In QGIS, if I close a project and try to open it a few days later I often get a message that says "Handle bad layers". This is very frustrating because when I open the project various layers will have been deleted. This has happened to me while using the QGIS flowmapper plugin in particular.

What does this message mean? And how do I avoid this in the future?

Handle bad layers

  • 1
    This usually happens when the specified layer has been moved, deleted, renamed, etc in between when the project was last used and when you reopen it.
    – Geezer
    Feb 5, 2014 at 21:30
  • 1
    gis.stackexchange.com/questions/56666/… gis.stackexchange.com/questions/65076/… various layers will have been deleted.
    – Mapperz
    Feb 5, 2014 at 21:35
  • This error also appears when trying to save projects with WMSs and WFSs, and in that instance the data has not been moved. The errors can appear minutes after saving the project, so the URLs still work but QGIS is clearly having issues reconnecting to the layers. As per the original query this is extremely frustrating given the time taken to import and set up the layers in the first place...
    – user40626
    Nov 14, 2014 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


The "Handle bad layers" dialog appears when QGIS cannot find the data at the specified location. This can be the case if the specified layer has been moved, deleted, or renamed between the time since the project was saved and when you try to reopen it. If the file paths are stored relative to the project file location (check project settings), this error dialog can also appear if you moved the project file.

  • Great, thank you. Cempro that would be helpful. And underark for other projects I've been following these steps not moving, renaming, or deleting the file between saving and have not been getting the same handle bad layers message. Feb 28, 2014 at 2:45
  • I had this behavior without moving any files, on 2.18, when the project file was opened under a symlink directory. Apparently qgis gets confused easily with symlinks and relative paths. Opening the very same file without symlinks on the filepath I fed qgis solved it. Jul 11, 2017 at 10:17

I do not have any idea about "Handle bad layers" error but underdark had already explained that.

Regarding QGIS FlowMapper plugin v0.4, flowmapper may crash when "differentiate nodes by flow gain/loose" box is checked in graduated width point symbology mode. In this mode plugin adds red(flow loose)/green(flow gain) dots on graduated width circles(amount of total flow) as grouped point layers. When user removes this group, QGIS may crash.

A quick solution will be adding them separately. I am aware of this and will fix it in the next minor release v0.4.1

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