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Problem: Buffer features do not appear circular in ArcMap

Description

When using the Buffer tool or Buffer Wizard to create buffers in ArcMap, the buffer features appear as oval instead of circular.

An image of oval buffer features in ArcMap.

Cause

This issue occurs because the map data frame is set to a geographic coordinate system (GCS). In this example, the data frame is set to GCS_WGS_1984.

An image of the data frame coordinate system set to a GCS.

Solution or Workaround

Option A:

If the Buffer tool is used, change the data frame coordinate system to a projected coordinate system.

  1. In ArcMap, click the View menu > Data Frame Properties.
  2. In the Data Frame Properties dialog box, click the Coordinate System tab.
  3. Expand Projected Coordinate Systems.
An image of the Data Frame Properties window.
  1. Select the appropriate projected coordinate system and click OK. The buffer features appear circular.
The image below shows the buffer outputs before and after changing the coordinate system to a projected coordinate system.
Option B:

If the Buffer Wizard is used, use the Advanced ArcMap Settings utility to change the default coordinate system for buffer processing.

  1. Close all ArcGIS Desktop applications.
  2. Using Windows Explorer, navigate to <install path>\Program Files\ArcGIS\Desktop 10.x\Utilities, and double-click AdvancedArcMapSettings.exe.
An image of navigating to AdvancedArcMapSettings.exe.
  1. In the ArcMap Advanced Settings Utility dialog box, click the Miscellaneous tab.
  2. Set the Buffer processing coordinate system option to either Coordinate system of the feature class (input) or Coordinate system of the data frame (output).
Note:
To create geometrically correct buffers using the (input) option, the data must be projected to an appropriate projected coordinate system. To create geometrically correct buffers using the (output) option, the ArcMap data frame must be projected to an appropriate projected coordinate system.
  1. Click Apply and close the dialog box.
An image of the ArcMap Advanced Settings Utility window.
  1. Open ArcMap, and perform the buffer process using the Buffer Wizard. The buffer features appear circular.
Note:
To add the ArcMap Buffer Wizard to a toolbar, on the main menu, navigate to Customize > Customize Mode > Commands tab. Select Tools, and drag and drop the Buffer Wizard to a toolbar displayed in the ArcMap window.

The Customize dialog box.

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