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Resetting your ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) application profile

08-07-2014 09:12 AM

Resetting your ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) application profile

When ArcGIS applications fail, or are behaving strangely, one of the first things to try is to reset your application template document (ArcMap's is "Normal.mxt") or the entire ArcGIS application profile. This resolves many problems with ArcGIS software. 

It's a good idea (with ArcMap) to do this every few months, or whenever a service pack or update is applied to ArcGIS, as these template files can gradually fill with cruft and slow down your ArcGIS Desktop applications. Application profile resets are rarely needed with ArcGIS Pro.

These steps do not require elevated privileges / admin access, as all users own their personal %APPDATA% folder.


The following is adapted from

KB 32797: Error: ArcMap.exe has encountered an error and needs to close

1. Close all ArcGIS Desktop applications.

This may include killing any lurking "headless" ArcMap.exe, ArcCatalog.exe, ArcGISPro.exe processes using the Task Manager. Or, easier, log off and log in again.

2. Start Windows Explorer and open your application profile folder.

The location of the user profile depends on the operating system. This folder is normally hidden.

  • C:\Users\<your user name>\AppData\Roaming\ESRI

The easiest way to get there is to simply type the environment variable %APPDATA% (with the percents) into the Windows Explorer path box, which will take you directly to the folder that contains the application profile folder ESRI, regardless of Windows version, and whether hidden files and folders are turned on or not.


3. Browse within the ESRI folder for the application that has the issue

Each component of the software has a template that stores settings and customizations for that part of ArcGIS. These are:


  • ArcCatalog: ESRI\DesktopXX.X\ArcCatalog\Normal.gxt
  • ArcMap: ESRI\DesktopXX.X\ArcMap\Templates\Normal.mxt
  • ArcToolbox window: ESRI\DesktopXX.X\ArcToolbox.dat
  • ArcGIS Pro: ESRI\ArcGISPro, ArcGISPro.exe_StrongName_yhp... (folders)

4. Rename the template file (for example, Normal.mxt -> Normal_old.mxt).

This applies to ArcMap, ArcCatalog, etc. When that component of ArcGIS is started again, a new, fresh template is created. Note that some your customizations (buttons, file connections) may have to be re-applied. This may be all you need to do.

This is rarely needed for Pro as it is set up differently and there are no templates to get corrupted. However, if Pro is behaving strangely, you could try deleting the ArcGISPro.exe_StrongName_yhp... folder to see if that helps.

5. Doing a complete application profile reset

Sometimes it may be advisable to entirely reset the entire ESRI application profile:

  • Close all ArcGIS applications
  • Rename the %APPDATA%\ESRI folder to another name, for example, ESRI-old
  • Restart ArcGIS


Some files and folders may be copied over from ESRI-old back to the ESRI folder. For ArcMap, key candidates to copy back are items are personal .style files (ArcMap folder), ArcCatalog.gx  (ArcCatalog folder - contains folder connections), and toolboxes (ArcToolbox\My Toolboxes).

New Contributor

Agreed, renaming the ESRI folder to "ESRI_OLD" and forcing the creation of a new folder fixed my issue.

New Contributor III

This is not for Pro so you should provide a link for how to do this in ArcGIS Pro or the equivalent as well please.

MVP Esteemed Contributor

@TylerLarson  I updated this to apply to both ArcMap and Pro. These resets are very rarely needed for Pro.

New Contributor

Thank you!! It was really helpful. I fixed the issue regarding my ArcMap 10.4.

Frequent Contributor

The following is adapted from

KB 32797: Error: ArcMap.exe has encountered an error and needs to close


Does not work.  It opened and says 404 Error

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Last update:
‎06-19-2022 09:26 AM
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