Take the 2-minute tour ×
Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I know that MXD contains information about layers, symbology and configuration of default tools. I have a few that are exceeding 50 MB and are starting to take a while to load up.

What are some of the main things that will increase a MXD's file size? Is there something specifically that dramatically increases the size?

Some of my ideas, that I have absolutely no proof of are:

  • Complex layer symbology
  • Multiple label classes per layer
  • Definition queries
  • Pulling layers from sources will long file paths (C:/MyFolder/Data/Data2/SubContainer/YouGetThePoint.shp)
  • Scale Ranges for layers
  • Arranging layers into groups

Do any of these ideas have any validity?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I've seen similar complaints on the Esri discussion forums and a quick search turned up this thread. Some suggestions:

  • Save a copy of the mxd
  • Open the geoprocessing results window and delete the history
  • Under geoprocessing options, results management, change the value to a day or two
share|improve this answer
Stored geoprocessing results have ballooned some of my MXDs to hundreds of MBs! –  nmpeterson Jun 25 '13 at 22:11

To shrink your ArcMap document, run the doc defrag tool found under your ArcGIS Installation folder: C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcGIS\Desktop10.1\Tools. It also exists at 10.0 as well. I'm not sure if it exists at 9.31. It's been a long time since I used that version.

As mentioned above, geoprocessing history can cause the GP task results at 10.1 can cause the mxds to balloon up, and this was a bug during Beta of 10.1.

I agree that layer symbology definition can effect file size. I have seen this myself were a really complex layer can increase the file size.

From support.esri.com:

Map documents (.mxd files) are compound files. The information describing the map, layout, and any embedded objects saved in the map is organized into units called storages and streams. When you save a compound file, the streams can become fragmented in a process that is analogous to hard disk fragmentation. This can make the map document larger, though it does not increase the likelihood of the document becoming corrupted. The more times you save a map, the more chance that fragmentation will make the document larger.

You can also find information here: http://support.esri.com/en/knowledgebase/techarticles/detail/33187

Hope this helps you out.

share|improve this answer

I maintain several PLTS Atlas projects with north of 80 layouts per MXD. I have long paths as well as complex labeling and complex layer symbolization.

The easiest solution I've found to get the file sizes down and improve performance is to use the "Save a copy" function.

I've learned the hard way that the Defrag tool will re-path/disconnect features that are stored in an SDE database. -Karl

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.