.   https://www.quicken.com/support/advanced-data-file-troubleshooting-correct-problems-quicken-windows
  • rgumpertz
    rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    The only problem with that theory is that Quicken hasn't crashed during a Quicken backup since I stopped backing up the Quicken\Backup folder in my system backup (except recently. for those few days when there was a bad release of Quicken)
  • Chris_QPW
    Chris_QPW Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    @rgumpertz I don't have extensive knowledge on how many times it opens and closes the data file, I based the above on just general observations I have done.  In fact I don't use Quicken's backup system at all.

    But I can give a general flow that might help, and I can tell you that having any program "monitoring" your data file to do something like a backup will cause problems.

    In general Quicken shouldn't be touching the files in Quicken\BACKUP until you exit the program.  But once that starts you definitely don't want any other program jumping in doing anything with your data file or the files in Quicken\BACKUP until Quicken is completely stopped.

    The same applies to manual backups.

    For reference which won't apply to anyone else is I have a command file that starts Quicken, and when it finishes it checks the data file into SubVersion (a source control system).

    I don't think there is ever going to be a time where Quicken's data file can be backed up "live", but there is hope (a VERY small hope after all these years) that the Quicken developer could properly manage the locks so that it doesn't release them in between such operations.  And as such if they did that (which is well within the current programming model) then people wouldn't have to worry about any program that honors that lock.  That means any program that works like VSS that ignores locks wouldn't work, but programs like Dropbox, OneDrive, ... and a lot of backup programs could work properly by just waiting for the lock to be removed.

    There would still be the danger of if the person has a slow Internet connection and they close Quicken/data file and the other program locks it while doing the backup, and the user tries to open it again before it is finished that you would get an open error (which tends to show up by Quicken showing the "New User" window).
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  • rgumpertz
    rgumpertz Member ✭✭✭✭
    I like the idea of using SubVersion.  Out of curiosity, does Subversion produce full-size deltas or are the deltas fairly small?
  • Sherlock
    Sherlock SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    rgumpertz said:
    The only problem with that theory is that Quicken hasn't crashed during a Quicken backup since I stopped backing up the Quicken\Backup folder in my system backup (except recently. for those few days when there was a bad release of Quicken)
    Perhaps Quicken crashed when attempting to remove an earlier backup file in an attempt to maintain the limited number of files specified in the backup preferences possibly due to file being locked by another program.  I've never had the problem but my backups of the automatic backup folder only occur once a week when I'm not likely to be exiting Quicken.
  • Chris_QPW
    Chris_QPW Member ✭✭✭✭
    rgumpertz said:
    I like the idea of using SubVersion.  Out of curiosity, does Subversion produce full-size deltas or are the deltas fairly small?

    Yes SubVersion does creates binary deltas.

    As an example.  My data file is about 133MB.
    Opened Quicken, did an One Step Update, reviews transactions in a few registers and reconcile each register, closed Quicken.

    The SVN (SubVersion) repository increased by 1,100,226 bytes.
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  • Chris_QPW
    Chris_QPW Member ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    Just in case you are others are really interest in SVN you can use it for free (donations are appreciated for the client I use, server is free for this use case) (provided you don't have to use Windows authentication, just create a user and password in its system).

    I use VisualSVN Server (for the server. :) )

    And I use TortoiseSVN for the client.  It integrates into Windows File Explorer (right click menu) and has the standard command line interface too.

    Since backups are mentioned in the licensing, I will say I haven't had any problem backing up the repository with anything I have used over the years.  Currently I just have them in OneDrive for backup.
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  • Sherlock
    Sherlock SuperUser ✭✭✭✭✭
    rgumpertz said:
    I like the idea of using SubVersion.  Out of curiosity, does Subversion produce full-size deltas or are the deltas fairly small?
    If you are thinking of using additional software to backup a Quicken file, I suggest you consider Duplicati
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