If I try to open any MXD by double-clicking it from Windows Explorer or ArcCatalog, ArcMap fails to open.

I can see in Task Manager that ArcGISFileHandler.exe briefly runs, then closes, but ArcMap.exe never opens. If I first open ArcMap, then load the MXD, it opens correctly. This happens with any MXD.

Is there anything I should check before reinstalling ArcGIS? Windows 7 and ArcGIS 10.2.1

Edit - I just noticed that double-clicking an *.sxd does work - the document is opened in ArcScene. Why would there be a difference between ArcMap and ArcScene? I would think that a problem in one program would also apply to the other.

  • 3
    Have you lost your file association MXD with ArcGis File Handler? "C:\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\ArcGIS\bin\ArcGISFileHandler.exe" /dde Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 1:28
  • It works for me using ArcGIS 10.2.2 for Desktop on Windows 7, and I would be surprised if I did not notice it not working when I was at 10.2.1, so if it is not file association as per suggestion from @MichaelMiles-Stimson, I too would be thinking uninstall/reinstall as expedient to getting it back.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 1:52
  • @MichaelMiles-Stimson thanks for the tip, but no dice. I don't care enough to reinstall so I think I'll just live with my 'personalised' version Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 2:14
  • If the ArcGisFileHandler isn't working you could change the file association to ArcMap. start c:\install\path\ArcMap.exe %1 works. Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 3:20
  • How do I set the %1 bit? (I'm trying via > Start > Default Programs > Associate a file type with a program) Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 3:40

3 Answers 3


Right click the mxd file and choose properties>open with and search for the ArcMap.exe file in the ArcGIS folder.

This should at least fix it for windows explorer.


I never found the true cause of this problem - but I can confirm that it was a local issue specific to one PC.

Using a new PC, this problem does not occur, so presumably there was some corruption of a required file somewhere.

As with many ArcMap problems, a complete re-build of the Windows partition goes a long way.....


Make sure that you are opening it with "ArcMap.exe" and no other exe from ESRI like ArcMap Handler or the like, I had the same issue, but just changed it to be opened with ArcMap.exe directly, and voila :)

:\Program Files (x86)\ArcGIS\Desktop10.3\bin\ArcMap.exe

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