DistutilsOptionError: Resolving the 'Home or Prefix/Exec-Prefix' Dilemma - A Comprehensive Guide

DistutilsOptionError can be quite a headache for developers. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive solution to the 'Home or Prefix/Exec-Prefix' dilemma that arises when using distutils in Python. The guide will walk you through the problem, its causes, and provide step-by-step instructions to resolve the issue. Also included in this guide is an FAQ section to address frequently asked questions related to the topic.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Problem
  2. Causes of DistutilsOptionError
  3. Step-by-Step Solution
  4. FAQs
  5. Related Links

Understanding the Problem

The DistutilsOptionError occurs when you try to install a Python package using the python setup.py install command and get an error message similar to the following:

DistutilsOptionError: must supply either home or prefix/exec-prefix -- not both

This error indicates that there is an issue with the configuration options provided for the package installation.

Causes of DistutilsOptionError

The primary cause of this error is providing both 'home' and 'prefix/exec-prefix' options simultaneously while installing a Python package. These options are mutually exclusive, and only one of them should be specified during the installation process.

Another possible cause of this error is having an incorrect or outdated distutils.cfg configuration file. This file contains settings related to the distutils package and is usually located in the Python installation directory. If the file has incorrect or conflicting settings, it can lead to DistutilsOptionError.

Step-by-Step Solution

To resolve the DistutilsOptionError, follow these steps:

Check the command line options: Make sure you are not providing both 'home' and 'prefix/exec-prefix' options in the installation command. If you are, remove one of the options and try the installation again.


python setup.py install --home=/path/to/home


python setup.py install --prefix=/path/to/prefix

Check the distutils.cfg file: Locate the distutils.cfg file in your Python installation directory. If you cannot find it, create a new one. Open the file and check for the following settings:

home = /path/to/home
prefix = /path/to/prefix

If both 'home' and 'prefix' options are present, remove one of them and save the file. Then, try the installation again.

Update distutils: If the error persists after following the above steps, it is possible that your distutils package is outdated. Update the package using the following command:

pip install --upgrade distutils

After completing these steps, the DistutilsOptionError should be resolved, and you should be able to install the Python package without any issues.


1. What is distutils in Python?

Distutils is a module in Python that provides tools to build and install additional modules. It is part of the Python Standard Library and is commonly used for distributing Python packages.

2. How do I create a distutils.cfg file?

To create a distutils.cfg file, open a text editor and add the necessary configurations, such as 'home' or 'prefix'. Save the file with the name distutils.cfg in your Python installation directory.

3. Can I use both 'home' and 'prefix' options in the distutils.cfg file?

No, you cannot use both 'home' and 'prefix' options in the distutils.cfg file. These options are mutually exclusive, and only one of them should be specified.

4. How do I uninstall a package installed using distutils?

To uninstall a package installed using distutils, you will need to manually delete the package files from the installation directories. Distutils does not provide an automatic uninstallation option.

5. Can I use pip instead of distutils to install Python packages?

Yes, you can use pip to install Python packages. In fact, pip is the recommended package installer for Python, as it provides additional features, such as automatic uninstallation and dependency management.

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