When your toolboxes or tools have gone missing in ArcMap

The other day Tom from Earth Sciences asked:

When I start up ArcMap the Spatial Analyst and 3D Analyst toolboxes are missing in the toolbox tree. Spatial Analyst / 3D Analyst are checked within Extensions. Toolbars appear but have limited functionality. Any ideas why this is happening?

These are two separate issues:

First, the missing functions in the toolbars:  Tom had just migrated from ArcGIS 9.3 to ArcGIS 10. In ArcGIS 10 all Spatial Analyst tools (except Contours and Histogram) have been removed from the Spatial Analyst Toolbar and are now in the Spatial Analyst toolboox, rendering the toolbar basically useless. This is by design…

The second issue was the missing toolboxes/tools in the toolboxes tree. I have seen this with a few of our users, and this can have various causes.

Some actions that resolved the issue for others:

  1. If you  are missing an extension toolbox like Spatial Analyst make sure the extension is actually installed. You can check this in Customize > Extensions, or in the ArcGIS Administrator. If the extension is not installed, install it.
  2. Are the tools/toolboxes missing in specific existing MXDs, or also when you start a map from scratch? If it is only in old MXDs, make new MXDs and transfer the content over from the old ones. (You can copy/paste layers.) This resolved the issue for Tom.
  3. Make sure you have at least service pack 5 installed (in ArcGIS Administrator). Always a good idea.
  4. If nothing else helps, delete your ArcGIS customizations, like custom extensions, toolbars and toolboxes. This will reset ArcGIS to a ‘fresh install ‘ state:
    1. In Windows Explorer navigate to the folder C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Roaming\ESRI. This folder contains your default map and catalog layouts. This is a hidden directory, to navigate to it enter the path in windows explorer in the address bar.
      1. Quit all ArcGIS applications
      2. Rename the folder to ESRI_old_v1.
    2. Navigate to the folder C:\Users\%username%\Documents\ArcGIS. This folder contains you default geodatabase and custom toolboxes.
      1. Check with ArcCatalog if this folder contains anything you need to keep
      2. Quit all ArcGIS applications
      3. Rename the folder  to ArcGIS_old_v1.
    3. Launch Arc Catalog and ArcMap. They should now launch in a ‘fresh install’ state with the Esri default toolboxes and toolbars. If you are fine with it then, you can delete the renamed “_old_v1” folders.
  5. If none of the above work, do a repair install for ArcGIS (Control Panel > Programs > right-click ArcGIS > Uninstall/Change > Repair). Afterwards reinstall the latest  service pack.

Some background info:

ArcGIS comes with a predefined set of toolboxes and tools in the toolboxes tree. You can customize this toolboxes tree by removing tools and toolboxes, or by adding additional custom toolboxes from Esri or third party vendors or ones that you create yourself.

If you modify the toolboxes tree in ArcCatalog, your modifications are permanent.

If modify the toolboxes in ArcMap, the customized toolboxes tree is stored in the MXD file, so when you reopen the MXD, it will reestablish your modifications. When you create a new map it will load the standard toolboxes.

Further details: http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#/A_quick_tour_of_managing_tools_and_toolboxes/003q00000001000000/



3 thoughts on “When your toolboxes or tools have gone missing in ArcMap

  1. My Draw toolbar has disappeared and I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve tried turning it on and off in the Customize>Toolbars menu and the Customize Box….no luck. There is a checkmark indicating it is on but it’s not. Any advice?

    1. I assume you already followed the instructions in my blog post. If none of them resolve the problem I unfortunately don’t know what else could cause this behavior.

    2. I had the same problem. To fix it (or reset the toolbars)

      1. Close ArcMap

      2. Go to

      (in case of different version select folder appropriately)
      and rename Normal.mxt to Normal_old.mxt

      3. Start a new ArcMap from start menu.

      4 Open your MXD file to continue.

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