Does anybody know how to fix a link between shapefile and layer file in ArcGIS 10?

Every time I add layer file, there is a small exclamation mark next to icon and I have to define a source (path to a relevant shapefile).

Therefore, I was wondering if there is a way for ArcGIS to remember that, so I don't have to do it every time I add that layer file?

  • 2
    Resave the layer file.
    – Fezter
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 2:52

2 Answers 2


Right click on the layer in table of contents.
Select data> repair data source.
Then save the layer file again. There could be issues with either your MXD location, or you relative/actual path setting.
I use the relative path method but ALWAYS keep my MXD in a folder directly under the data.

always keep the mxd file in the folder together

Not exactly (but I have hundreds of long life documents (mxd)). I use the relative depicted in the link except that my mxd folder is "in-line" with my data folder.
"Maps" being where my mxd files are.
The bottome portion of the image is not what I do either.
I use a region/project folder structure , and then split out my data types inside the project.
With basemaps being at the root data level.
That is just what works for me. I can come back to documents years later, if the data has been moved I can still repair and it will repair "all" data in the document easily.
The point of the relative and absolute options are that each user can use it differently.
As-per their needs.

  • Thanks mate, works like a charm :) btw, what is the difference between relative and actual path setting? so, you recommend to always keep the mxd file in the folder together with shp and databases files? cheers
    – user22022
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 5:03
  • 1
    For workflow purposes I use to have my shapefiles/databases in a subfolder to where I store my mxd's. That way I can just press the home button and chose the relevant folder when I want to add data (instead of having a folder connection - I usually have a number of short-time projects going on simultaneously).
    – Martin
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 7:52
  • 1
    Actual path (or absolute path) stores the entire path as part the the file names. (EX: D:\Maps\data\final\Base). But relative path only stores the difference between the .mxd or .lyr file and the actual data. (EX: ..\Data\final\Base). If you move the Maps directory to a new drive the absolute path will be broken but the relative path will continue to work since the Base data is still under the Maps directory.
    – Lemur
    Commented Sep 16, 2013 at 14:38

I used to use relative paths but I kept getting weird errors where paths would be broken even though nothing changed. This happened with layer files as well. I would add them into a dozen mxds and when I came back to them the links would all be broken. Using absolute paths is more fail-safe.

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