The "Money is already running" or "Money won't quit" problem.

The following is a slightly edited account of the 'Money is already running' problem which sometimes affects Microsoft Money 2005 and later. Thanks to Larry Afrin for allowing me to publish it here.

The problem is that when Money is in its default configuration and you exit it, it goes through the default automatic backup, it goes through the default sync with Moneycentral, and then the Money window disappears off the screen -- but not out of memory. It still shows as an active task in the process list in Task Manager (though never consuming any CPU time, so clearly it's just plain hung, waiting for something). And that means that if you try to fire up Microsoft Money again, the second copy gives you a little errorbox that says "MS Money is already running" and then exits, leaving you little choice but to end process the stuck msmoney.exe out of the process list in Task Manager.

Some folks have reported that if you wait long enough (minutes to hours, possibly (according to some) depending on the size of your .mny file), it finally goes away; others have reported literally waiting more than a whole day and it still won't go away and therefore it has to be killed with an End Process in Task Manager. Some have hypothesized it's still trying to run some background update process which is trying to contact some server that's slow to respond, and that's why it takes so long to finally leave memory. With all due respect, that hypothesis is wrong. When a user exits an app in a normal fashion, it should exit immediately. If the app wants to run background processes on exit, it should fire them off as independent threads which then won't prevent the user from immediately re-launching the app. No, the hypothesis is wrong. If the app isn't exiting immediately, it's due to a bug in its termination code.

Well, I figured out (well, confirmed, to be more accurate) where the bug is, and I also figured out how to get around it pretty easily -- without having to resort to the trouble of pulling up Task Manager, finding the msmoney.exe task, and doing an End Process on it.

As many of you have already identified, the problem is in the backup process, and if you turn off automatic backup (Tools, Settings, Backup Settings), the app properly disappears off Task Manager's process list after it finishes the sync with MoneyCentral and closes the user interface window.

Of course, not having an absolutely up-to-date backup of your .mny file every time you exit the app is, well, I'll say it, stupid. So you've got to have a backup. Well, what about a manual backup?

Interestingly, a little experimentation shows that if you turn off automatic backups, the act of invoking a manual backup (File, Backup) does *not* trigger the won't-quit bug. This is true regardless of when you invoke the manual backup, including just before exiting the app.

But, relying on some degree of obsessive-compulsiveness to regularly invoke a manual backup just before exiting is begging for trouble.

So, you need a reliable backup, but automatic backup triggers the won't-quit bug, and most of us aren't O-C enough to rely on manual backup. Catch-22, right? Not quite. Fortunately, there's a fix:

On the Tools, Settings, Backup Settings page, leave Automatic Backup engaged *but also* check the "Ask me before backing up" box. What this of course will do is automatically pop up a confirmation dialog each time you exit the app, and if you click the "Back Up Now" button in the dialog, it'll then go through the same backup routine it would have gone through if you had Automatic Backup engaged but didn't have the "Ask me" box checked.

For some reason, if the automatic-backup-at-program-exit process is forced to pop up that confirmation dialog box, the won't-quit bug isn't triggered. It doesn't even matter whether you click on the "Back Up Now" or the "Postpone" button in the dialog box. Either way, the won't-quit bug is not triggered -- and that means the app exits properly and you can then re-launch it anytime you want, including immediately.

So, clearly, there's some aspect to the Money code near the beginning of the automatic-backup process that's setting up an erroneous state which later (after the backup, and after the MoneyCentral sync) will prevent the app from taking the final step of clearing itself out of memory, but the act of calling up the confirmation dialog either corrects or bypasses the erroneous state setting.

Here's hoping somebody on the MS staff will read this and get an engineer to look at that code and fix it and issue a patch. Meanwhile, if all I have to do to get the app to smoothly exit is one additional click (or, even easier, just hit the Enter key to accept the default "Back Up Now" action), I can live with that until my bank forces me to upgrade again in another three years or so.

Addendums (2nd and 5th January 2006)

In response to a report (subsequent to my original posting above) that checking the "Ask Me" automatic backup setting failed to correct the problem (with regard to clearing MS Money out of memory after the backup is finished), I was playing around some more with the MSMoney 2006 backup settings and discovered a possible cause of the persistence of the problem.

If you go back into Tools, Settings, Backup Settings, you'll see two general classes of settings, "Automatically backup my Money file every time I close Money" and "Perform scheduled backups every...days".

In order to get Money to clear out of memory at program close time, you have to:

  1. Check "Automatically backup my Money file every time I close Money"
  2. Check "Ask me before backing up"
  3. Uncheck "Perform scheduled backups every...days"
  4. Turn off the "Compress backup files" option

Therefore, you may have checked the "Ask me" setting, but if your "Perform scheduled backups every...days" setting was also checked, the program will not clear out of memory after finishing the backup (even though the main MS Money window clears off the screen) and you'll get the "MS Money is already running" error on your next attempt to start up the app.

Make sure "Perform scheduled backups every...days" is unchecked.

-- Larry Afrin, M.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology
Director of Information Technology, Hollings Cancer Center
Medical University of South Carolina

Thanks to Larry for allowing me to republish his words to the newsgroup (FAQ Article 6) here.


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