Troubleshooting issues adding ArcGIS Online basemaps to ArcMap

As we move into an era that utilizes cloud-based services more and more frequently, it becomes inevitable that sometimes we are going to run into issues connecting our desktop machines to those services. Within ArcGIS for Desktop, the issues range from the Add Basemap dialog never loading to the system hanging once you click the “Add” button. Regardless of the exact symptoms, there are a few things that you can try to help narrow down the cause of the problem.

Here are my tips to begin troubleshooting these types of issues in ArcGIS for Desktop:

1. Ensure you have a solid internet connection.

Online services require connection to the internet, so making sure that you have a sound connection is critical. If you do not, you will need to work with your IT department to resolve this issue. If you are confident that you have a good internet connection, proceed to Step #2.

2. Test if the issue is machine or network specific.

On another machine on the same network, test to see if the issue is network or machine specific. Also, if you are using a laptop, try taking your laptop home for the night and testing the workflow from another network. If the issue is network specific (works on your laptop at home but not in the office), proceed with Steps #3-7. If the issue is machine specific (does not happen on other machines on the same network), proceed with Steps #7-9.

3. Does this problematic network have a proxy server?

If yes, work with IT to try temporarily disabling it. If disabling the proxy server does not resolve the issue, move onto the next step. If it works, then the issue is related to the proxy server. Next, try opening ArcCatalog and selecting Customize >  ArcCatalog Options > Connections, and entering the proxy information there. The proxy information you enter should be the same as what is set in the Windows Control Panel under Internet Options > Connections > LAN settings.

4. Does the problematic network have a firewall?

If you do, you may need to work with IT to add some exceptions to it. Here is a list of domains to whitelist:

  1. *.arcgis.com
  2. *.arcgisonline.com
  3. *.amazonaws.com
  4. *.virtualearth.net (for Bing maps)
  5. *.esri.com

If this does not resolve the issue, proceed to Step #5.

5. Try connecting to the service layers through creating a GIS Server Connection in ArcCatalog.

Here is how to do this:

  1. Open ArcCatalog.
  2. Expand GIS Servers.
  3. Double click Add ArcGIS Server.
  4. Select Use GIS services and click Next.
  5. For Server URL, type http://services.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/services (This is the URL needed for ArcCatalog. This will not work in the internet browser.)
  6. Click Finish.
  7. Expand the Server connection and drag one of the service layers into ArcMap.

If you can add a service successfully, it indicates a problem specifically with the Add Basemap command. If this is the case, you should consider contacting Esri Technical Support to further troubleshoot the issue.

6. Use Fiddler to try and diagnose any HTTP requests that are failing. 

Fiddler is a web debugging utility that helps capture HTTP traffic.

  1. Work with your IT staff to look at the HTTP requests going out and the responses that are returned when you try adding a basemap.
  2. This may not provide a clear answer as to what is going on, but might get you on the right track. For example, consistently receiving 400 level HTTP codes may indicate an issue.
  3. One thing to note is that Fiddler actually acts as a proxy and actively participates in the HTTP requests (it is not merely watching the traffic). Since it is involved in the requests, it is possible you might see different behavior when you have Fiddler running and you try adding a basemap. If this is the case, you may want to work with your IT staff to determine if there is an issue with your Proxy Server or firewall.

7. Do you use antivirus software?

Check to see if your antivirus may be blocking the basemaps. To do this, work with your IT staff to temporarily disable the antivirus on the problematic machine. The workflow for this may vary, but in many cases, the actual local antivirus service will need to be stopped. If the issues go away while the antivirus service is disabled, work with IT to see if there is an exception you can add to allow the basemaps to be downloaded successfully. If the issues persist, proceed to the next step.

8. Do you have write permissions to the Local Cache folder?

To increase performance, basesmaps store tiles locally at %UserProfile%\AppData\Local\ESRI\Local Caches. Work with IT to ensure you have write permissions to this folder. If issues persist, proceed to the next step.

9. Reset Internet Explorer and make it the default browser.

  1. Open Internet Explorer and select Tools > Internet Options.
  2. Click the Advanced tab and select Reset.
  3. Test to see if the issues persist.
  4. If they do persist, as a test, try setting Internet Explorer as your default browser (On the Programs tab of the Internet Options, select to Make Default).
  5. Test to see if the issues persist.
  6. If this resolves the issue, set your preferred browser back to default and test again. If the issues return, please contact Esri Technical Support.

It is entirely possible that these ideas will not resolve your issue, but many of them are more so designed to help you and your IT staff to determine if it is an issue with the software, an issue with the system, or any issue with the network. Please feel free to contact Esri Technical Support with any questions and we will be happy to assist.

Lucas D – Desktop Support Analyst


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17 Comments

  1. esonger says:

    Lucas, thanks for putting this all in one place. However, I think ESRI as a whole should pay more credence to some user’s complaints of performance issues. It’s too easy to just write off problems as user issues.

  2. atwood says:

    I’ve used basemaps with same exact computer setup for more than a year without issue. On June 3, started having problems with National Geographic, World Imagery and Bing basemaps, where they either wouldn’t load at all, or load once, but a pan or zoom function would then cause it to not load. Looked at some the recommendations in this blog which didn’t resolve. Turns out my computer was upgraded to Internet Explorer 10 just before I started having the problems. Uninstalled IE 10 and problem solved. IE is not even my default browser as I use Chrome instead.

    • jencarta says:

      atwood, I was having the exact same issue as you. And I checked to see when IE was updated to 10, and sure enough, it coincided with the start of my basemap loading problems. I asked my IT person to uninstall IE 10, but he first decided to uncheck a setting in IE 10. It is on the Connections tab. Click the LAN Settings button and uncheck “Automatically detect settings”. This appears to have fixed the problem.

  3. dfahey says:

    Thank you jencarta! That solution (IE LAN setting) not only resolved my ArcGIS Online basemap connection issue, but also restored my Bing Maps layer connection and fixed my dropped connection between MS Outlook and the Microsoft Exchange server. You just saved me, and my IT support staff, days of frustration trying to figure this one out.

  4. fulfilledstraw says:

    I stumbled across this post when I was trying to troubleshoot seemingly random situations where an online basemap causes ArcMap to hang up. If the basemap is turned off, the remaining layers will load, but reactivating the online basemap layer in the document invokes a refresh and the remaining layers still fail to load. This problem seems attributed to individual documents rather than user machines, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it. As a workaround, at least in the few times I have tried, running a Python script that opens the suspect document through the arcpy.mapping module, activates a layer or makes some minor modification, then saves the MXD seems to remedy the problem. I don’t know if this is a ubiquitous problem, but I thought I’d share this workaround in case anyone else wanted to confirm or refute it.

  5. tyharris says:

    As in suggestion #5, connecting to the basemap service through ArcCatalog worked for me. I’ve actually had other issues in ArcMap that I was able to work around by using Catalog. For example, some simple geoprocessing tasks would cause ArcMap to lock up or crash, whereas in Catalog I can perform the same tasks without issue..

  6. juane says:

    After an hour of tearing out my hair unchecking “Automatically detect settings” under LAN Settings fixed my connection problem as others have done.
    Why my connection worked yesterday, if this was checked on or off, or how it got checked on if it is was off will forever be one of those unanswerable questions of the universe.

  7. alizacarvor says:

    I help to my friend with this points and she’s now happy through resolving the issue.
    Thank You
    Fix My Computer Dude

  8. bmwgsbill says:

    This page needs to be updated. This link: http://services.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/services

    does not work. ESRI really needs to be consistent with updates. Here is the new link:
    http://services.arcgisonline.com/arcgis/rest/services

  9. Gregory L. says:

    This blog has been updated.

  10. fuxx0010 says:

    Unchecking LAN setting “Automatically detect settings” in Internet Explorer solved the problem for a few people, including myself. My machine has Internet Explorer 11. Could the article be updated to include this solution with an explanation? Thank you!