Could Not Find or Load Main Class Error in Java: Causes and Solutions

Java developers, especially beginners, often face this error message: Error: Could not find or load main class. It can be frustrating because this error, while common, doesn't provide explicit details about what went wrong. Let's dive into what causes this error and how to solve it. 

Understanding the Error

The error essentially means that the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) could not load the class containing the main() method, which is the entry point for any standalone Java application. Here's a common representation of the error:

Error: Could not find or load main class com.example.MainClass

Common Causes

Incorrect Class Name: If you're trying to run a Java class using the command line, you might have spelled the class name incorrectly. 

Incorrect Package Declaration: If your class is part of a package but you're not referencing it correctly, you'll encounter this error. 

Class Not Present in Classpath: Java uses a classpath to search for classes and resources. If your class is not in the defined classpath, Java won't find it. 

IDE Issues: Integrated Development Environments (IDEs) sometimes cache old configurations or encounter build issues, leading to this error. 

JAR File Issues: If you're trying to run a Java application from a JAR file, but the manifest file within the JAR doesn't correctly specify the entry point class, you'll get this error.


Verify Class Name: Ensure you've spelled the class name correctly when running from the command line:

java MyMainClass

Package Declaration: If your class is part of a package, say com.example, and your file structure matches this, you should run the class with the full name:

java com.example.MyMainClass

Set the Classpath: If your class depends on other classes or JAR files, ensure you include them in the classpath:

java -cp .;path_to_dependencies/* com.example.MyMainClass

Note: Use : (colon) instead of ; (semi-colon) as a delimiter on macOS and Linux. 

IDE Clean and Rebuild: In IDEs like IntelliJ IDEA or Eclipse, sometimes simply cleaning and rebuilding the project can solve the issue. This ensures all configurations are reset and old caches cleared. 

Check JAR Manifest: If running a JAR file, ensure the MANIFEST.MF file inside the JAR's META-INF directory specifies the correct main class:

Main-Class: com.example.MyMainClass

To run the JAR, use:

java -jar MyApplication.jar


The "Could not find or load main class" error in Java can be a bit of a puzzle initially, but with a systematic approach to checking common causes, it becomes manageable. Always ensure you're referencing your classes correctly, and don't forget to maintain a clean and organized project structure.