gcc makefile error: “No rule to make target …”

I’m trying to use GCC (linux) with a makefile to compile my project.

I get the following error which is can’t seem to decipher in this context:

"No rule to make target 'vertex.cpp', needed by 'vertex.o'.  Stop."

This is the makefile:

a.out: vertex.o edge.o elist.o main.o vlist.o enode.o vnode.o
    g++ vertex.o edge.o elist.o main.o vlist.o enode.o vnode.o

main.o: main.cpp main.h
    g++ -c main.cpp

vertex.o: vertex.cpp vertex.h
    g++ -c vertex.cpp

edge.o: edge.cpp edge.h
    g++ -c num.cpp

vlist.o: vlist.cpp vlist.h
    g++ -c vlist.cpp

elist.o: elist.cpp elist.h
    g++ -c elist.cpp

vnode.o: vnode.cpp vnode.h
    g++ -c vnode.cpp

enode.o: enode.cpp enode.h
    g++ -c node.cpp

17 Answers

That’s usually because you don’t have a file called vertex.cpp available to make. Check that:

  • that file exists.
  • you’re in the right directory when you make.

Other than that, I’ve not much else to suggest. Perhaps you could give us a directory listing of that directory.

In my experience, this error is frequently caused by a spelling error.

I got this error today.

make[1]: *** No rule to make target maintenaceDialog.cpp', needed bymaintenaceDialog.o’. Stop.

In my case the error was simply a spelling error. The word MAINTENANCE was missing it’s third N.

Also check the spelling on your filenames.

The more common reason for this message to be printed is because you forgot to include the directory in which the source file resides. As a result, gcc “thinks” this file does not exist.

You can add the directory using the -I argument to gcc.

In my case I had bone-headedly used commas as separators. To use your example I did this:

a.out: vertex.o, edge.o, elist.o, main.o, vlist.o, enode.o, vnode.o
    g++ vertex.o edge.o elist.o main.o vlist.o enode.o vnode.o

Changing it to the equivalent of

a.out: vertex.o edge.o elist.o main.o vlist.o enode.o vnode.o
    g++ vertex.o edge.o elist.o main.o vlist.o enode.o vnode.o

fixed it.

Is that it exactly? Remember that Makefile syntax is whitespace aware and requires tabs to indent commands under actions.

The problem I found was even sillier than what other folks have mentioned.

Our makefiles get passed lists of things to build. Someone added TheOtherLibrary to one of the lists, as shown below.

LIBRARYDIRS = src/Library
LIBRARYDIRS = src/TheOtherLibrary

They should have done this:

LIBRARYDIRS = src/Library
LIBRARYDIRS += src/TheOtherLibrary

Had they done it the second way, they would not have wiped out the Library build. The plus in += is very important.

In my case it was due to a multi-line rule error in the Makefile. I had something like:

OBJS-$(CONFIG_OBJ1)            += file1.o file2.o 
                                  file3.o file4.o 
OBJS-$(CONFIG_OBJ2)            += file5.o 
OBJS-$(CONFIG_OBJ3)            += file6.o
...

The backslash at the end of file list in CONFIG_OBJ1‘s rule caused this error. It should be like:

OBJS-$(CONFIG_OBJ1)            += file1.o file2.o 
                                  file3.o file4.o
OBJS-$(CONFIG_OBJ2)            += file5.o
...

One of frequent mistakes might be typo in another file name.

You example is quite straightforward but what may sometimes confuse are messages of make itself. Lets consider an example.

My folder contents is:

$ ls -1
another_file
index.md
makefile

Whereas my makefile looks like

all: index.html

%.html: %.md wrong_path_to_another_file
    @echo [email protected] $<

Although I do have index.md where it should be and there is no mistake in the name of it, the message from make will be

make: *** No rule to make target `index.html', needed by `all'.  Stop.

To be honest the message is confusing. It just says, that there is no rule. In fact, it means that the rule is wrong, but due to wildcard (pattern) rules make cannot determine what exactly caused the issue.

Lets alter makefile a little, which is to say replace patterns with explicit rules:

index.html: index.md wrong_path_to_another_file

And now the message we get will be:

make: *** No rule to make target `wrong_path_to_another_file', needed by `index.html'.  Stop.

Miracle! The following might be concluded:

  • Messages of make depends on rules and does not always point to the root of problems

  • There might be other problems in your makefile different from specified by this message

Now we’ve come up with the idea of checking other dependencies in a rule as well:

all: index.html

%.html: %.md another_file
    @echo [email protected] $<

Only this will provide us with the desired result:

$ make
index.html index.md

In my case, the error message referred to an old filename, which did no longer exist because it was renamed. It turned out that the outdated information did not come from the Makefile, but from files in .deps directories.

I ran into this error after copying files from one machine to another. In that process, I assume the timestamps got in an inconsistent state, which confused “make” when running multiple jobs in parallel (similar to this bug report).

Sequential builds with make -j 1 were not affected, but it took me a while to realize because I was using an alias (make -j 8).

To clean up the state, I removed all .deps files and regenerated the Makefile. These are the commands that I used:

find | grep '.deps' | xargs rm
find | grep '.deps' | xargs rmdir
autoreconf --install # (optional, but my project is using autotools) 
./configure

After that, building worked again.

If you are trying to build John the Ripper “bleeding-jumbo” and get an error like “make: *** No rule to make target ‘linux-x86-64′”. Try running this command instead: ./configure && make

In my case, the source and/or old object file(s) were locked (read-only) by a semi-crashed IDE or from a backup cloud service that stopped working properly. Restarting all programs and services that were associated with the folder structure solved the problem.

Another example of a weird problem and its solution:

This:

target_link_libraries(
    ${PROJECT_NAME}
    ${Poco_LIBRARIES}
    ${Poco_Foundation_LIBRARY}
    ${Poco_Net_LIBRARY}
    ${Poco_Util_LIBRARY}
    )

gives: make[3]: *** No rule to make target '/usr/lib/libPocoFoundationd.so', needed by '../hello_poco/bin/mac/HelloPoco'. Stop.

But if I remove Poco_LIBRARIES it works:

target_link_libraries(
    ${PROJECT_NAME}
    ${Poco_Foundation_LIBRARY}
    ${Poco_Net_LIBRARY}
    ${Poco_Util_LIBRARY}
    )

I’m using clang8 on Mac and clang 3.9 on Linux The problem only occurs on Linux but works on Mac!

I forgot to mention: Poco_LIBRARIES was wrong – it was not set by cmake/find_package!

In my case the path is not set in VPATH, after added the error gone.

There are multiple reasons for this error.

One of the reason where i encountered this error is while building for linux and windows.

I have a filename with caps BaseClass.h SubClass.h Unix maintains has case-sensitive filenaming convention and windows is case-insensitive.

C++ why people don’t use uppercase in name of header files?

Try compiling clean build using gmake clean if you are using gmake

Some text editors has default settings to ignore case-sensitive filenames. This could also lead to the same error.

how to add a c++ file in Qt Creator whose name starts with capital letters ? It automatically makes it small letter

This error occurred for me inside Travis when I forgot to add new files to my git repository. Silly mistake, but I can see it being quite common.

This message can mean many things clearly.

In my case it was compiling using multiple threads. One thread needed a dependency that another thread hadn’t finished making, causing an error.

Not all builds are threadsafe, so consider a slow build with one thread if your build passes other tests such as the ones listed above.

In my case, it was due to me calling the Makefile: MAKEFILE (all caps)

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