In relation to this question ...

In the past, whenever I cleaned up a bit and moved layers around (or changed their names) my MXD's paths were broken and it was time-consuming to correct them.

I'd like to hear from your experiences and maybe learn a few tips from you:

How do you deal with broken MXD paths?

(I'm looking for solutions for one computer or a simple network drive, so if your solution deals with larger networks or the web please say so).

5 Answers 5


I also use and recommend relative paths to generally minimize occurrences of this situation. But when it does happen, I've often resolved it using some out-of-the-box ArcGIS functionality I don't see mentioned here - Set Data Sources in ArcCatalog:

Right-click on mxd/msd and choose Set Data Sources

Update paths as needed


MXD Doctor

"This utility provides functionality to analyze broken ArcMap document (MXD) files. Depending on the analysis, entities contained within the broken MXD file can be copied from the broken file into a new MXD file. This utility is provided as is. Before using this utility you should always back up the broken MXD file, and if you choose an existing MXD file as the target, that file as well."


MXD Editor

"Mxd Editor is a tool that allows you to inspect and fix broken layers in your map documents (.mxd files). It is based on the Eclipse RCP framework and leverages the arcobjects components provided by ArcGIS Engine and ArcGIS Server. The tool is provided with the ArcGIS Engine Java Developer Kit and ArcGIS Server Java SOC installations."


ArcMAP MXD Redirect Data Sources

"Allows users to fix broken data source path's in existing MXD documents. There are two methods offered in this tool. 1) Interactive - This method will search for all broken data source paths in the MXD and prompt the user on each one and the user has the option of selecting a new data source. 2) Search & Replace - This method is very powerful and will search for certain strings and replace those strings in the data source paths. There are some similar tools out there, but nothing with a "search and replace" option. Hope this helps you out!!! Saved us a lot of time for simple shapefile and geodatabase based workspaces. "



OK this is something we have all had to face at one time or another. I have seen 2 methods of dealing with this.

1) as so eloquently put by Andy W, Relative paths. This works best when you have a project MXD in the root of the project folder and all of the data under that in a data folder. Then wherever you move the entire project the links will still exist

2) have a central data repository where all of your data resides and access all of your data from there for all of your MXD's. In this example it might even be an idea to make sure that relative path is turned off.

To turn this on and off you go to the File menu and select document properties

Have Fun, CDB


If you're using 10, you have several new functions available in the arcpy python module to address this: Updating and fixing data sources with arcpy.mapping


All I can suggest is that you could try to use relative paths for your mxd, and try to keep all layers used in the same folder. The last few times I had to fix paths the other layers automatically corrected themselves after I fixed one link, although I think this was because all layer files were in the same folder.

I rarely rely on the mxd file itself though, and any transformation I use often I will save a new shapefile in whatever manner suits me the best. Although that is somewhat counter-intuitive to asking to keep files tidy and reduce redundancy.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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