In this guide, you’ll learn about three different methods to install Node.js on an Ubuntu 18.04 server.
This guide assumes that you are using Ubuntu 18.04. Before you begin, you should have a non-root user account with
sudo privileges set up on your system. You can learn how to do this by following the initial server setup tutorial for Ubuntu 18.04.
Ubuntu 18.04 contains a version of Node.js in its default repositories that can be used to provide a consistent experience across multiple systems. At the time of writing, the version in the repositories is 8.10.0. This will not be the latest version, but it should be stable and sufficient for quick experimentation with the language.
To get this version, you can use the
apt package manager. Refresh your local package index:
- sudo apt update
Now install Node.js:
- sudo apt install nodejs
Verify you’ve installed Node.js successfully by querying
node for its version number:
- node -v
If the package in the repositories suits your needs, this is all you need to do to get set up with Node.js. In most cases, you’ll also want to install
npm, the Node.js package manager. You can install the
npm package with
- sudo apt install npm
This will allow you to install modules and packages to use with Node.js.
You’ve now successfully installed Node.js and
apt and the default Ubuntu software repositories. However, you may prefer to work with different versions of Node.js, package archives, or version managers. The next steps will discuss these elements, along with more flexible and robust methods of installation.
To install a more recent version of Node.js you can add the PPA (personal package archive) maintained by NodeSource. This will have more up-to-date versions of Node.js than the official Ubuntu repositories and will allow you to choose between several available versions of the platform.
First, install the PPA in order to get access to its contents. From your home directory, use
curl to retrieve the installation script for your preferred version, making sure to replace
17.x with your preferred version string (if different):
- cd ~
- curl -sL https://deb.nodesource.com/setup_17.x -o /tmp/nodesource_setup.sh
You can refer to the NodeSource documentation for more information on currently available versions.
If you’d like, you can inspect the contents of this script with
nano (or your preferred text editor):
- nano /tmp/nodesource_setup.sh
Once you’re satisfied the script is safe to run, exit the text editor. If you used
nano, you can exit by pressing
CTRL + X. Next, run the script with
- sudo bash /tmp/nodesource_setup.sh
The PPA will be added to your configuration and your local package cache will be updated automatically. Now you can install the Node.js package as you did in the previous section:
- sudo apt install nodejs
Verify you’ve installed the new version by running
node with the
- node -v
Unlike the one in the default Ubuntu package repositories, this
nodejs package contains both
npm, so you don’t need to install
npm uses a configuration file in your home directory to keep track of updates. It will be created the first time you run
npm. Run the following command to verify that
npm is installed and to create the configuration file:
- npm -v
In order for some
npm packages to work (those that require compiling code from source, for example), you need to install the
- sudo apt install build-essential
Now you have the necessary tools to work with
npm packages that require compiling code from source.
In this section, you successfully installed Node.js and
apt and the NodeSource PPA. Next, you’ll use the Node Version Manager to install and manage multiple versions of Node.js.
An alternative for installing Node.js is to use a tool called
nvm, the Node Version Manager (NVM). Rather than working at the operating system level,
nvm works at the level of an independent directory within your home directory. This means that you can install multiple self-contained versions of Node.js without affecting the entire system.
Controlling your environment with
nvm allows you to access the newest versions of Node.js and retain and manage previous releases. It is a different utility from
apt, however, and the versions of Node.js that you manage with it are distinct from the versions you manage with
To install NVM on your Ubuntu 18.04 machine, visit the project’s GitHub page. Copy the
curl command from the README file that displays on the main page to get the most recent version of the installation script.
Before piping the command through to
bash, it is always a good idea to audit the script to make sure it isn’t doing anything you don’t agree with. You can do that by removing the
| bash segment at the end of the
- curl -o- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.39.1/install.sh
Review the output and make sure you are comfortable with the changes it is making. Once you’re satisfied, run the same command with
| bash appended at the end. The URL you use will change depending on the latest version of NVM, but as of right now, the script can be downloaded and executed by running the following:
- curl -o- https://raw.githubusercontent.com/nvm-sh/nvm/v0.39.1/install.sh | bash
This installs the
nvm script to your user account. In order to use it, first source the
- source ~/.bashrc
nvm installed, you can install isolated Node.js versions. First, ask
nvm what versions of Node are available:
- nvm ls-remote
Output... v14.18.2 (Latest LTS: Fermium) v15.0.0 v15.0.1 v15.1.0 v15.2.0 v15.2.1 v15.3.0 v15.4.0 v15.5.0 v15.5.1 v15.6.0 v15.7.0 v15.8.0 v15.9.0 v15.10.0 v15.11.0 v15.12.0 v15.13.0 v15.14.0 v16.0.0 v16.1.0 v16.2.0 v16.3.0 v16.4.0 v16.4.1 v16.4.2 v16.5.0 v16.6.0 v16.6.1 v16.6.2 v16.7.0 v16.8.0 v16.9.0 v16.9.1 v16.10.0 v16.11.0 v16.11.1 v16.12.0 v16.13.0 (LTS: Gallium) v16.13.1 (Latest LTS: Gallium) v17.0.0 v17.0.1 v17.1.0 v17.2.0 v17.3.0
It’s a very long list, but you can install a version of Node by inputting any of the released versions listed. For example, to get version v16.13.1, run the following:
- nvm install v16.13.1
OutputNow using node v16.13.1 (npm v8.1.2)
nvm will switch to use the most recently installed version. But you can tell
nvm to use the version you just downloaded (if different):
- nvm use v16.13.1
Check the version currently being used by running the following:
- node -v
If you have multiple Node versions installed, you can run
ls to get a list of them:
- nvm ls
Output-> v16.13.1 system default -> v16.13.1 iojs -> N/A (default) unstable -> N/A (default) node -> stable (-> v16.13.1) (default) stable -> 16.13 (-> v16.13.1) (default) lts/* -> lts/gallium (-> v16.13.1) lts/argon -> v4.9.1 (-> N/A) lts/boron -> v6.17.1 (-> N/A) lts/carbon -> v8.17.0 (-> N/A) lts/dubnium -> v10.24.1 (-> N/A) lts/erbium -> v12.22.8 (-> N/A) lts/fermium -> v14.18.2 (-> N/A) lts/gallium -> v16.13.1
You can also default to one of the versions:
- nvm alias default 16.13.1
Outputdefault -> 16.13.1 (-> v16.13.1)
This version will be automatically selected when a new session spawns. You can also reference it by the alias like in the following command:
- nvm use default
OutputNow using node v16.13.1 (npm v8.1.2)
Each version of Node will keep track of its own packages and has
npm available to manage these.
You can also have
npm install packages to the Node.js project’s
./node_modules directory. Use the following syntax to install the
- npm install express
Outputadded 50 packages, and audited 51 packages in 4s 2 packages are looking for funding run `npm fund` for details found 0 vulnerabilities npm notice npm notice New minor version of npm available! 8.1.2 -> 8.3.0 npm notice Changelog: https://github.com/npm/cli/releases/tag/v8.3.0 npm notice Run npm install -g [email protected] to update! npm notice
If you’d like to install the module globally, making it available to other projects using the same version of Node.js, you can add the
- npm install -g express
Outputadded 50 packages, and audited 51 packages in 1s 2 packages are looking for funding run `npm fund` for details found 0 vulnerabilities
This will install the package in:
Installing the module globally will let you run commands from the command line, but you’ll have to link the package into your local sphere to require it from within a program:
- npm link express
You can learn more about the options available to you with
nvm by running the following:
- nvm help
You’ve successfully installed Node by using the Node Version Manager,
nvm, to install and manage various versions of Node.
You can uninstall Node.js using
nvm, depending on the version you want to target. To remove the default repository version, you will use
apt at the system level. This command removes the package and retains the configuration files. This is useful if you plan to install the package again in the future:
- sudo apt remove nodejs
If you don’t want to save the configuration files for later use, then run the following command to uninstall the package and remove the configuration files associated with it:
sudo apt purge nodejs
As a final step, you can remove any unused packages that were automatically installed with the removed package:
- sudo apt autoremove
To uninstall a version of Node.js that you have enabled using
nvm, first determine whether or not the version you would like to remove is the current active version:
- nvm current
If the version you are targeting is not the current active version, you can run:
- nvm uninstall node_version
OutputUninstalled node node_version
This command will uninstall the selected version of Node.js.
If the version you would like to remove is the current active version, you must first deactivate
nvm to enable your changes:
- nvm deactivate
Now you can uninstall the current version using the
uninstall command used previously. This removes all files associated with the targeted version of Node.js except the cached files that can be used for reinstallment.
There are quite a few ways to get up and running with Node.js on your Ubuntu 18.04 server. Your circumstances will dictate which of the methods is best for your needs. While using the packaged version in Ubuntu’s repository is one method, using
nvm or a NodeSource PPA offers additional flexibility.
For more information on programming with Node.js, please refer to our tutorial series How To Code in Node.js.
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