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NVM is a version manager for Node.js, it provides a simple interface for installing and managing multiple versions easily.

Install NVM

An install.sh script is used to install and update nvm, you can find the latest version URL on the GitHub repository.

You can download and run the script using cURL:

$curl -o- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.35.3/install.sh | bash

Or using wget:

$wget -qO- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.35.3/install.sh | bash

The script clones the nvm repository to ~/.nvm, and adds source lines to your shell profile file to load nvm and tab completion for your shell.

Display the installed version:

$# You need to open a new shell after the installation
$nvm --version
0.35.3

Display the NVM installation directory:

$echo $NVM_DIR
/home/pierre/.nvm

List of environment variables exposed by nvm


Note: You don't need to use sudo when using npm because nvm installs Node.js in your home directory where you have write permissions, so you can use npm install and npm uninstall without sudo.


Install Node.js

For Debian/Ubuntu based GNU/Linux distributions you need to install the build-essential and libssl-dev packages that will be required when installing Node.js from the source code:

$sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install build-essential libssl-dev

Before installing Node.js, here's how you can list the installed versions and the versions available to install:

$# List the installed versions
$nvm ls
$# List all the versions available to install
$nvm ls-remote
$# List the releases of a specific version
$nvm ls-remote 14

To install Node.js you can use the version number from the nvm ls-remote output or use an alias, for example node is an alias for the latest version:

$# Install the latest version
$nvm install node
Downloading and installing node v14.4.0...
Downloading https://nodejs.org/dist/v14.4.0/node-v14.4.0-linux-x64.tar.xz...
##################################################################### 100.0%
Computing checksum with sha256sum
Checksums matched!
Now using node v14.4.0 (npm v6.14.5)
Creating default alias: default -> node (-> v14.4.0)

The versions installed using nvm are going to be installed in the ~/.nvm directory.

You can use nvm which to show the executable path:

$# Show the path to the executable to where it was installed
$nvm which node
/home/pierre/.nvm/versions/node/v14.4.0/bin/node

Install a specific Node.js version using the version number:

$# Install the latest available v13 release
$# You can also use the exact version number (eg: v13.14.0)
$nvm install 13
Downloading and installing node v13.14.0...
Downloading https://nodejs.org/dist/v13.14.0/node-v13.14.0-linux-x64.tar.xz...
##################################################################### 100.0%
Computing checksum with sha256sum
Checksums matched!
Now using node v13.14.0 (npm v6.14.4)

Switch between Node.js versions

When you start a new shell, the default version will be used which is the first installed Node.js version.

You can switch between Node.js versions using nvm use:

$# Switch to Node.js v13
$nvm use 13
$# Switch to an exact version
$nvm use v12.18.0
$# Switch to the default version
$nvm use default

If you have a Node.js system installed version (Installed without nvm), you can switch to it using:

$nvm use system

You can display the currently activated Node.js version using:

$nvm current
v14.4.0

Set a new default Node.js version

The first installed Node.js version becomes the default version, but you can change it using nvm alias.

You can check the current default version:

$nvm alias default
default -> node (-> v14.4.0)

To set a new default version to be used in new shells:

$# Set the version 13 as the default
$nvm alias default 13
default -> 13 (-> v13.14.0)
$# Set the latest available node version as the default
$nvm alias default node
default -> node (-> v14.4.0)

Run Node.js version without switching to it

Using nvm use changes the current Node.js version, but you can run a specific version without switching to it using nvm run:

$# The currently activated version
$nvm current
v14.4.0
$# Run another Node.js version
$nvm run 13 --version
Running node v13.14.0 (npm v6.14.5)
v13.14.0
$# The activated version is still the same
$nvm current
v14.4.0

You can also run any arbitrary command in a subshell using nvm exec:

$nvm exec 13 node --version
Running node v13.14.0 (npm v6.14.5)
v13.14.0
$nvm exec 13 npm --version
Running node v13.14.0 (npm v6.14.5)
6.14.5

Install global packages when installing a new version

When you install a new version and you want to install the same global packages from a another version, you can use --reinstall-packages-from:

$nvm install 14 --reinstall-packages-from=13

Reinstalling packages does not update the npm version by default, you can use --latest-npm to update it:

$nvm install 14 --reinstall-packages-from=v13 --latest-npm
$# Or you can update it later using
$npm i -g npm

You can also create a list of packages to install with every new version by creating a file named default-packages at the NVM directory:

$echo "create-react-app
> gatsby-cli
> np
> " > $NVM_DIR/default-packages

Now these packages will be installed as global packages for every Node.js version you install.

Uninstall Node.js versions

Uninstalling Node.js versions is as simple as installing them:

$nvm uninstall v12.18.0

Deactivate NVM

NVM adds the bin directory of the currently used Node.js version to the PATH environment variable:

$echo $PATH
/home/pierre/.nvm/versions/node/v14.4.0/bin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/local/games:/usr/games

You can remove it using nvm deactivate:

$# Deactivate nvm and restore the PATH variable
$nvm deactivate
/home/pierre/.nvm/*/bin removed from ${PATH}
$echo $PATH
/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/local/games:/usr/games

Using .nvmrc

You can use a .nvmrc file in your project directory to set the Node.js version to use.

$# Any version number or string that nvm understands is accepted
$# The trailing new line is required
$echo "13" > .nvmrc
$# Another example using a full version number
$echo "v13.14.0" > .nvmrc

Now when you cd into that directory you can switch to the specified Node.js version using:

$# Also works in any subdirectory
$nvm use
Found '/home/project/.nvmrc' with version <13>
Now using node v13.14.0 (npm v6.14.4)

You can also install the version specified in the .nvmrc file using:

$nvm install

Automatically switch Node.js version

You can change the Node.js version automatically when you cd into a directory that contains a .nvmrc file without explicitly running nvm use everytime.

To do this you can use avn (Automatic Version Switching for Node) or the community contributed recipes for bash, zsh and fish.

For more information check out the Deeper Shell Integration section on the NVM GitHub repository.

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