Thursday, November 21, 2013

Upgrade Heartache

Upgrade Delay

I used to upgrade my version of ArcGIS for Desktop as soon as the box of media was delivered.  But ever since Esri started making the media available for download and shipped only by request, I have become a bit slower to implement the upgrade.  One of the reasons being the servers Esri uses are very slow, and another being it took half the day to uninstall the old version and install the new one.  I usually look through the new features and if there is something to make it worthwhile I will upgrade sooner rather than later.

With 10.2, I haven't been too eager for the upgrade - partly because of the very difficult time I had getting ArcGIS for Server back to an operational state after the last upgrade.  I finally bit the bullet today and upgraded from 10.1 to 10.2, if only to use the 10.2 version of the Local Government Information Model.  After doing the upgrade, I realized another reason why I delay the upgrade - all of my customizations of the interface are discarded with the new version.  

Getting Back What Once Was Mine

So if you like your toolbars where they are, and you don't want to rebuild ArcMap to the way you are used to using it, you need to copy some files from your 10.1 installation folders to the 10.2 folders.


All of your toolbar placements and other customizations like keyboard shortcuts etc. are stored in your Normal.mxt template.  The 10.1 version of the file is located at:


Just copy that file and paste it into:


Don't worry about keeping the Normal.mxt that is already in that folder, just pick the replace option when you paste it in there, that file is set to the install defaults and you don't want it.

If you can't find an AppData folder, your system is hiding system folders and files.  Go here to learn how to make Windows show them.


If you have created any custom toolboxes with models, scripts or geoprocessing tools in them, you can copy those over as well.  Toolboxes are located at:

C:\Users\<YourUsername>\AppData\Roaming\ESRI\Desktop10.1\ArcToolbox\My Toolboxes

Just copy those files to:

C:\Users\<YourUsername>\AppData\Roaming\ESRI\Desktop10.2\ArcToolbox\My Toolboxes


Style files are created when you create your own color ramps, symbols etc.  These files have a .style extension and they live at:


So put them in:



You can probably figure out the rest by browsing the folders in the Desktop10.1 directory.  There may be a folder like Coordinate Systems.  This folder has any coordinate systems you selected as favorites.  There is a Templates folder.  This folder stores, of all things - templates you have created.  There are also folders for ArcCatalog and Locators in the Desktop10.1 folder.

Get On the Stick, Esri

Copying these files over with every upgrade is a bit of a pain and, if you are like me, you forget where the files are located every time you do an upgrade and have to search for their location.  I'm surprised there isn't a part of the install package that searches for these types of files and asks if you would like to have the install copy them over.  How hard would that be Esri?


  1. So I just learned that Esri recommends deleting your Normal.mxt every few months because it can become corrupted. This is disheartening, because I have a bunch of tools added to my toolbars and interface that would take quite a bit of time to reconstruct. I actually had an issue printing maps from ArcMap, and renaming my Normal.mxt cleared up the problem. :(

  2. Delete your settings file every few months? How sad. Can you find the reference to that? Thanks Brian

  3. Brian, unfortunately I didn't note the place I read that. I believe it was a forum post while I was searching for an issue I was having. The post was from an esri employee, but it isn't in the documentation anywhere. I did notice ArcMap was much faster after I deleted Normal.mxt. I guess you could rename the old file, start ArcMap and get your customizations organized in the new Normal.mxt, then save that one as a starting point - NormalClean.mxt. Then every couple of months delete Normal.mxt, copy NormalClean.mxt and then rename it to Normal.mxt.

  4. Jeff. I have been lead to believe that you could customize the mxt so that when you open up ArcMap from Start it would already contain basemaps, layers, etc. I understand that you can do with a template but I was hoping to be able to set a certain layout as default on open. Thanks.

  5. I accomplish that for my users by saving a shortcut to a generic mxd on the desktop. They don't do much other than view and query so they don't need to save the map. I guess you could set it to read-only and force them to save it to another file.

    1. Thanks. We were hoping to do it as a SCCM push with a default set of layers already included. Everything I have seen says this can't be done using the mxt but I have someone insisting that it can. Maybe it was a 9.x thing.