How to debug most errors during solving

Here I will put all the main questions and advice from years of solving and helping other solve problems with PuLP. Additional answers can be added via a PR.

Giving feedback and asking for help

The two ways one can ask for help or report a problem are:

  1. The PuLP Github Discussions page:

  2. Stack Overflow pulp tag:

Of course, the questions /problems (and their answers/ solutions) already in these sites can (and often do) include sufficient information to solve or understand the issue. So a good look at old questions and issues is highly recommended.

Several things need to be taken into account while asking for help, some of them are common to any project, other are particular to PuLP. General pointers (that are nonetheless, very important):

  1. Always submit a minimum reproducible example (how to here).

  2. Check this video on how to ask questions. Although aimed to another programming language, the message and recommendations are very good.

Now, specifically to PuLP:

  1. Pass the msg=1 argument to the solver, i.e., prob.solve(PULP_CBC_CMD(msg=1)). This will give you more information on the error. Share this information when asking for help.

  2. If possible, share an export version of the model. Check here how to export one.

  3. Alternatively, share a mps version of your model. To produce one, use writeMPS().

Other information that is also useful:

  1. Version of pulp.

  2. How did you install pulp (via pypi, or from github).

  3. What operating system was used.

  4. The version of the solver being used (e.g., CPLEX 12.8).

Error while trying to execute cbc.exe

The complete message is usually something like pulp.solvers.PulpSolverError: Pulp: Error while trying to execute PATH_TO_CBC/cbc.exe.

The default solver is CBC and is run via the command line.

  1. First of all, pass the msg=1 argument to the solver, to get more information.

  2. Check the precision of the numbers. If you have very big numbers (with a high precision), this generally causes problems with solvers. For example, never use a parameter that is 100000000000 inside your problem. Specially if you then have another one that has 1200.09123642123. If you do not need decimals, round your values when building the model.

  3. Duplicated variables / constraints. If you have variables that have the same coefficients in all constraints and in the objective function, this is an issue. Also, if you have two constraints that have exactly the same variables and coefficients.

  4. Memory issues. Sometimes your pc runs out of memory. Check if this is the case.

  5. python32 vs python64. Sometimes you’re using the 32-bit version of python, even if your pc is 64-bit. Try to always use the 64-bit if possible, since it handles more memory.

  6. Generate an mps file with PuLP and pass it to the cbc.exe executable directly like so.

  7. Anaconda/ conda/ jupyter notebooks see below.

cbc.exe mpsfile.mps

And see what message you get.

  1. Finally, sometimes you may want to try PuLP with a more recent version of CBC. To do this, download the CBC binary and pass the path to it to PuLP.

Infeasible problems

  1. Add slack variables. As described in this SO post.

  2. Take out constraints and see if the problem becomes feasible.

  3. Generate lp file writeLP() for the problem and open it with a text editor to see if the constraints are correctly built.

  4. Check the solver logs to additional message from the solver regarding the constraint or variable involved. The log can be seen by giving msg= as argument or exported with the logPath argument in some cases.

Jupyter notebooks / anaconda / conda issues

There have been several issues of the default solver (CBC) not working with an error like:

pulp.solvers.PulpSolverError: Pulp: Error while trying to execute PATH_TO_CBC/cbc.exe


Pulp: Error while trying to execute, use msg=True for more details.

This could be caused by a combination of the following:

  • the conda / anaconda installation of PuLP is not supported and thus may bring its own problems. Try installing pulp as documented in the documentation.

  • Apparently Jupyter notebooks sometimes run in user sessions that do not have access to the PuLP installation folder. This makes it impossible to access the default solver binary. To fix this, try installing pulp in the user’s directory or giving sufficient permissions to the jupyter notebook when launching it.

Examples of these situations, some fixed are: