Pro Projects and SAL Drives

See also: SAL User Guide
See also: SAL Software List

ArcGIS Pro Project Folders and the C:\ Drive, the U:\ Drive, the J:\ Drive, OneDrive, Thumb Drives...

ArcGIS Pro Project Folders

By default, ArcGIS Pro will create a 'Project Folder' for each new project you begin. Within a project folder is (at a minimum):

  • A Project Geodatabase
  • A Project Toolbox
  • A Project .aprx file (the 'project file')

By default, each of these items (the project folder, geodatabase, toolbox and .aprx file) will all have the same name. So a project titled "Canada Population" would consist of:

  • a Canada_Population project folder with:
    • a Canada_Population.gdb geodatabase
    • a Canada_Population.tbx toolbox
    • a Canada_Population.aprx project file.

You can create other sub-folders within a project folder as well, such as Maps, Documents, Output, etc. You can also have additional geodatabases, toolboxes, .aprx files stored in your project folder.

The advantage of the project folder is that everything you need for that project is contained in a single folder that can be moved, archived, etc. Of course you can also link to data outside your project folder (i.e. stored on a server, the internet or on some other folder on you computer), but in the simplest form, all of the data, maps and output are stored together in a single project folder. This makes managing your data and moving or archiving the project easy. It also means that the project folder can get quite large...

The C:\ Drive

By default, the main hard drive of a Windows computer is referred to as the 'C' drive. In general, working off of the C:\ drive is faster than off of a server or external (portable) drive. It is also more stable (less vulnerable to network issues, etc.). In the case of ArcGIS Pro, this mean that the the entire project file (including data, aprx file(s), toolbox(es), etc.) as well as any external datasets need to be on the C:\ drive (the local hard drive of the computer you are working on).


In many campus computer labs (including AH. The rest of the C:\ drive is typically restricted for software programs and admin users only.


In AH.) stored in sub-folders.  Students cannot write to this folder but can access and view the data in it. Again, having this data stored locally (on the C:\ drive) allows for faster processing / viewing / analysis.

A copy of the GISdata folder is also stored on the J:\ drive (J:\GEO\GEO_data\GISdata), providing access to these same sub-folders from any computer on campus.

The J:\ Drive

The J:\ drive is a server maintained by Huxley College containing spatial data as well as class and tutorial files. By default, all Huxley students should have view / read access to the J:\ drive when they log in to a computer on campus. Students do not have write-access to the J:\ drive. The main sub-folders on the J:\ drive are:

  • J:\GEO\GEO_data (spatial data files)
  • J:\SAL_info (tutorial files)
  • J:\Saldata (class folders)

SAL_temp ( J:\Saldata\SAL_temp\ )

The J:\Saldata\SAL_temp folder is available for temporary storage and file transfer space. SAL_temp is on the Saldata server (accessible to all Huxley students and faculty) to facilitate group sharing of project files.

The SAL_temp folder is intended for short term usage (such as transferring files from one student or computer to another). The Sal_temp folder IS NOT FOR LONG TERM STORAGE OF FILES and has size restrictions. If/when Sal_temp gets full (and/or periodically for maintenance purposes) any or all files may be deleted without notice. This can happen at any point in time. Please be considerate of other users and delete your files from SAL_temp once you are done with them.

Several members of a project team may share/transfer individual files by placing them into the SAL_temp folder for other team members to copy to their own workstation or to their U: drive for storage. Please DO NOT USE SAL_temp for ongoing team project storage. Groups needing shared folder space should use OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or contact their instructor to set up a folder on the S:\ drive.

SAL_temp is for temporary storage and space is limited. It is intended for use for minutes or hours, not days or weeks. Don't tie up this space when others are trying to use it. Please remove your files once you are done moving them.

Keep in mind that anyone who can access SAL_temp can also delete files from it (so do not rely on SAL_temp as the only copy of your data).

Please be aware of the needs of others; delete your files from SAL_temp when you are through with them. Don't delete others' files when they are trying to share or copy them at other workstations.

The U:\ Drive

WWU provides server space to WWU students and staff on a shared university server. Students have to request this space but it is free. For GIS classes we encourage all students to get a U drive (in many cases the instructor will simply send a list of students in the class to ATUS to have them set up U:\ drives for everyone enrolled). If you don't have a U:\ drive you can request one from ATUS. Once you have a U:\drive set up you should have access to it from any computer on campus whenever you log in. If you have a U:\ drive folder it should be accessible by default any time you login on campus. If need be, see How To Connect to Network Drives. By default you do not have access to the U:\ drive from off-campus (though it is possible with a VPN connection).

You cannot share files directly from your U:\ drive (unlike cloud drives).

Somesmall GIS projects can be successfully opened / managed from the U:\ drive. This is especially true if you are not managing data with your project and are not conducting analysis. It is Strongly Recommended that you NOT work off of the U:\ drive if you are:

  • Using ModelBuilder
  • Performing Geoproecessing
  • Managing large spatial data sets
  • Managing a complicated project (lots of layouts, database connections, etc.)

The recommended strategy is to do all of your work off of C:\TEMP.

The S:\ Drive

The S:\ drive is another WWU server, similar to the U:\drive. The difference is that folders on the S:\ drive can be shared with an entire class or group of students. Some classes make use of the S:\ drive for collaborative student projects (GIS or otherwise) and/or as a place to hand in files (GIS or otherwise). You can also set up shared, group folders in OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.

As with the U:\ drive, the S:\ drive is NOT recommended as a workspace for complex GIS projects. As with the U:\ drive (or a portable drive) the S:\ drive may work for opening / editing small GIS projects (directly from the S:\ drive) but this is NOT recommended (see above for notes on using the U:\ drive for GIS projects - all of which apply to the S:\ drive as well).

PORTABLE / External / Thumb Drives

External / Portable / Thumb Drives

Portable (external) drives, including USB 'thumb drives' and portable hard drives, provide a convenient and easy storage option. Depending upon the size, a portable drive can be more than adequate for storing ArcGIS Pro project folders. And depending upon the speed of the portable drive (and the computer USB port that the drive is connected to), portable drives can work for opening and using project files. Typically, however, the performance speed of portable drives is  slower than the local drive, especially with large data sets and/or complex editing or geoprocesssing tasks. For this reason, it is recommended that you transfer the data off of a portable drive to the local computer (i.e., C:\TEMP) before you open the project and continue working with it (see below). And of course, there is also the risk of losing or leaving your portable drive in the computer lab when you leave... so don't do that. 

The recommended strategy is to do all of your work off of C:\TEMP.

CLOUD Drives

In general, you cannot open/work on a GIS project directly from a Cloud Drive. Instead you must move the project folder (with the .aprx file, etc.) to a local drive (i.e., C:\TEMP) before you can open the project and continue working with it (see below). However, cloud drives can be used for storage and archiving of spatial data and projects. Cloud drives have the advantage of being accessible on or off campus (dependent upon your internet connection). You also have the advantage of being able to share files with other users.

  • OneDrive - WWU students  have storage space on Microsoft's OneDrive (a cloud-based server)
  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • Etc.


Working on C:\TEMP vs the U:\ Drive vs OneDrive vs a Portable Hard Drive

For GIS projects, it is recommended that you do all of your work from C:\TEMP. Having both your data and your project files on the local hard drive is faster and more stable (less vulnerable to network issues, etc.). However, since C:\TEMP (on the SAL computers) is only temporary, this means you will need to save / store your work somewhere else. Storing your work (data, projects, etc.) on the U:\ drive, a portable thumb drive, a portable hard drive, One Drive, Google Drive, etc. are all viable options. In each case, you will need to transfer your current working files from your storage location to C:\TEMP each time you wish to work on your project. When you are done, you will need to transfer the updated working files back to your chosen storage location. Recommended: Archive the old version of your files (rename or move them to a dated archive folder) before copying the updated work files back to your storage location. This will insure that your old and new files do not get co-mingled and provide you with a series of backup archives in case something goes wrong with your current working files. Recommended: remove (delete) your working files from C:|TEMP once you have successfully transferred them to your storage location.

Using C:\TEMP for ArcGIS PRO Projects

While some projects can be created, saved and used entirely from your U:\ drive (or a portable drive) the performance will typically be better (faster) when working off of C:\TEMP. If you have large data, will be doing geoprocessing, are using the ModelBuilder, etc. you should NOT work off of the U:\ drive or a portable drive. Below are recommended workflows.

Creating a NEW Project:

  • Open ArcGIS Pro and create a new Project (with a project folder) in C:\TEMP
    • Recommended: use short, descriptive names without spaces, such as:
      • smith_lab2
      • miranda_earthquakes
      • cortez_canada_population
  • Optionally copy any additional data required to your project folder (on C:\TEMP)
    • This could be extracted files from a zipped folder or copying existing geodatabases, etc.
    • Recommended: use Catalog for copying spatial datasets
  • Proceed to work with your project (stored on C:\TEMP), saving often...
  • When finished for the day, Save and Close ArcGIS Pro
  • Copy the entire project folder (i.e, smith_lab2) FROM C:\TEMP TO your chosen storage 'Drive' location (i.e., your U:\ drive, OneDrive, a portable drive, Dropbox, etc.)
    • Recommended: create a sub-folder (WITHOUT spaces in the name) on your chosen Drive to store you ArcGIS Pro project folders in
      • U:\GIS
      • U:\envs321
      • etc.
  • Recommended: delete the original folder (i.e., C:\TEMP\smith_lab2) from the C:\TEMP folder

Re-Opening an EXISTING Project:

  • Copy the entire project folder (i.e, smith_lab2) FROM your chosen storage 'Drive' location (i.e., your U:\ drive, OneDrive, a portable drive, Dropbox, etc.) TO C:\TEMP
    • This will become your new, current, working project folder
  • Rename your old, now not-current project folder (the one still on your Drive) with a date (or move it to a dated archive folder)
    • For example, U:\gis\smith_lab2
    • Would be renamed: 2019_02_23_smith_lab2
    • This will prevent a conflict of folder names when you save a copy of your new, working project folder back to your drive at the end of the day
  • Open your .aprx project file from the project folder on C:\TEMP
  • Proceed to work with your project (stored on C:\TEMP)
  • When finished for the day, Save and Close ArcGIS Pro
  • Copy the entire project folder (i.e, smith_lab2FROM C:\TEMP TO your chosen storage 'Drive' location (i.e., your U:\ drive, OneDrive, a portable drive, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Note: you will now have TWO versions of your project folder:
    • The old, original, now archival version: U:\2019_02_23_gis\smith_lab2
    • The new, updated, current version: U:\gis_smith_lab2
    • As you continue to work on a project over multiple days you will have an archive of each day's work (as well as the current working project folder)
    • This archive can be extremely valuable in the event of data loss or a corrupted .aprx file (allowing you to restore a previous version of the project and at least some of your work)
    • If you need space on your drive you can delete the older archive folders at some point - or move them to a different storage location (i.e., OneDrive, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Be sure to save your work back to your chosen 'drive' before you log out of the computer
  • Recommended: delete the original folder (i.e., C:\TEMP\smith_lab2) from the C:\TEMP folder

Working ON / OFF CAMPUS:

  • If you are working off campus you can set up your folder structure as you like. Recommended: create a GIS or Project folder to store your various project folders in
    • ArcGIS Pro / Windows will often store your project folders in the C:\Users or C:\Documents folder - this is fine as long as you know where the files are and how to find them later
    • If you will be also working on the same project on a campus computer, it may be better to set up a C:\TEMP on your personal computer so the workspaces are the same
  • If you are going back and forth between an off-campus personal computer and an on-campus lab computer you will need to move / copy your project folder to a drive (a portable drive or OneDrive or Dropbox or Google Drive, etc.) in order to transfer it to / from your personal or campus computer
  • You could also just work directly from a a portable drive...
    • For small projects this may work fine - especially if you have little or no data and are doing little or no geoprocessing...
    • But, if something goes wrong (or you lose the portable drive) you may not have an archive of your work...
    • For this reason, working directly off of a portable drive is not recommended


Reducing the Size of Project Folders:

Due to the need to transfer your current working project folder (with data) and and forth between C:\TEMP and your chosen storage Drive location, the size of your project folder can become an issue. To reduce the size of your project folder here are some possible options:

  • Delete (or archive to a different folder and remove) unnecessary data file (especially earlier failed geoprocessing attempts, etc.)
  • Delete (or archive to a different folder and remove) map export files
  • Delete (or archive to a different folder and remove) toolbox(es) or models not being used
  • Sometimes, moving large datasets to a different folder (i.e., a portable drive or the U:/ drive) can be done - especially if you are not editing these datasets and are not using them for geoprocessing
  • Sometimes breaking a single large project folder into multiple smaller projects can be done - especially if there are different aspects of the project that don't all share the same data 
  • Zipping and Unzipping your project folder can help (sometimes)