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Deleting Old Data
To delete old data in ACCOUNTS, use Database ⇒ Delete Old Data. This utility can delete data from the first year that you used ACCOUNTS for, up to a fiscal year end date that is no earlier than 2 full fiscal years prior to the present date. So for instance, if your fiscal year is the calendar year, and it is currently any date during 2016, this can delete all years of data up to and including at most December 31, 2013.
The most obvious reason for doing this procedure is to keep your database file, and backups of your database file, from growing too large. However, there is no real reason from an efficiency standpoint to do this - the indexing of the database should ensure that all operations are very quick regardless of how many years of data you maintain in the program.
When you select this menu option, a window comes up prompting you for the last fiscal year-end that you want to delete up to. That is also called the "rollup date", and this type of action is commonly called a "rollup". Select the desired year-end date, then click OK. The program then asks you to confirm that you really want to do this.
Next, the program will make a copy of your database (not a backup), with a modified name including the current earliest and latest transaction dates in the database. You can switch back to that copy of the database with the File ⇒ Open Database menu option if you need to review older data. You need to keep that database for future audit purposes, including copies or backups of it off of your hard drive, in case the hard drive dies! (For users of Network versions of ACCOUNTS, this Delete Old Data process can only be done on the Network Server version's computer, because users of the Network Client version would not be able to have their program do this file copy.)
After that, all of the transactions on or prior to your selected rollup date, with certain exceptions, are deleted, and replaced by a new Opening Balances transaction on the rollup date. The exceptions that aren't deleted are Bill or Bill Payment transactions prior to the rollup date that either are bills that are not fully paid yet, or that have bill payments made after the rollup date. All audit trail transactions prior to the rollup date are also deleted.
One type of transaction that is deleted, though you might think it should not be, is uncleared cheques. That's because an uncleared cheque from over 2 years ago is certainly stale dated, and thus cannot now be cashed. So you should really have noticed it as part of your bank reconciliation process and dealt with it by now anyways. It's also unclear how the program could reliably determine what should be considered to be an uncleared cheque (for instance, if you don't choose to do bank reconciliations using the program's features).
Before saving the change, the program confirms that a trial balance (the equivalent of Reports ⇒ Accountant ⇒ Trial Balance) as at the rollup date, taken before all of the changes, is identical to one taken after all of the deletions and the insertion of the new Opening balance transaction. If they aren't identical, the actions are cancelled and you will receive a message about it. This, along with a lot of other checks during the many steps of this process, should ensure that nothing can go wrong with the process.
Note: For those that are not familiar with it, a trial balance gives the balances in all of your accounts, including that year's totals in Income and Expense accounts. Keeping the Income and Expense account totals for the year in that new Opening Balances transaction means that reports such as Reports ⇒ Summary ⇒ Income Statement Yr/Yr Comparison done in the following year will still be correct, as long as they are for the entire year. Of course, no reporting will be able to be done for years prior to the rollup date's year in this newly modified database.
Using this feature does not actually make your database file smaller directly. In fact, it may even make your database larger initially, although it will mean that there is free space in it which can later be filled up with new data, so your database won't grow again for quite some time. If you do want to make your database smaller after using this feature, though, there is an easy way. Make a backup, with Backup/Restore ⇒ Backup Database, then immediately carefully restore that same backup with Backup/Restore ⇒ Restore Database. After that, the database file should be significantly smaller.