Troubleshooting Common ArcToolbox errors

If you are having problems with ArcToolbox and Geoprocessing tools, this blog article may be just for you! Whilst it is impossible to list all of the causes of ArcToolbox-related errors, below you will find some of the more common issues and some useful troubleshooting steps to try and resolve them.

Blank Tool Dialog windows


Have you recently installed another internet browser and made that your default? (e.g. Safari, Opera, Firefox, Chrome) ArcToolbox relies on Internet Explorer to function correctly; if this has become corrupt, uninstalled or replaced as the default internet browser, then toolbox functionality may be affected. We recommend installing the latest version of Internet Explorer that is available for your Operating System. If you are already running the lastest version, try setting it as your default Internet browser. If you still get blank toolboxes, you could try uninstalling and re-installing Internet Explorer, details of which can be found on the Microsoft Internet Explorer website.

Another common fault relating to this issue is the width of the Help pane in the tool dialog becoming too wide, masking the tool's user interface. This is related to a specific registry setting, which you can check by perfoming the steps below:

Please note: Making changes to the Windows Registry requires administrative rights on your machine, and can cause system instability if performed incorrectly. Esri UK does not accept any responsibility for issues arising from modifcations made to the registry. Please proceed at your own risk.

1. Go to Start > Run and type in: regedit

2. Go to HKEY_Current_User > Software > ESRI > Desktop 10.0 > ArcToolbox > Settings.

3. Locate the binary value called DlgHelpWidth, right-click it, and choose Modify.

4. Change the value data to cc. Click OK and close registry editor.

A further cause of this error is related to the uninstallation of certain antivirus software (commonly McAfee, but also seen with Avast). When this software is uninstalled, certain files are removed but are not replaced with those originally installed by ArcMap, resulting in the above error. This issue is discussed further in the following Esri Knowledge Base Article.

Internet Explorer Script Error


Internet Explorer errors like the one shown above can be generated when running Geoprocessing tools on machines that make use of Folder Redirection and Roaming Profiles.

The solution to this issue is discussed in the following Esri Knowledge Base Article.

Blank Error Message


This type of error is often related to a corrupt version of the ArcToolbox.dat file located in the User’s Esri Profile. To resolve this issue it is necessary to recreate this part of the User’s profile in the following manner:

a)     Close ArcMap and ArcCatalog

b)    Open up Windows Explorer, and enter the following into the address bar:

%AppData%\ESRI\Desktop10.0 (x refers to the version of ArcGIS Desktop you have installed - eg. 10.0, 10.1 or 10.2)

c)     In this folder, there should be a folder called ArcToolbox, please re-name this to ArcToolbox_OLD

d)    Open ArcMap and the software will create a new ArcToolbox.dat file.

File Download


You may receive the message (shown left) because ArcToolbox is trying to open a help file related to a tool, rather than the tool itself. To resolve this:

a)     Go to the Start Menu, click on Default Programs

b)    Click on "Set program access and computer defaults."

c)     You will see three options: Microsoft Windows, Non-Microsoft, and Custom. Choose Microsoft Windows.

d)    This resets all your internet settings and browsers to Internet Explorer as the default, and you should now be able to use ArcToolbox tools again.

This is discussed further in Esri Knowledge Base Article 38564.

ERROR 999998: Unexpected Error

Unfortunately, this is a non-specific, catch all error message, and so in itself is not very useful to try and diagnose any underlying issues. If you are receiving this error, there are a few things you can try:

a)    Install the latest Service Pack. This is always worthwhile doing even if it does not resolve your issue (you can find service packs and patches for ArcGIS Desktop here).

b)    Remove any 3rd party extensions such as XTools Pro and ET GeoWizards

i.        Go to C:\Program Files (x86)\ArcGIS\Desktop10.x\Bin\Categories.exe (again, replace x with the version of ArcGIS Desktop you have installed - 10.0, 10.1 or 10.2)

ii.        Uncheck the option to hide ESRI objects. 

iii.       Navigate down to ESRI Mx Extensions. 

iv.       Look at all the objects within the Extensions.  Make sure they don't belong to any other software - if so, you will need to remove the software.

c)     Disable Background Geoprocessing in ArcMap by going to: Geoprocessing > Geoprocessing Options and untick the Background Geoprocessing checkbox

Hopefully your tools will now be working again. If they are not, please contact the Technical Support Team for further assistance.

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