Troubleshooting CircleCI Build Failures with No Error Output


Experiencing a build failure in CircleCI without any error output can be puzzling. This article explores common causes for such failures and provides guidance on how to resolve them. It also addresses a specific scenario where the use of an incompatible Docker image led to a build reporting failure despite individual tasks succeeding.


  • Access to your CircleCI account.
  • Familiarity with CircleCI configuration files (.circleci/config.yml).
  • Understanding of Docker and containerization.


When encountering a build failure with no error output, consider the following steps to diagnose and fix the issue:

  1. Verify Language and Package Versions: Ensure that the language and package versions match between your local environment and CircleCI.
  2. Check Timezone Configurations: Confirm that your testing frameworks and build configurations are timezone-aware.
  3. Inspect File Ordering: Some tests may fail if they depend on a specific file order. CircleCI's filesystems are unordered, so ensure your tests do not rely on file ordering.
  4. Monitor Memory Usage: Look out for "Out of Memory" errors which can terminate processes unexpectedly.
  5. Adjust for Startup Times: Services like databases may take longer to start on CircleCI. Implement explicit wait times in your config.
  6. Validate External Services: If your build depends on third-party services, check their availability and operational status.
  7. Review CircleCI Configuration: Examine your .circleci/config.yml for syntax errors or misconfigurations.
  8. Isolate Failing Steps: Try to pinpoint the exact step where the build fails to narrow down the cause.
  9. Update Dependencies: Ensure all external dependencies and tools are up-to-date and compatible with your build.


In a specific case, the issue was resolved by switching to a different Docker image that was compatible with the build requirements. The original image was a binary-only Docker image, which lacked an underlying operating system, making it unsuitable for the build process. Using an Alpine-based image instead led to a successful build.

If you encounter a similar issue, try the following:

  1. Identify the Docker image used in your build.
  2. Replace the binary-only image with an Alpine-based image or another image that includes the necessary environment for your build.
  3. Update your .circleci/config.yml to reference the new image.
  4. Rerun the build to check if the issue is resolved.

Additional Resources

Remember, when troubleshooting builds, it's essential to consider all aspects of your CI/CD pipeline, from the configuration file to the Docker images and external dependencies.

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