Install a package


npm install (with no args, in package dir)
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<tag>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<version>
npm install [<@scope>/]<name>@<version range>
npm install <git-host>:<git-user>/<repo-name>
npm install <git repo url>
npm install <tarball file>
npm install <tarball url>
npm install <folder>

alias: npm i
common options: [-P|--save-prod|-D|--save-dev|-O|--save-optional] [-E|--save-exact] [-B|--save-bundle] [--no-save] [--dry-run]


This command installs a package, and any packages that it depends on. If the package has a package-lock or shrinkwrap file, the installation of dependencies will be driven by that, with an npm-shrinkwrap.json taking precedence if both files exist. See package-lock.json and npm-shrinkwrap.

A package is:

Even if you never publish your package, you can still get a lot of benefits of using npm if you just want to write a node program (a), and perhaps if you also want to be able to easily install it elsewhere after packing it up into a tarball (b).

You may combine multiple arguments, and even multiple types of arguments. For example:

npm install sax@">=0.1.0 <0.2.0" bench supervisor

The --tag argument will apply to all of the specified install targets. If a tag with the given name exists, the tagged version is preferred over newer versions.

The --dry-run argument will report in the usual way what the install would have done without actually installing anything.

The -f or --force argument will force npm to fetch remote resources even if a local copy exists on disk.

npm install sax --force

The -g or --global argument will cause npm to install the package globally rather than locally. See npm-folders.

The --global-style argument will cause npm to install the package into your local node_modules folder with the same layout it uses with the global node_modules folder. Only your direct dependencies will show in node_modules and everything they depend on will be flattened in their node_modules folders. This obviously will eliminate some deduping.

The --ignore-scripts argument will cause npm to not execute any scripts defined in the package.json. See npm-scripts.

The --legacy-bundling argument will cause npm to install the package such that versions of npm prior to 1.4, such as the one included with node 0.8, can install the package. This eliminates all automatic deduping.

The --link argument will cause npm to link global installs into the local space in some cases.

The --no-bin-links argument will prevent npm from creating symlinks for any binaries the package might contain.

The --no-optional argument will prevent optional dependencies from being installed.

The --no-shrinkwrap argument, which will ignore an available package lock or shrinkwrap file and use the package.json instead.

The --no-package-lock argument will prevent npm from creating a package-lock.json file.

The --nodedir=/path/to/node/source argument will allow npm to find the node source code so that npm can compile native modules.

The --only={prod[uction]|dev[elopment]} argument will cause either only devDependencies or only non-devDependencies to be installed regardless of the NODE_ENV.

See npm-config. Many of the configuration params have some effect on installation, since that's most of what npm does.


To install a package, npm uses the following algorithm:

load the existing node_modules tree from disk
clone the tree
fetch the package.json and assorted metadata and add it to the clone
walk the clone and add any missing dependencies
  dependencies will be added as close to the top as is possible
  without breaking any other modules
compare the original tree with the cloned tree and make a list of
actions to take to convert one to the other
execute all of the actions, deepest first
  kinds of actions are install, update, remove and move

For this package{dep} structure: A{B,C}, B{C}, C{D}, this algorithm produces:

+-- B
+-- C
+-- D

That is, the dependency from B to C is satisfied by the fact that A already caused C to be installed at a higher level. D is still installed at the top level because nothing conflicts with it.

For A{B,C}, B{C,D@1}, C{D@2}, this algorithm produces:

+-- B
+-- C
   `-- D@2
+-- D@1

Because B's D@1 will be installed in the top level, C now has to install D@2 privately for itself. This algorithm is deterministic, but different trees may be produced if two dependencies are requested for installation in a different order.

See npm-folders for a more detailed description of the specific folder structures that npm creates.

Limitations of npm's Install Algorithm

npm will refuse to install any package with an identical name to the current package. This can be overridden with the --force flag, but in most cases can simply be addressed by changing the local package name.

There are some very rare and pathological edge-cases where a cycle can cause npm to try to install a never-ending tree of packages. Here is the simplest case:

A -> B -> A' -> B' -> A -> B -> A' -> B' -> A -> ...

where A is some version of a package, and A' is a different version of the same package. Because B depends on a different version of A than the one that is already in the tree, it must install a separate copy. The same is true of A', which must install B'. Because B' depends on the original version of A, which has been overridden, the cycle falls into infinite regress.

To avoid this situation, npm flat-out refuses to install any name@version that is already present anywhere in the tree of package folder ancestors. A more correct, but more complex, solution would be to symlink the existing version into the new location. If this ever affects a real use-case, it will be investigated.

See Also

Last modified July 06, 2017           Found a typo? Send a pull request!

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