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Install GIS Software

This guide provides instructions for installing and configuring all 3 major GIS software applications(ArcMap, ArcGIS Pro, and QGIS). It covers the similarities and differences of these applications and explains how to get started with common geospatial d

Installing ArcMap

ArcGIS Desktop Installation Instructions

If you are interested in installing and working with ArcMap software you must install Esri's entire ArcGIS Desktop suite of GIS software products - it is not possible to install ArcMap just by itself. This page will walk you through the process of installing and licensing ArcGIS Desktop on your personal computer so that you can start using ArcMap. Please be aware that ArcGIS Desktop software can only be installed and used on a computer that runs the Windows operating system. If you have a Windows PC you can start following the steps below to load ArcGIS Desktop onto your machine, but if you are interested in installing the software on a Mac please refer to the guide in the right column which provides an overview of options for running Windows on your Mac and take care of this set up before proceeding to the installation instructions below.
Esri has promised to support ArcMap until March 1, 2026, but there will be no new releases of the software beyond the current version, ArcMap 10.8.1, and it is recommended that new GIS users who are interested in learning to work with ArcGIS software start with ArcGIS Pro instead of learning the older ArcMap interface and workflows that are now being phased out.


1. In your web browser, navigate to https://utexas.app.box.com/s/4z1hshtzxdtd9w4ngf4yyoixhnem63ea which is the Box page used by UT Liberal Arts Information Technology Services (LAITS) to provide access to installation files for ArcGIS software to members of the campus community. Once there, find the folder titled "ArcGIS Desktop" and click on it to be taken to a subdirectory that contains a list of folders which contain installation files for the most recent releases of the software. NOTE: make sure that you do not click on the folder titled "ArcGIS for Desktop" which contains significantly older versions of the software which released under this slightly different name. Once you are in the "ArcGIS Desktop" folder, click on the subdirectory for the latest version of the software (unless you have a specific reason for preferring an older version, then select the older version you want) and you will be taken to a list of installation files for that version. Click on the link for the .exe file whose name starts with "ArcGIS_Desktop_" to download the installation executable that you will run on your machine to install the software. You do not need to download any of the other files on this page.
2. Once you have downloaded the installation .exe file, browse to the location of this file on your computer and double click on it to run it. It will ask you where you would like to save the uncompressed installation files. Pick a location on your file system and give it a minute or so to complete the decompression process. You will receive a notification when this process is complete and, if you look closely, you should notice that there is a check box in this notification window. If you leave this checkbox checked, as it is by default, the software installation wizard will open automatically after you close the notification window. This wizard will ask you to accept the Esri ArcGIS licensing agreement and will walk you through a few more simple steps that you can go through fairly quickly as the default settings preconfigured for each step should be fine for most installations (it is best to adjust these setting only if you have a strong reason for doing so). Once you have completed the last step in the installation wizard, the installation process will start and should complete in about 5 minutes though it may take longer on laptops and older desktop computers with slower processors.
3. Once you receive a notification message that the software installation is complete, you can close the notification window and move on to licensing the software. To configure your ArcGIS Desktop software licensing you will need to connect to the campus license server, so you will need to either be plugged in to the campus network with an Ethernet cable, connected to the campus WiFi, or you will need to establish a VPN connection to the network if you are located off-campus (see https://wikis.utexas.edu/display/engritgpublic/Connecting+to+the+University+of+Texas+VPN for more information about VPN). After you have made sure that you are successfully connected to the campus network, open the ArcGIS Administrator application that was installed as part of ArcGIS Desktop by browsing to it or searching for it in your Windows Start menu. Once the application opens, click on the Desktop folder in the left hand column which will change the display on the right side of the window - make sure that the information displayed shows that you have Advanced (ArcInfo) Concurrent Use selected and then type in arcgis.shared.utexas.edu in the License Manager field. This should successfully allow you to access an ArcGIS Advanced license from the campus license server. Please keep in mind that if you are trying to use ArcGIS software from off campus and receive a message during the license process about a failure to connect to the license manager that you should check your VPN connection and verify that you are successfully connected to the campus network as a missing connection is often the cause of these error messages. To make sure that everything is working correctly, open the ArcMap application by browsing to it or searching for it in your start menu. If it opens successfully with no warning messages - congratulations, you have successfully installed ArcGIS Desktop.
3. It is highly recommended that you also enable all ArcGIS software extensions when you first install the software as some of the specialized ArcGIS tools will be inaccessible by default. Please visit http://desktop.arcgis.com/en/arcmap/latest/extensions/main/using-extensions-in-arcgis.htm for more information on this process. Also, keep in mind that if want to use ArcGIS software on a computer that you will be temporarily unable to connect to the campus network (for example, if you are planning on conducting field work in a remote location and want to use ArcGIS software on your laptop during your time in the field) you must borrow a time limited 90 day license from the campus license server in advance of your trip, when you are still able to connect to the network. Visit http://desktop.arcgis.com/en/arcmap/latest/get-started/administer/borrowing-and-returning-licenses.htm for more information about this process. Once you have followed the steps on this page, check that your licensing is working before leaving for the field by disconnecting from the campus network after completing the license borrowing process and then opening ArcMap to ensure that it runs successfully without generating any licensing errors.

Options for Running Windows on a Mac

1. Use Bootcamp, which is a free program included by default on all modern Macs, to install Windows as a complementary operating system on the computer. Once Windows is installed, you can choose to boot into Windows at startup or into macOS. To install ArcGIS software, just boot into Windows and startup and follow the steps listed in the center column of this guide. This approach provides ArcGIS Desktop software like ArcMap with full access to the resources (RAM, CPU, etc.) of the computer because it is only running one operating system at a time, but it can be a little complicated to set up and requires rebooting in order to switch between operating systems.
2. Another free option is to download and install VirtualBox on your Mac. Virtualbox is a application that will allow you to install Windows on your Mac and run a virtual instance of it inside the Virtualbox software that can run simultaneously with your other macOS applications. It operates in the same general manner as Parallels and VMWare Fusion which are described below. Keep in mind that this approach may cause ArcGIS software to run more slowly and to experience performance issues, because running Windows and MacOS simultaneously will utilize more RAM than just running Windows on its own using Bootcamp. It does however make it a little easier to move files around and is convenient in that it does not require rebooting to switch between operating systems.
3. The final options is to purchase and install Parallels ($80 full price, $40 education pricing available) or VMWare Fusion ($80) so that you can run Windows in a virtual machine (VM) while booted into macOS. This approach has the same advantages and disadvantages as the Virtualbox approach described above, but paying for a virtualization software product rather than using Virtualbox does entitle you to customer support that you may find useful when configuring Windows on your Mac.

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