Installing Node.js Tutorial: using nvm

5 min readMar 26, 2020

This blog post was originally published in NodeSource webpage by Tierney Cyren and updated by NodeSource team on March 2020.

Installing Node.js Tutorial: using nvm on MacOS and Ubuntu
Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

As with any programming language, platform, or tool, the first step to using it is getting it installed. Many of them typically come with a speedy way to upgrade when a new version is available.

By default, there isn’t a way to upgrade the version of Node.js from within Node.js itself. That said, there is a fantastic tool for the community called nvm Node Version Manager that allows you to manage the versions of Node.js that you have installed locally.

One awesome aspect of nvm is that it manages the versions of Node.js you have installed, it doesn't just upgrade them. This means you can have the latest version of Node.js, the latest versions of all the LTS release lines, and any number of other versions you want to use or test installed and ready to be used simultaneously.

In this quick tutorial, we will take a look at how to install nvm, and then how to start using it as your version manager for Node.js. Once we have completed the tutorial, you will be ready to take the next step with Node.js.

This guide covers installing nvm on macOS and Linux — note that all versions of Node.js may not support every version of macOS or Linux.

Step 0: The Quick Guide (TL;DR) to Get Node.js Installed using nvm

Here is the abbreviated guide, highlighting the major steps:

  • Download the nvm install script via cURL:curl -o- | bash
  • Ensure that nvm was installed correctly with nvm --version, which should return the version of nvm that is installed.
  • Install the version of Node.js you want
  • Install the latest version with nvm install node
  • Use the latest version with nvm use node
  • Install the latest LTS version with nvm install --lts
  • Use the latest LTS version with nvm use --lts

Step 1 (Optional): Ensure your system has the appropriate C++ compiler

In some cases, like when installing Node.js releases from their source or installing versions of Node.js before 0.8.6 (when the project started shipping binaries), you will need to ensure that your system has the appropriate C++ build tools.

For LTS and modern releases, you will not need this step. That said, it’s a nice to have to ensure that the majority of requirements are met in any scenario.

On macOS, you have two options for a C++ compiler: the full XCode application or the stand-alone Command Line Tools portion of Xcode.

To get these on macOS, you can follow these steps:

  • Open your terminal of choice
  • Run xcode-select --install as a command
  • A popup will appear
  • Select Install
  • Allow the download to run to completion
  • If the installation went uninterrupted, you should have the necessary tools to use nvm!

On Linux, the C++ compiler will vary from distribution to distribution. For example, on Debian and Ubuntu, you will need to install build-tools and libssl-dev, but this may be different on your given Linux distribution.

To get build-tools and libssl-dev on Debian and Ubuntu distributions, you can run these commands:

sudo apt-get install build-essential # Install the build-essential package - let this run to completionsudo apt-get install libssl-dev # Install the libssl-dev package - also let this one run to completion

Step 2: Download nvm with the install script

Once you have the right C++ compiler for your system, it is now time to run the nvm install script. These are the single-step install scripts for both macOS and Linux. You have the option of cURL or Wget but both achieve the same result.

Note: If your Linux system doesn’t have either cURL or Wget, you can run sudo apt-get install curl and use the cURL method.

Running the Install Script with cURL:

To install nvm with the cURL method, run the following command in your terminal:

curl -o- | bash

Using the Install Script with Wget:

To install nvm with the Wget method, run the following command in your terminal:

wget -qO- | bash

Install nvm with Homebrew

You can install nvm with Homebrew with the script:

brew update
brew install nvm

If you already have Node.js installed, uninstall it and then you can install nvm.

brew uninstall --ignore-dependencies node
brew uninstall --force node

For more details visit: Install NVM On Mac With Brew

Step 3: Verify that nvm was Properly installed

After running the install script from Step 2, nvm should be successfully installed. To ensure that nvm is up and running on your machine, you can test it with the following command:

nvm --version

This command will return something like (though not necessarily exactly) the following:

nvm --version # The command we ran - it checks the currently installed version of nvm
0.33.0 # The current version of nvm - yours may differ!

Missing the nvm command after running the install script?

If you are using macOS, you may be missing a .bash_profile file to troubleshoot this, you can run touch ~/.bash_profile in your command line and re-run the install script.

If the problem persists after that, you can open the existing .bash_profile file (using your favorite text editor) and add the following line to it:

source ~/.bashrc

If you are still having issues, you can take a peek at this issue to find a discussion of the problem and a collection of possible resolutions.

Step 3: Using nvm to manage Node.js

Congratulations! You can now use nvm - a tool to easily allow you to manage and swap out the versions of Node.js you have installed locally. Now, let's get you started with doing just that.

Install the latest Node.js version

To install the latest available version of Node.js, you can use the following command:

nvm install node

Next, to use that version of Node.js in any new shell, you can simply run the use command:

nvm use node

Install the latest Node.js LTS version

To install the latest available LTS version of Node.js, you can run the following command:

nvm install --lts

And to use that latest LTS version of Node.js in any new shell, you can simply run the use command:

nvm use --lts

Use nvm with NSolid

The first step is to install NSolid. You should install the runtime as described in the documentation here:

After this process, NSolid will be your default Node version. To install NSolid, It’s important to take into account that there should not be any other Node.js version installed already.

Then, install nvm as mentioned in Step 2 and you can use the same nvm commands as regular. nvm doesn’t update NSolid versions, to update NSolid, follow the instructions here.

You should be able to see all versions already installed and NSolid will show up as system, to use it just execute:

nvm use system

Step 6: Go build applications, APIs, tools, and more with Node.js!

Now that you have a fantastic version manager for Node.js. It’s time to start building!

One Last Thing…

We have some resources to get you kickstarted! Both the breadth and depth of the Node.js and the JavaScript ecosystems are quite large — in addition to the developer tools like NodeSource NSolid, NodeSource as a number of tutorials, guides, and articles to help you get kick-started with Node.js.

That said, if you want to keep in touch with the Node.js ecosystem, you should follow @NodeSource on Twitter! We will keep you updated with important news from the core Node.js project and more.




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