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Using Esri ArcGIS Desktop Software in the Student and Virtual Labs


CSBS Computing uses thin clients (virtual desktops) in the student labs and in the virtual lab. These computers have access to more resources than a typical desktop computer. In order for Esri’s ArcGIS Dekstop software to perform well in this environment, data access needs to be on an application server drive. The following instructions show you how to set your working environment to the proper application server drive. When utilizing this method of saving data and projects, the primary working folder should be your Downloads folder associated with your UNID account. This folder is the only one that is universally accessible through an account login regardless of machine used.

To Access the Virtual Lab (skip if in a student lab):

Utilization of the CSBS Computing’s Virtual Lab allows for access to Esri’s ArcGIS Desktop software utilizing a web browser from on and off campus locations. To access the virtual lab, navigate to Login with your UNID and associated password.


If you have any issues accessing this site please refer to the CSBS help page found at:

Setting the correct working environment:

The following steps are required in order to initially set your ArcGIS working environment (described in detail below):

1. In ArcMap set your default geodatabase location to C:\users\unid\Downloads\folder_name

a.Create a class folder within the Downloads folder to store all of your data and projects (MXDs)

b.Create a new geodatabase within the class folder

c. Set new geodatabase as your default

2. In ArcCatalog change your home folder path to C:\users\unid\Downloads\folder_name

Step 1:

Once logged in to the computer, load the current version of ArcMap from the Geography folder. When ArcMap is loaded, you will need to change the default Home working environment to the application server drive. The initial location is on a connected server and will slow processing times substantially. The quickest way to change the path to the default geodatabase is in the Getting Started dialog box that appears when you start ArcMap. In the lower section of this dialogue box is the option to change the default geodatabase for this map.


Navigate to your Downloads folder through the explorer window and create a new File Geodatabase within this folder using the option in the upper right section of this window. Select this new geodatabase as your “Default Geodatabase”.

Step 2:

Then to make sure the working folder is set properly (may need to be changed here as well) utilize the ArcCatalog panel within ArcMap. Expand the Catalog tab on the right hand side of the screen to view all options and the available working locations. If the Catalog panel is not available, turn it on through the Standard toolbar.

From this menu, you will need to select the Options menu in the upper right and open this menu. Navigate to the Home Folder tab and update the “Home Folder Path:” to the Downloads folder. This should be on the C drive through the Users folder with your UNID. You will need to create a folder titled for your class if you wish for the created geodatabases to be stored within their own folder location. This will create a new file geodatabase in the folder designated but will require a restart of the ArcGIS software.



Note: The following step is needed if using existing geodatabases or MXDs (more detail below):

1.       Copy all data and MXDs to C:\users\unid\Downloads\folder_name and set as default

Step 1: 

If you need to utilize a geodatabase that has already been created at a previous stage, first copy it to the Downloads folder. Then simply right click the geodatabase in the ArcCatalog list and select “Make Default Geodatabase”.







Note: If issues arise with any of the steps to set your default environment, the default working folder can be changed through opening the Environments… menu from the Geoprocessing drop down menu in ArcMap. 





A restart of ArcMap may be necessary in order for the path to properly change and update the Home Folder to create a geodatabase and toolbox.

Saving Project MXD Files:

Best performance will be achieved if the project files (*.MXD) are also saved on the application server drive. Save all project files to C:\users\unid\Downloads\folder_name.


Reporting Issues:

If any technical or computer resource based issues occur when utilizing the Virtual Lab software with any of the Esri ArcGIS Desktop software, CSBS Computing can be contacted via an online form. To begin the process, navigate to . From here, log in with you UNID and select New Case. The following page allows for a form to be filled out pertaining to the issues needing resolved. Fill out all necessary fields and select either a Priority based on the urgency of the problem needing resolved. Do not use the Critical priority as this is reserved for extreme cases that will not be utilized within the course.

Once a helpdesk request has been submitted, CSBS will contact you at the provided email with further clarification on solving the issue. Additionally, they may require auxiliary information to solve the issue so be sure to take sufficient notes such as error codes or any additional processing being ran at the time of error.

Note:  The only way that CSBS Computing can improve the performance of the software or virtual environment is if they know about issues that are occurring. It is very important to submit helpdesk requests in order to ensure that CSBS Computing is aware of any issues.  Do not rely on others to pass on information for you.

Last Updated: 8/21/17