How I manage multiple Node.js versions

Node.js is a lightweight Javascript runtime. It follows the Semantic Versioning scheme so every major release has multiple API breaking changes. We change our Node.js version to make a certain app work or to upgrade to the latest version.

After evaluating different popular options including NVM, Ubuntu Repos, Ubuntu PPAs, OSX Homebrew and OSX Macports I experienced a lot of issues with them including

  1. They are OS specific
  2. You cannot install specific Node.js versions
  3. They can cause conflicts when more than one users try to run different versions of same global modules
  4. You have to use sudo when installing global modules or linking local ones (except for homebrew)

I am a security conscious person, I would do anything to avoid using that sudo before installing modules from people I don’t even know. If you don’t share the same fear, read this Package install scripts vulnerability post by npm and you will.

How I do it

I use the n Node.js version manager by TJ Holowaychuk. Here’s it’s pros and cons in comparison

Things awesome about n

  1. Zero overhead (unlike NVM)
  2. Works on any POSIX environment
  3. Never asks for or requires sudo
  4. Can download any Node.js version
  5. Installs modules in ~/n so they are isolated per user

Possible downsides of n

  1. Too easy if you are a real programmer 😁

How you can too

There’s two different ways to install Node.js, the easy way is when you already have Node.js installed. The hard way assumes nothing!

The easy way

The easy way makes use of npm global scripts and is pretty simple.

npm install -g n

The hard way

The hard way makes use of n-install. It installs Node.js in your ~/n directory and does not uninstall or remove any previous versions. The first thing you should do is uninstall any installed version of Node.js.

You can skip the removal steps if you do not have Node.js installed already.

# If you use ubuntu
sudo apt-get remove --purge nodejs
# If you use homebrew
brew uninstall node
# If yu use macports
sudo port uninstall nodejs
# If you use nvm
xdg-open $LINK || open $LINK

Then to make sure, garbage collect the global node_modules directory

sudo rm -rf /usr/local/lib/node_modules
sudo rm -rf /usr/lib/node_modules

Now run the magical n-install script and it’ll set it up for you

curl -L -o /tmp/n-install-script
bash /tmp/n-install-script -y
exec $SHELL # To re-initialize the PATH variable

That’s it fellaws, now you have an isolated, working Node.js setup.

Basic Usage

n is a bash script so it’s lightweight/minimal but still includes all the necessary features.

To upgrade to the latest version of Node.js do

n latest

or to install the lts version do

n lts

or say you want to download Node.js v4.4.1 do

n 4.4.1

If you want to access the list of installed versions and select between them, do


You can find more about n in it’s README.

Note: When switching between shells, remember to also include the line inserted by n-install in your ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc into your new shell configuration.

That’s all for now folks, happy coding!