I have a feature class that contains 131000 records. One of its fields (which was originally joined from a table) only has three possible values: null, 0, and 1. I have been trying to select the features that have a null value in this field, but each time I attempt to do so, it crashes. My syntax isn't incorrect ([FIELD] IS NULL). I'm not entirely sure the issue. Any ideas?

File Type: File Geodatabase Feature Class (field added from join from Excel table) Version: ArcGIS 10.2.2 for Desktop

  • 1
    Please edit this question provide the source of the data (shapefile, file geodatabase,...), since attribute selection syntax is dependent on the source.
    – Vince
    Jun 25, 2015 at 17:06
  • 131K joins to an Excel file??? Excel is NOT a database. No database, no index. No index, no join performance. The exception is likely in the Excel driver, and there's nothing Esri could do to prevent it from taking down Desktop.
    – Vince
    Jun 25, 2015 at 21:19
  • In fact, I doubt the Excel driver supports the concept of a numeric null, which may in fact be the problem.
    – Vince
    Jun 26, 2015 at 0:10
  • If the Field is a String data type you must Single Quote the Values when Selecting.
    – klewis
    Aug 16, 2016 at 14:34

3 Answers 3


Try to create new field and copy values from joined table to it using field calculator. Then remove all joins and try to select by attribute.


If those are the only three possible values, you could try selecting with the query [FIELD] NOT IN (0,1). I don't know why it's crashing though, instead of just returning no results. You may want to add the version of ArcGIS you're using to your question, and as Vince said, the source data type.

  • A NOT IN query is going to give suboptimal performance with 100K+ features. The key to application crash is likely to be data corruption (though that shouldn't generate a crash either)
    – Vince
    Jun 25, 2015 at 17:15
  • NOT IN query did not work either. I edited my question with the source data type Jun 25, 2015 at 17:41
  • Joins are slow. Move the query field to be part of the feature class. instead of a selection try using a definition query and running your process against that. Selection is memory intensive and slow. Jun 25, 2015 at 18:36

This is a workaround and not going to be as helpful, but you can temporarily sort within your attribute table (double click on the column heading) and manually drag-select the null values. I've worked with ArcGIS for 10+ years and she is a temperamental beast and crashes all the time. Following comments above you'll need to doublecheck the ArcGIS version and connect with systems requirements preferred to see if there some optimization that can be made. Could be a data or query issue, but also ArcGIS just doesn't always work that well.

Additional troubleshooting tips: try a few different SQL queries via the select attribute tool (= NOT '1' AND NOT '0') or 'select unique values' and click NULL manually; restart and try again; export the data and open as a shapefile and try again; make sure quotes aren't interfering with a query.

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