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Issue #707: February 7-13, 2021

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Q: I tried to log into my Quicken software which I have had on my computer since the 90″s. My last version was 2014. When it came up, it was a different Quicken screen asking for all types of private information before I could continue with a new version (I believe it was dated 2017). It indicated it was going to subscription only availability and I would have to pay an annual fee. Not wanting to give my info I backed out of the software to where I could do research on the Quicken site. I found they were going to this method for costs and better service reasons (plus they mention you can still use it for manual entries without going online). Before going back into it to download this new service, I went to my files to try and load my last session of 12/11/20 and found out they somehow went into my Document files and removed all the Quicken software except my QDF file and there is no way to pull up this old data to find my balances, latest checks written, vendors I pay, etc. I do no online work with my quicken. I use it to write checks, reconcile my statements, etc. (wherein I have to manually input the data required to do so.) How can they (Quicken) access my computer to take these old version files off of my computer without my permission? There has been no notification (to my knowledge) that this was going to happen. Suspicious as I am I ran two different virus programs to verify that I had no viruses nor malware on my system. I do not understand how someone can go into my computer and remove files without my permission and how/when did they notify customers that this was going to happen. Is this a legal thing for them to do?

– Karen H.
Crestview, Florida

A: I’m no lawyer, Karen, and I don’t even play one on TV.  But I am a software engineer, and a geek, and I can tell you that the way most consumers view software is not the same as the view of the company that produces it.  When you purchase software, you are not actually buying the software itself, but rather, a limited license to install and use it, usually within the boundaries of a voluminous End-User License Agreement, also called an EULA.  From your viewpoint, someone accessed your files, but from their point of view, the files belong to them.  The most likely scenario is that you downloaded a Quicken update, which took it upon itself to remove your current single-PC version, and install the latest and greatest product, which is their new cloud-based subscription service.  I would be very surprised if there wasn’t some warning during the process that this was going to occur.  Unfortunately, most people have a bad habit of clicking Next-Next-Next without reading what’s being displayed.

So, from here the issue gets more complicated.  If you accept the premise that your files weren’t simply deleted, but were in fact replaced with something that you don’t necessarily want, the question morphs into “How can I run my older version of Quicken?”  That’s one of those “it depends” issues.  One of the biggest dependencies is the version that you purchased in the first place.  Most software has a planned end-of-life built into it when it’s released, and newer versions supplant the old as they come out.  To find out the low-down on yours, I offer you this: TinyURL.com/IGTM-0707, which links to an article on the Quicken customer support board entitled “Currently Supported Quicken Products (Discontinuation Policy).”  It contains a list of various Quicken products, and the Discontinuation Date.  Yours might even pre-date the software on this list, by which you can infer that yours is definitely no longer supported.

So, what to do?  Well, first of all, I recommend securing your data files, so that no matter what else happens, you have viable data when you come out the other side of this.  Make a copy of them on a thumb drive, DVD-R, cloud storage, or whatever you choose.  Then, de-install Quicken altogether, and re-install the older version that was working for you.  That represents something of a line-in-the-sand that you shouldn’t step over if you don’t want to be put on the subscription service.

If you’ve read this column for any substantial length of time, you probably know that I don’t do unsolicited product endorsements.  Neither do I normally recommend people away from a product unless I have personal experience, and a good reason to do so.  With that caveat out of the way, my final thought is that if this whole subscription model is leaving a bad taste in your mouth, consider whether you should even stay with Quicken.  There are other financial software products available, and some of them are even free.  Spend some time with Google, and search for “Quicken alternatives.”  If you believe the reviews (and I always recommend taking those with a grain of salt) some are even better than the pay-to-use Quicken software.

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