Quickbooks Desktop Is Ending. What Now?

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent months about the apparent phase-out of QuickBooks Desktop software. Some coverage has not been entirely accurate, which has caused a lot of confusion for Desktop users and questions like: Is QuickBooks Desktop discontinued? Will I still be able to use my existing QuickBooks Desktop software? Do I need to transition to a new system altogether?

QuickBooks Desktop is something of a linchpin in the accounting software world, with the first version of the program launching in 1998. This makes the apparent new direction of Intuit, the developer of QuickBooks, symptomatic of the wider transition within the SaaS space towards cloud-based software solutions. When it’s become so easy for users to access and share data remotely and sync changes in real-time, desktop applications are appearing increasingly cumbersome.

We’re going to dive further into recent announcements about QuickBooks Desktop and what this means for users, and what businesses should consider as their next move.


  • Intuit has announced the discontinuation of QuickBooks Desktop 2021 by May 31, 2024, and will stop selling certain subscriptions of QuickBooks Desktop after July 31, 2024.
  • Existing QuickBooks Desktop users face the choice of upgrading to a newer version, switching to QuickBooks Online, or exploring alternative accounting software.
  • While QuickBooks Desktop won’t disappear immediately, Intuit’s shift focus on cloud-based applications signals a shift away from supporting local applications.
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Is QuickBooks Desktop Being Phased Out?

This question has been sparked by two recent announcements from Intuit. Firstly, QuickBooks Desktop 2021 is to be discontinued from May 31, 2024. This includes all 2021 versions of QuickBooks Desktop Pro, QuickBooks Desktop Premier, QuickBooks Desktop for Mac, and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions v21.

Intuit also announced plans to stop selling several QuickBooks Desktop subscriptions to new U.S. subscribers after July 31, 2024. 

This change affects the following products: 

  • QuickBooks Desktop Pro Plus
  • QuickBooks Desktop Premier Plus 
  • QuickBooks Desktop Mac Plus
  • QuickBooks Desktop Enhanced Payroll subscription. 

QuickBooks Enterprise solutions for desktop will not be affected.

Note that this differs from the service discontinuation of the 2021 versions of QuickBooks desktop. Users of the above desktop services will continue to be supported past July 31, 2024 and can keep renewing their subscriptions—it’s simply a “stop sell” of any new subscriptions after that date.

Indications of a QuickBooks Desktop Phase-Out

Intuit’s announcements regarding the future of the QuickBooks Desktop version have been fairly sparse on information. However, it’s worth noting that Intuit has been steadily discontinuing versions of Desktop as far back as 2018 (QuickBooks Desktop 2020 was discontinued on May 31st, 2023). 

So, it’s a reasonable assumption that future versions of Desktop will also be phased out on a rolling basis (similarly to how Microsoft no longer supports old versions of Windows).

Not only that, but Intuit has made it clear that the future of the QuickBooks system lies with their online version. Intuit’s Firm of the Future blog post published in November 2023 states:

 “We encourage you to consider QuickBooks Online because we have continued to innovate and improve on it. There are products that meet the needs of every client, from the simplest to the most complex. Additionally, all future innovation will happen in QuickBooks Online.”

Given the growing ease and flexibility offered by cloud-based services, it’s not surprising that Intuit is pushing its users to transition away from local applications. Moreover, the current set-up requires Intuit to maintain development teams and operational support for two separate software platforms (desktop and online).

In Intuit’s own words, “Intuit built an integrated, online platform because that’s the way innovative companies have transformed productivity, and because it helps provide the best time- and money-saving benefits. Simply put, an online platform can deliver benefits that a desktop product cannot. What’s more, our online products now meet the needs of almost all QuickBooks Desktop users.” 

Impact on Current QuickBooks Desktop Users

Unsurprisingly, these announcements have caused concern for business owners who are currently using versions of QuickBooks Desktop. Does this mean that every company currently using QuickBooks Desktop will need to transition to a new system? Not necessarily.

Let’s start with the discontinuation of QuickBooks Desktop 2021.

Intuit references this “service discontinuation policy” on its support site. This means that if you don’t upgrade your software by May 31, 2024, access to services including QuickBooks Desktop Payroll, live technical support, payment processing, Online Backup, and Online Banking will be cut off. 

While you will still have access to the 2021 system past this date, it cannot be linked to the wider Quickbooks ecosystem and you won’t be eligible for further security updates. This practice is also referred to as “sunsetting.”

Technically speaking, this means businesses that don’t require add-on services can continue to use QuickBooks Desktop 2021 past the discontinuation date. However, the lack of customer support or further security patches leaves your business highly vulnerable to data breaches or system outages you would have to handle on your own. Instead, it’s highly recommended to switch to another QuickBooks solution.

QuickBooks Desktop 2021 users can consider upgrading to a newer version of QuickBooks Desktop, like QuickBooks Desktop 2023 or 2024. Since Intuit is discontinuing older versions of QuickBooks Desktop on a rolling basis, getting a new version of the desktop software will ensure you are supported for a while longer.

This brings us to the more recent announcement by Intuit that new subscriptions of several QuickBooks Desktop products will not be available to U.S. subscribers after July 31, 2024. The most important thing to note here is that this change does not impact existing subscribers. If you take out a new subscription before this date, Intuit will continue to provide security updates and support (although the announcement doesn’t state how long this support will last).

In both scenarios, QuickBooks Desktop users have another option—switching to QuickBooks Online (QBO).

QuickBooks Online vs QuickBooks Desktop

Traditionally, online-only software apps come with some limitations, namely that they struggle to boast the same breadth of features and workflows as desktop software. However, the evolution of cloud-based software development has made it possible for online applications to not only match the capabilities of offline systems – but surpass them.

Because cloud-based systems allow for easy, real-time integrations, QuickBooks Online now offers a range of easy add-ons within the QuickBooks ecosystem that have either limited functionality on desktop or require additional fees for implementation. This includes QuickBooks time tracking, payroll services, live bookkeeping support, and more.

QuickBooks ProAdvisors can help businesses transition to QuickBooks Online and optimize the setup for specific business needs. Depending on the size of your company file, transferring over to QBO can take as little as an hour.

So, how does QuickBooks Online compare with QuickBooks Desktop?

Anywhere access vs. local access. With QuickBooks Online, checking on your customers, invoices, paychecks, and more from any smart device is easy. This is highly convenient for business owners who are always on the go or operate from multiple business locations. Because QuickBooks Desktop is locally installed, you’ll only be able to use it on that one device. This can raise access issues if the device is not easily portable.

Automatic vs. manual updates. Because QBO is a cloud-based platform, product updates, and security patches are applied automatically and don’t require businesses to remember to implement updates onto their device to access new features.

One-off vs. ongoing cost. The key downside of QuickBooks Online—and the reason why many small businesses are reluctant to make the switch— is that it’s only available via annual subscription pricing as opposed to a one-time purchase of the software. This needs to be factored into ongoing operational expenses, which may require a rethink of budgets.

QuickBooks Desktop Alternatives

Zoho Books

Zoho Books is a cloud-based accounting software solution that’s part of the wider Zoho business ecosystem. It allows small to medium-sized businesses to manage accounting, expense tracking, and automation of data entry and invoicing. With standard plans starting at $12, it’s a cost-effective option for businesses that need a basic accounting system. It also offers multi-currency support, making it suitable for businesses that regularly handle international transactions.


Freshbooks is predominantly designed with small businesses, freelancers, and non-profits in mind that require a simpler invoicing and bookkeeping solution. In addition to a strong range of accounting and invoicing tools, FreshBooks offers a very user-friendly platform and reporting features that make it easy to keep track of outstanding payments. At just $13.75 per month for the most expensive premium plan, it’s one of the most affordable accounting software options out there. However, it does come with fewer customization capabilities.


Xero is an easy-to-use cloud-based accounting solution that offers a full toolkit of accounting and business management features, as well as fully customizable business reports such as chart of accounts and inventory. Because it offers an unlimited number of user seats on all of its pricing plans, Xero is a much better option for larger businesses and businesses that have an in-house team of CPAs than QuickBooks, which charges a high cost for more than five user seats. However, it’s important to note that Xero doesn’t have such a robust customer support system, with no live chat function available.

Sage 50cloud

Sage 50cloud, formerly known as Peachtree Accounting, is an accounting software solution designed for small and medium-sized businesses. Like QuickBooks, it’s a desktop-based system that needs to be locally installed and run off a designated device, though it does have cloud connectivity. This makes Safe 50cloud a good option for businesses who prefer not to transition to a fully cloud-based system.

Final Words

While QuickBooks Desktop version is not going away completely any time soon, Intuit’s shift to primarily cloud-based applications is going to have an impact on some businesses. Fortunately, business owners have several options on what to do next; they can upgrade to a newer version of QuickBooks Desktop, transition to QuickBooks Online (QBO), or have a fresh start with different accounting software outside of the QuickBooks ecosystem. 

The best option will depend on your business’s specific needs and budget, but it’s safe to say that a cloud-based system offers numerous advantages including better accessibility, seamless integrations, and more room to scale.

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Quick FAQs about QuickBooks Desktop Ending

Q: What is happening to QuickBooks Desktop 2018?

Intuit has officially cancelled the QuickBooks Desktop 2018 software in 2021, and will discontinue critical security updates for the software starting from June 1, 2021. Intuit also plans to stop providing support services such as Online Banking, Desktop Payroll Services, Live Support, and Online Backup.

Q: How can users ensure their data is protected after the discontinuation of QuickBooks Desktop 2018?

To protect their data and maintain access to essential features, users will need to switch to a newer version of QuickBooks like QuickBooks Online. As part of the upgrade process, Intuit will help users protect their data by ensuring a smooth transition between the software versions.

Q: Should users switch to QuickBooks Online, and what advantages does it offer?

Yes, users should consider switching to QuickBooks Online since it provides increased functionality, efficiency, and convenience compared to QuickBooks Desktop. QuickBooks Online is a cloud-based platform accessible through a web browser, integrates with platforms like Stax, and offers unique features like smartphone access, uploading receipts through a phone, and faster reconciliation.

Q: What is the difference between QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop?

QuickBooks Online is cloud-based, meaning it can be accessed from any device with an internet connection. In contrast, QuickBooks Desktop is installed on a specific computer and can only be accessed from that machine. In terms of costs, QuickBooks Online operates on a subscription model with a monthly fee, while Desktop has a one-time purchase cost with an optional annual subscription for additional services like customer support.

Q: Which is better: QuickBooks Online or QuickBooks Desktop?

For smaller businesses or those needing anywhere-access, QuickBooks Online is often more suitable. For larger businesses with more complex accounting needs, Desktop might be better. That said, it all boils down to your needs and preferences. If regular access from various locations or integration with other cloud-based apps is important, QuickBooks Online is the better choice. Meanwhile, for those who prefer a one-time purchase, Desktop is more suitable.


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