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If I have a feature class within a dataset in one coordinate system and using the Load Data function, load that data into a feature class of a different dataset that's in a different coordinate system ... does the data automatically re-project?

I'm thinking it must because it ends up in the correct location.

How does this work? I'm a little confused.

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Not completely clear if you are using the simple data loader or the load tool from toolbox. The toolbox version of any tool has an environment button that can then be used to modify the crs, gcs and transformation. –  Brad Nesom Jun 13 '13 at 4:01
    
I'm talking about in ArcCatalog, right clicking on the feature class and going to Load---> Load Data. –  ian Jun 14 '13 at 0:56
    
That is called the simple data loader. I agree with Baltok arc does an automatic re-project, if it can detect the projection of both data. How it handles behind the scene (there is no interface in simple data loader) transforms I don't believe I have ever seen documented. You should test it and let us know. :) –  Brad Nesom Jun 14 '13 at 11:20
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It works similarly to the Append tool. It uses the target dataset coordinate system and adjusts accordingly. That being said, if you are loading data from a coordinate system that needs a transformation (E.g., NAD83-WGS84, NAD27-NAD83), I'm not sure how it chooses which transformation to apply. It may just default to the most common, which may not be correct for every case.

A test would be to use the Project tool and compare it with the loaded data. A second test would be to export the data to a different coordinate system using the ArcMap table of contents dialog. I have a feeling that Load Data in ArcCatalog and Export Data in ArcMap use the same transformation logic.

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