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Having trouble starting ArcMap 10? 

There is probably nothing more frustrating than to see the below screenshot. Thankfully, most of us will not experience it very often (if at all), but if you do experience this screen more frequently than you would like on start-up, then read on as help is at hand!

The reasons for this crashing or hanging might be varied but listed below are some of the more common causes that you may try to resolve the issue.

Get up-to-date

This is one of the most basic rules in Technical Support, but also one of the most successful! Often, issues have already been identified and fixed in Service Packs, so by keeping your software up-to-date, you may fix many known issues before you come across them, saving you time, and a headache! All of the latest software updates can be downloaded from:

Esri core products: http://resources.arcgis.com/content/patches-and-service-packs

Esri UK products: https://www.myesriuk.com/

Beware of the bug!

NIM061743 - ArcMap creates thousands of default.gdb files on start-up and eventually fails to start

This bug was introduced at ArcGIS 10, and has been one of the biggest causes of ArcMap crashing upon start-up. At start-up, ArcMap verifies the existence of the default.gdb or creates one if it doesn’t already exist. This is used by ArcMap for many tasks and processes, and is required for the software to run properly. The bug causes the software to fail the validation stage. The following article discusses how to resolve this issue:


Restore the default settings

All of the user preferences for the toolbar configurations in ArcMap are stored in a special file called the normal.mxt. This is useful as it allows the user to setup ArcMap to have only the toolbars that they require available, and where they want them for ease of use and familiarity. ArcMap loads these settings during the start-up process. On occasions however, the normal.mxt can become corrupted. If this happens the normal.mxt cannot be opened, and hence ArcMap fails to start and crashes.

It is possible to test if it is the normal.mxt that is causing ArcMap to crash. This is done by renaming the normal.mxt to OLD_normal.mxt, which can be found in the following location:

Location of the version 10 normal.mxt in Windows XP:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\ESRI\Desktop10.0\ArcMap\Templates
Location of the version 10 normal.mxt in Windows 7:


Once renamed, try restarting ArcMap. A new normal.mxt should be created in the above location. If this does not resolve the issue, delete the new normal.mxt, and then rename the OLD_normal.mxt back to normal.mxt to restore your user preferences again.

If this does not work, we can try resetting the entire Esri profile. The ESRI folder stores additional user defined information. For example, custom toolboxes, models, address locators and database or server connection files. Again, it can be that ArcMap is trying to access a corrupt file within this directory thus hanging when initializing.

Location of the ESRI folder in Windows XP:

C:\Documents and Settings\username\Application Data\ESRI
Location of the ESRI folder in Windows 7:  


As with the normal.mxt, this is done by renaming the ESRI folder to Old_ESRI. Once renamed, try restarting ArcMap. A new ESRI folder should be created in the above location. If this does not resolve the issue, delete the new ESRI folder, and then rename the Old_ESRI folder back to ESRI to restore your user preferences again.

Ensure your graphics card drivers are up-to-date

Out-of-date Graphics Card drivers are another of the common causes for the software to crash or hang when initializing. The ArcGIS Desktop 10 System Requirements state that the machine must have a minimum of 64MB RAM, have a 24 bit capable graphics accelerator, and have OpenGL v2.0 or higher.

You are able to check the OpenGL version by installing an OpenGL viewer, such as the OpenGL Extensions Viewer Utility. Select the File as “OpenGL Extension Viewer” and the platform as "Windows XP/Vista/7" and Click Download. The following Esri Inc blog describes this utility in further detail.

You may also update the graphic card drivers directly from the following manufacturer’s websites:

AMD: http://support.amd.com/us/gpudownload/windows/Pages/auto_detect.aspx

nVIDIA: http://www.nvidia.com/Download/Scan.aspx?lang=en-us

Intel: http://www.intel.com/p/en_US/support/detect

Further information regarding graphics cards can be found here.

If, after trying the above suggestions, ArcMap still does not open, please get in touch with the Technical Support Team (support@esriuk.com). We will be happy to look into your issue and help you resolve the problem as quickly as possible to get you back up and running.

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Reader Comments (3)

We were also seeing a number of people have issues with ArcMap starting up recently, and for a number of those users, it related to a recent windows update and them not having the latest patch for Data Interop extension.

April 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimon J
Thanks Simon, that's a great one to know about.
I got it up an running again by running a repair setup under Desktop folder in Program files. I guess it is similar to downloading service packages as it will look for updates. Thanks for giving me the idea to do so.
February 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAgnete

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