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This page contains some advice about errors and problems commonly encountered during the development of Django applications.

Problems running django-admin.py

“command not found: django-admin.py”

django-admin.py should be on your system path if you installed Django via python setup.py. If it’s not on your path, you can find it in site-packages/django/bin, where site-packages is a directory within your Python installation. Consider symlinking to django-admin.py from some place on your path, such as /usr/local/bin.

Script name may differ in distribution packages

If you installed Django using a Linux distribution’s package manager (e.g. apt-get or yum) django-admin.py may have been renamed to django-admin; use that instead.

Mac OS X permissions

If you’re using Mac OS X, you may see the message “permission denied” when you try to run django-admin.py. This is because, on Unix-based systems like OS X, a file must be marked as “executable” before it can be run as a program. To do this, open Terminal.app and navigate (using the cd command) to the directory where django-admin.py is installed, then run the command sudo chmod +x django-admin.py.

Running virtualenv on Windows

If you used virtualenv to install Django on Windows, you may get an ImportError when you try to run django-admin.py. This is because Windows does not run the Python interpreter from your virtual environment unless you invoke it directly. Instead, prefix all commands that use .py files with python and use the full path to the file, like so: python C:\pythonXY\Scripts\django-admin.py.


I’m getting a UnicodeDecodeError. What am I doing wrong?

This class of errors happen when a bytestring containing non-ASCII sequences is transformed into a Unicode string and the specified encoding is incorrect. The output generally looks like this:

UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0x?? in position ?:
ordinal not in range(128)

The resolution mostly depends on the context, however here are two common pitfalls producing this error:

  • Your system locale may be a default ASCII locale, like the “C” locale on UNIX-like systems (can be checked by the locale command). If it’s the case, please refer to your system documentation to learn how you can change this to a UTF-8 locale.

  • You created raw bytestrings, which is easy to do on Python 2:

    my_string = 'café'

    Either use the u'' prefix or even better, add the from __future__ import unicode_literals line at the top of your file so that your code will be compatible with Python 3.2 which doesn’t support the u'' prefix.

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