July 19, 2013


How To Install Node.js with NVM (Node Version Manager) on a VPS

Tagged In: Node.Js


If you already know what Node.js is what it's for and why it's cool, then skip straight to the installation directions. If you want to know a bit more about node and it's ecosystem read on.

For those who haven't heard node.js is, it is the hot new cool kid on the block in web application development. It lets you write web apps that use Javascript on both the server and the client, so you don't need to know multiple programming languages to program your website. It's also really good at handling real-time concurrent web applications, which makes it a great choice for a lot of modern webapps.

The downside though is that all these cool new features are really, really new. As a result, getting up and running with node.js isn't as easy as, say, getting WordPress up and running on your web server.

This is the first in a series of how to install, code in, and use node. Joyent, the team behind node.js, has been improving node.js at a frantic pace, to the point where there are multiple releases of the software every month. For the most part, they've done a pretty good job of keeping things compatible; the things you write for one version of node will work just as well in the next. But nonetheless, sometimes a particular node app will only work with one version of node. And you will need to upgrade or downgrade your node.js install in order to use it.

This used to be a pain, but the node community has come together and created a great solution that lets you easily manage all your node installations and change node versions whenever you feel like it. It's called NVM, or the Node Version Manager.

Installing Node.js on a VPS

The install process couldn't be easier. Once you're logged into your VPS, run this command:
curl https://raw.github.com/creationix/nvm/master/install.sh | sh

You'll see some output fly by, and then nvm will be installed. You will see a line that says:

=> Close and reopen your terminal to start using NVM

It's not actually necessary to log out, we just need to make sure that the changes nvm made to your path are actually reflected, so just do:
source ~/.profile

Alternatively, run the command suggested in the output of the script. Now type:
nvm ls-remote

Should you see the error, -bash: nvm: command not found it may be because git is not installed.

Go ahead and install git and rerun the script:
apt-get install git

And you will be shown a list of all the available versions of node.js. You can always find out the latest stable release by heading to the node.js website, where it's printed in the center of the page. To install version 0.10.13 (the latest as of this writing) type:
nvm install 0.10.13

If you type:
node --version

You will now see that node v0.10.13 is installed and active. If you had an older node app that only works with node v0.8.16, and wanted to downgrade, then you would input:
nvm install v0.8.16
to install and switch to v0.8.16.

When you're done and want to switch back to v0.10.13, you can do so with nvm's use command:
nvm use v0.10.13

Nvm is great and makes switching between node versions easy and convenient. However, there's one caveat. If you type:
which node
you will see something interesting. Nvm installs node.js inside your user's home directory. This is fine for development, but if you want to actually host node applications, you don't want to install the latest new version of node via nvm and discover that you've inadvertently caused your production node app (which can be incompatible with the latest node.js) to stop working. It's best to install one copy of node globally so that other users can access it, and use nvm to switch between your development versions. To do this, run the following command (entering your user's password at the prompt):
n=$(which node);n=${n%/bin/node}; chmod -R 755 $n/bin/*; sudo cp -r $n/{bin,lib,share} /usr/local

The above command is a bit complicated, but all it's doing is copying whatever version of node you have active via nvm into the /usr/local/ directory (where user installed global files should live on a linux VPS) and setting the permissions so that all users can access them.

If you ever want to change the version of node that's installed system wide, just do another nvm use vXX.XX.XX to switch your user's node to the version you want, and then re-run the above command to copy it to the system directory.

To check that it works, become the root user and do another which command to make sure that node is now installed to /usr/local/bin:
sudo -s
which node

You should see:

Congrats! Node.js is now installed and ready for use. Enjoy!

Submitted by: Nik van der Ploeg

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  • Gravatar askmore 9 months

    Great article. Straightforward instructions.

  • Gravatar erelsgl 7 months

    Great, thanks! The only line that didn't work for me is "source ~/.bash_profile". I (on Ubuntu 12.04) had to do "source ~/.bashrc" and "source ~/.profile" .

  • Gravatar Kamal Nasser 7 months

    @erelsgl: Thanks, I've updated the article. It should be .profile.

  • Gravatar erelsgl 7 months

    Another problem I just encountered is that, after reboot, the node version goes back to the previous one (see also this SO post: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/9170713/node-js-version-goes-back-to-0-4-form-0-6-on-reboot-nvm ). To solve this, I had to add the line "nvm use xxx" to my .profile script.

  • Gravatar Joshua Stoutenburg 7 months

    @erelsgl You could also do `nvm alias default XX.XX.XX`

  • Gravatar yuvalkn1 6 months

    From what I see, .profile starts nvm and that will set the $PATH correctly. I have found that when using non-login shell (for example an SSH terminal), the .profile does not get sourced. I found some info about how to deal with it: 1) http://superuser.com/questions/176404/bash-not-loading-profile-in-new-session-on-linux 2) http://superuser.com/questions/183870/difference-between-bashrc-and-bash-profile/183980#183980 I ended up moving: [ -s $HOME/.nvm/nvm.sh ] && . $HOME/.nvm/nvm.sh # This loads NVM from .profile to .bashrc

  • Gravatar erelsgl 6 months

    In order to select the correct path anytime the server restarts, with or without console, I had to put it in a "@reboot" record in the root crontab: @reboot PATH=/root/.nvm/v0.10.18/bin:$PATH

  • Gravatar me 4 months

    Another way to solve this is to use nvm-global: https://github.com/xtuple/nvm

  • Gravatar Tony Pujals 3 months

    Great article, nice and clear -- thanks!

  • Gravatar scott about 1 month

    This tutorial didn't work on the LAMP droplet, it asked me to install git first (the tutorial says you can do it later). So I tried installing git and THAT didn't work Here are the required steps that work for the LAMP stack image: apt-get install git-core (which fails) apt-get update (which works) apt-get install git-core (which now works) curl https://raw.github.com/creationix/nvm/master/install.sh | sh (which now works) n=$(which node);n=${n%/bin/node}; chmod -R 755 $n/bin/*; sudo cp -r $n/{bin,lib,share} /usr/local (which fails) cd ~ cp -r .nvm/v0.10.13/bin/node /usr/local (which works) I very much appreciate the effort Digital Ocean is making in these tutorials, but they are either not configuring some of their droplet images properly or these instruction don't work across all versions of unix. This tutorial was marked 'beginner' and obviously, it was far from that.

  • Gravatar nooitaf about 1 month

    @scott it didn't say ubuntu or did he mention a droplet. If you would have used Arch or Fedora there wouldn't even be an apt-get, also explaining for every distro doesn't make a lot of sense and would just clutter the tutorial. Updating repos and installing apps should count before beginner level, as its the first thing you learn. Also Updating repos should be the first thing to do on any distro anyway as you can't expect DO to do daily updates of their droplets. But i agree that if you need git for the first command, it should say so in the beginning, but the 'copy' command of yours in not a good solution, as its explicit for one node version and not the one you are using right now. But maybe it should mention to move yourself to you home folder (cd ~) before executing.

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