Resolving crashing and graphics issues on Windows machines

This article explains how to fix the following issues:

  • An 'Unknown Graphics Card' error
  • A 'Missing .dll' error
  • A white globe in Google Earth
  • Patches, green squares, flashing lines, flickering, or blacked out areas in the 3D view
  • Any other graphical or display errors, including missing characters
  • Any crashes

Google Earth requires the use of a graphics card or an integrated graphics processor (IGP) with 3d capabilities to run. These devices enable a computer to process and deliver graphics, animation, and videos.

If you don't have an installed compatible graphics card (IGP), the following solutions won't address your issue. You can add or upgrade both, but we can't give recommendations for specific hardware.

There are several reasons why Google Earth might display strange graphics behavior or suddenly crash, but the most common reasons are:

 

  • An outdated graphics card
  • An issue with DirectX or OpenGL
  • A corrupt myplaces.kml file that is crashing your system upon launch

 

In most cases, you should be able to resolve your issue by working through the steps below. It's best to work through these steps in sequential order. However, you can proceed directly to any step if you believe you've successfully diagnosed the problem.

Step 1: Clearing Your Cache

Before making any changes, you should first try clearing your cache. This step will often resolve issues like strange patches of imagery appearing in the wrong location.

If you're able to log in to Google Earth, please follow these steps to delete your cache:

  1. Go to File, then select Server Log Out.
  2. Select Tools > Options > Cache.
  3. Click the button that says Delete Cache File (Only when logged out).

If you can't log in, you'll need to delete this file from its directory folder. To do so, please follow these steps:

Windows XP Users

  1. Double-click the My Computer icon on your desktop.
  2. Select Tools, then Folder Options.
  3. Click View.
  4. Under the 'Hidden files and folders' section, select Show hidden files and folders.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Look for the .dat files in the following directory: C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\GoogleEarth.
  7. Right-click both the dbCache.dat and dbCache.dat.index files, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the files to the Recycle Bin. These files will be recreated the next time you log in to Google Earth.
  8. Look for the unified_cache_leveldb_leveldb2 folder.
  9. Right-click it, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the folder to the Recycle Bin.  

 

Windows Vista and Windows 7 Users

  1. Double-click the Computer icon on your desktop.
  2. Select Organize, then Folder and Search Options.
  3. Click View.
  4. Under the 'Hidden files and folders' section, select Show hidden files and folders.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Look for the .dat files in the following directory: C:\Users\%username%\AppData\%Local or LocalLow%\Google\GoogleEarth.
  7. Right-click both the dbCache.dat and dbCache.dat.index files, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the files to the Recycle Bin. These files will be recreated the next time you log in to Google Earth.
  8. Look for the unified_cache_leveldb_leveldb2 folder.
  9. Right-click it, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the folder to the Recycle Bin.  

 

Windows 8 Users

  1. Press the Windows key.
  2. Click Windows Explorer, and Computer.
  3. Click View, and Options.
  4. Select View, and Show hidden files and folders.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Look for the .dat files in the following directory: C:\Users\%username%\AppData\%Local or LocalLow%\Google\GoogleEarth.
  7. Right-click both the dbCache.dat and dbCache.dat.index files, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the files to the Recycle Bin. These files will be recreated the next time you log in to Google Earth.
  8. Look for the unified_cache_leveldb_leveldb2 folder.
  9. Right-click it, choose Delete, and select Yes to move the folder to the Recycle Bin.  

If clearing your cache didn't resolve the issue, you can also try turning off Atmosphere.

Step 2: Turning Off Atmosphere

To turn off Atmosphere, please follow these steps:

  • Go to the View menu.
  • Deselect the option labeled Atmosphere.

 

If you're still experiencing issues after turning off Atmosphere, try switching between DirectX and OpenGL modes.

Step 3: Switching Between DirectX and OpenGL

Windows users can run Google Earth (Free and Pro) in either DirectX or OpenGL mode. If you're experiencing strange graphics issues, you should try running Google Earth in each mode to see if one works better for your system.

Setting DirectX as your default renderer

To switch to DirectX, please follow these steps:

 

  • Click Start > All Programs.
  • Hover your mouse over your version of Google Earth (Free or Pro) and select Start Google Earth in DirectX mode.

 

Setting OpenGL as your default renderer

To switch to OpenGL, please follow these steps:

 

  • Click Start > All Programs.
  • Hover your mouse over your version of Google Earth (Free or Pro) and select Start Google Earth in OpenGL mode.

 

You will need to close Google Earth in order to switch between DirectX and OpenGL modes.

If you're still experiencing issues after trying both DirectX and OpenGL modes, you may need to update your graphics card drivers. In order to do this, you'll first need to determine which graphics card you have.

Step 4: Determining which Graphics Card You Have

If you don't know what kind of graphics card is installed in your computer, you can use a program to determine your computer's hardware, operating system, and graphics card:

 

  • XP Users: Go to Start > Run. Type dxdiag in the box that appears, and hit OK.
  • Vista and Windows 7 Users: Click the Start button, then type dxdiag in the Start Search box, and select dxdiag from your search results.
  • Windows 8 Users:  Press the Windows key + s, and type dxdiag and press Enter.
  • Click Yes to the prompt, and the program will begin running.
  • Click the Display tab, and you'll find the name of your graphics card listed under the 'Device' section.

 

Step 5: Updating Your Graphics Card Drivers

Once you know which graphics card you're using, you can update your graphics card drivers by following these directions:

LAPTOP USERS: Visit your laptop manufacturer's website to get the most recent drivers:

 

 

DESKTOP USERS: Visit your graphics card manufacturer's website to get the most recent drivers:

 

 

NOTE: We strongly advise against installing beta releases of graphics card drivers.

If updating your graphics card drivers didn't fix the problem, try Updating Microsoft DirectX.

Step 6: Updating DirectX Drivers

Google Earth requires DirectX 9.0 or later to run properly on Windows machines.

Please visit the Microsoft Download Center to download the latest DirectX drivers for your system.

If Google Earth Pro is crashing at startup even after attempting all of the above steps, it's possible that you have a corrupt myplaces.kml file that is crashing the system upon launch. The best way to fix this problem is to back up your places data, clear out the Google Earth application folder, and perform a clean startup.

Step 7: Removing a Corrupt myplaces.kml File

 

Windows XP Users:

  1. Make sure that Google Earth Pro is closed.
  2. Click Start > Run.
  3. In the Open bar, type or copy and paste in C:\Documents and Settings\%username%\Application Data\Google\GoogleEarth and click OK. Alternatively, you can navigate to this folder manually by first double clicking the My Computer icon on your desktop and navigating through the same folder structure.
  4. Windows Explorer should now open up a GoogleEarth folder showing you several Google Earth Pro Files, including: My Style Templates Folder, myplaces.kml, myplaces.backup.kml, and myplaces.kml.tmp.
  5. Make a copy of all of the files in the GoogleEarth folder, and save them in a different location, such as a folder on your desktop.
  6. Delete everything in the GoogleEarth folder (make sure you've backed everything up first!)
  7. Close the GoogleEarth folder and open Google Earth.
  8. After logging in to the server, Google Earth Pro should create new files in the GoogleEarth folder to replace the ones you've moved out.

 

Windows Vista and Windows 7 Users:

  1. Make sure that Google Earth Pro is closed.
  2. Click Start > Start Search.
  3. In the Start Search dialog box, type in C:\Users\%username%\AppData\%Local or LocalLow\Google\GoogleEarth and click OK. Alternatively, you can navigate to this folder manually by first double clicking the Computer icon on your desktop and navigating through the same folder structure .
  4. Windows Explorer should now open up a GoogleEarth folder showing you several Google Earth Pro Files, including: My Style Templates Folder, myplaces.kml, myplaces.backup.kml, and myplaces.kml.tmp.
  5. Make a copy of all of the files in the GoogleEarth folder, and save them in a different location, such as a folder on your desktop.
  6. Delete everything in the GoogleEarth folder (make sure you've backed everything up first!)
  7. Close the GoogleEarth folder and open Google Earth.
  8. After logging in to the server, Google Earth Pro should create new files in the GoogleEarth folder to replace the ones you've moved out.

 

Windows 8 Users:

  1. Make sure that Google Earth Pro is closed.
  2. Press the Windows key + s.
  3. In the Start Search dialog box, type in C:\Users\%username%\AppData\%Local or LocalLow\Google\GoogleEarth and click OK. Alternatively, you can navigate to this folder manually by first double clicking the Computer icon on your desktop and navigating through the same folder structure .
  4. Windows Explorer should now open up a GoogleEarth folder showing you several Google Earth Pro Files, including: My Style Templates Folder, myplaces.kmlmyplaces.backup.kml, and myplaces.kml.tmp.
  5. Make a copy of all of the files in the GoogleEarth folder, and save them in a different location, such as a folder on your desktop.
  6. Delete everything in the GoogleEarth folder (make sure you've backed everything up first!)
  7. Close the GoogleEarth folder and open Google Earth.
  8. After logging in to the server, Google Earth Pro should create new files in the GoogleEarth folder to replace the ones you've moved out.

 

If you're still experiencing issues after attempting all of these steps, there may be something else wrong with your machine. Try uninstalling Google Earth completely and reinstalling the application.