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?


5 Answers 5


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
  • 8
    Stored geoprocessing results have ballooned some of my MXDs to hundreds of MBs!
    – nmpeterson
    Commented Jun 25, 2013 at 22:11
  • wow - I was struggling with an MXD which blew out to 100Mb for no apparent reason. I removed one gp result and it's back down to 1.5Mb. This is a very good thing to know Commented Feb 20, 2015 at 1:01

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


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.


There is a great ESRI tool for solving such issues: ArcGIS Document Defragmenter.

I had an mxd of 250 mb and after first time of defragmenting it became 140 mb, then I ran it second time on the defragmented mxd and got 1 mb. So it works perfectly!

Moreover it takes just a few seconds.

However it does not clean up the results history and you probably will need to do this as suggested in this treat. This is a really great suggestion! In my situation in spite of the small size of the mxd after its defragmenting it still took me 20 mins to save a document before I realized that my results history is still full of garbage. After cleaning it an mxd is back to normal.

So you need a combination of actions to make it work as it has to.


There is some strange internal memory stuff going on. Basically, anything you do, especially when you execute geoprocessing tasks etc., will add to the mxd's memory.

How to fix this? What I have done a lot before, and it works like magic, is doing a Save As to save a new instance of your mxd. Then you go ahead and delete the old one, and rename the copy to the original one. You will notice that in almost all cases it will be much smaller (several megabytes, depending on the file).

The bottom line is: Save As gets rid of anything that has been saved internally but is not necessary for the functioning of the mxd itself.

Your Answer

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

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