Fixing the Configure Error: Complete Guide to Compute Suffix of Object Files & Resolve Cannot Compile Issues


When building software from source, developers may occasionally encounter errors during the configuration process. One common error is the inability to compute the suffix of object files, which can lead to the "cannot compile" issue. This guide will walk you through the steps to fix this error and ensure a smooth build process.

## Table of Contents

1. [Understanding the Error](#understanding-the-error)
2. [Prerequisites and Assumptions](#prerequisites-and-assumptions)
3. [Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing the Error](#step-by-step-guide-to-fixing-the-error)
4. [FAQs](#faqs)

## Understanding the Error

The error message in question is typically displayed as follows:

configure: error: cannot compute suffix of object files: cannot compile

This error occurs when the configuration script is unable to determine the correct suffix for object files generated by the compiler. Object files are intermediate files generated during the compilation process, usually with a `.o` or `.obj` extension. The inability to compute this suffix prevents the configuration script from generating a valid `Makefile`, which is necessary for building the software.

There can be several reasons for this error, including missing dependencies, incorrect compiler flags, or a misconfigured build environment.

## Prerequisites and Assumptions

Before we proceed, please ensure that you have the following prerequisites met:

1. Familiarity with the command line and basic Unix/Linux commands
2. Access to a Unix/Linux system with `gcc` or another C compiler installed
3. The source code for the software you are trying to build
4. Administrative privileges may be required for installing packages or modifying system settings

This guide assumes that you have already downloaded and extracted the source code for your software, and are attempting to run the `configure` script as part of the build process.

## Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing the Error

### Step 1: Verify Compiler Installation

First, ensure that you have a working C compiler installed on your system. You can do this by running the following command:

gcc --version

If the command returns a version number, you have a working compiler installed. If not, you may need to install a compiler or update your PATH variable to include the compiler's location.

Step 2: Install Missing Dependencies

The error may also occur if your system is missing some required dependencies. Check the documentation of the software you are trying to build for a list of required dependencies, and ensure they are installed on your system.

For example, on a Debian-based system, you can use the following command to install most common development packages:

sudo apt-get install build-essential

Step 3: Adjust Compiler Flags

Incorrect compiler flags can also cause the configuration script to fail. Check the config.log file generated by the configure script for any error messages related to the compiler. You may need to adjust your CFLAGS, CPPFLAGS, or LDFLAGS environment variables to fix any issues.

For example, if your system has a non-standard library location, you can use the following command to add the correct path to the LDFLAGS variable:

export LDFLAGS="-L/path/to/your/libs"

Step 4: Re-run the Configure Script

After addressing the issues above, re-run the configure script. If the error persists, you may need to consult the software's documentation or support forums for further assistance.


Why do I need to compute the suffix of object files?

The suffix of object files is necessary for the configuration script to generate a correct Makefile. The Makefile is used by the make command to build the software, and it must have accurate information about the object files produced by the compiler.

Can I manually specify the object file suffix?

In some cases, you may be able to manually specify the object file suffix by setting the OBJEXT environment variable before running the configure script. For example:

export OBJEXT=.o

However, this may not work for all software projects, and it is generally better to address the root cause of the error.

Can I use a different compiler to fix the error?

Yes, you can try using a different C compiler if you suspect that the issue is related to your current compiler. Make sure to set the CC environment variable to point to the new compiler before running the configure script:

export CC=/path/to/your/new/compiler

How do I know if I have missing dependencies?

The config.log file generated by the configure script will often contain information about missing dependencies, or you can refer to the software's documentation for a list of required packages.

How can I get help if I can't fix the error myself?

If you are unable to resolve the error, consider reaching out to the software's support channels, such as mailing lists, forums, or issue trackers. Be sure to provide detailed information about your system and the steps you have taken to address the error.

Related Link: Common Configure Errors and How to Fix Them

Related Link: Understanding Makefiles and the GNU Build System

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