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Deleting Old Data
There are two ways to delete old data. One way is when you use Maintenance ⇒ Change Year to create a new year for the first time, and it copies the donors and categories to that new year. (This is part of the Year End Procedures.) When it does that, you have the option to skip copying donors and categories that have no donations for the last 2 years. However, that is not really deleting anything, it is just choosing not to copy it to the next year.
To directly delete old data, use Database ⇒ Delete Old Data. This utility can delete data from the first year that you used DONATION for, up to 3 years prior to the current calendar year. So for instance, you run this option at any time in the year 2017, this can delete all years of data up to and including at most 2014. (For Canadian users, this reflects a Canada Revenue Agency policy that you must retain copies of receipts for two years from the end of a given receipting year.)
Note: It is up to you to determine, for your country, how far back you are allowed to delete old data. Even in Canada, if you have receipts for donations of property, they have to be kept for 10 years, although presumably the paper receipts would be sufficient.
When you select this menu option, a window comes up prompting you for the last year of data that you want to delete. Select that year, then click OK. After a couple of further questions to confirm you want to do this and that you have made a backup first, the data will be deleted for you.
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.
Because there is always the possibility that you will be audited, and that they will want donor and donation data from further back than you kept in the database, it is imperative that you make a backup of your data before using this function, on an external medium like a USB memory key or writeable CD, and keep that backup copy permanently, so that you can restore it if you need to look things up in the old data after you delete it.
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 restore that backup with Backup/Restore ⇒ Restore Database. After that, the database file should be significantly smaller.