Redirect where ArcInfo Workstation and/or ArcGIS writes temporary or scratch files during processing

Last Published: April 25, 2020


The content in this article pertains to ArcGIS versions 8.x and 9.x only. Later versions of ArcGIS may contain different functionality, as well as different names and locations for menus, commands, files, and geoprocessing tools.

Information provided describes how to create a system environment variable that redirects temporary and scratch files generated during many ArcInfo Workstation or ArcGIS processes.

Below are examples of why types of processes are affected by this system environment variable:

  • Scratch files created during the ArcInfo Workstation CLEAN command, as well as MAPJOIN, UNION, IDENTITY and so on.
  • Temporary metafiles created when printing and exporting from ArcMap.
  • Temporary files created during several ArcGIS geoprocessing tools.

By default, temporary or scratch files are written to the current workspace for ArcInfo Workstation and to the system temporary directory for ArcGIS. These temporary files can be redirected to another directory by setting the ARCTMPDIR system environment variable to an alternate location.

This is advantageous if:

  • The system drive of the computer does not have enough free space to store the temporary files, which may cause the application or process to fail. For example, the CLEAN command can require up to 13 times the size of the <in_cover> in available disk space.
  • The current user does not want these temporary files to reside in their ArcInfo Workstation workspace directory.
  • The current user does not have write/read access to the system temporary directory.


Use the following procedure to set an ARCTMPDIR system environment variable:

  1. Navigate to Start > Control Panel > System.
  2. Select the Advanced tab and click the Environment Variables button.
  3. Under System variables, click the New button and enter the following:
variable name: ARCTMPDIR
variable value: C:\temp
Replace c:\temp in the above with a disk location appropriate for the current user. The current user must have full read/write access to this location.
  1. Click OK in the New System Variable dialog box and click OK on the System Properties dialog box.
  2. Restart ArcInfo or ArcGIS Desktop for this change to take effect.

Article ID:000001418

  • Legacy Products
  • ArcMap 9 x
  • ArcMap 8 x

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