I'm a complete novice to GIS and just began an Introductory course. I am having an issue when I try to access the Symbology tab on a layer. Specifically, when I click on the 'Categories' field and 'Unique Values' subfield, ArcMap crashes and comes up with a report window to send to ESRI. The message is

ArcGIS for Desktop has encountered a serious application error and is unable to continue.

What could be the problem?

  • 1
    It is software, nothing more basic than what you are doing. Wrong install most likely
    – FelixIP
    May 10, 2016 at 7:18
  • 2
    Full uninstall and reinstall
    – Midavalo
    May 10, 2016 at 7:21
  • 2
    Is this a particular layer or any and every layer?
    – Spacedman
    May 10, 2016 at 9:39
  • What version of ArcGIS for Desktop are you using? What happens if you start with a new map and add the data source to create and configure it as a new layer?
    – PolyGeo
    May 11, 2016 at 7:32
  • I am using ArcGIS for desktop 10.3. My lecturer also suggested this, "Then, since you were having crashing trouble, delete the whole folder at C:\Users\{your_user_name}\AppData\Roaming\Esri - replace {your_user_name} with your actual username - it's not a special symbol in Windows, or anything like that. The folder AppData is hidden, so you'll need to know how to show hidden files (A quick Google Search should show you), or type in the folder in the Windows address bar at the top of your File Explorer window.". But this also made no difference.
    – gs141
    May 11, 2016 at 7:35

4 Answers 4


My understanding is that the error report that you sent to Esri will feed into a possible resolution for what caused your ArcMap to encounter a serious application error at some time in the future, but that it does not constitute a request for support under any maintenance agreement that you may have with them.

I suggest renaming/deleting your Normal.mxt and if that does not fix it, then doing a "Full uninstall and reinstall" as suggested by @Midavalo is what I would do next.

Reviewing previous reports and investigations of the same error message here is always worthwhile too.

  • Thanks for your suggestions. Unfortunately, I'm still having the same problem. I deleted the Normal.mxt, but nothing changed. I've also uninstalled and reinstalled, yet still having the same problem. It might be worth noting, that the I didn't have this problem before doing another assignment. But since adding new data from a zip file for my current assignment, it is now crashing. It also crashes on my previous assignment now. I've since deleted that data, but that has not helped.
    – gs141
    May 11, 2016 at 7:28

It sounds like a data issue to me. Your feature class may be corrupt or formatted in a way that ArcMap cannot handle.

If the reinstall of ArcGIS or rename of Normal.mxt suggested here does not work, I would get in touch with Esri support (or your local distributor) and send them a sample of your data. I wouldn't expect a fix in time to complete your assignment though. If there is a problem with the software, and they manage to fix it, the fix will be in the next release or service pack, which will be months down the line.


I just want to expand on @jon_two answer. If it does turn out to be a data problem you might be able to diagnose and fix it yourself. First try exporting to another format, e.g. shapefile to FGDB or vice versa, and try your symbology setting again. If that doesn't work you can try to see if individual features are causing the crash. Try exporting a single feature to a new feature class and see if the symbology setting work then. If so slowly add more of you data to this new feature class.


Just rename the .mxd and save it in different location and access it.

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