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Emanuele Bartolesi
Emanuele Bartolesi

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Install Node Version Manager (NVM) without Admin Rights

NVM (Node Version Manager) is the best way to run multiple versions of NodeJS on the same machine.
It's not only for Windows but in this post I will talk about my experience to install NVM on a Windows machine without Admin Rights.
Why? Because at work I have a very restricted access to the operative system and on what can I do on my PC.

Download NVM for Windows

NVM for Windows is an opensource project mantained by the community to install and manage multiple versions of NodeJS on Windows.
You can find the latest releases at this link.
At the moment, the latest version is 1.1.9.
For this special case you can download the file
Extract the zip file into your favorite folder for this kind of tool.
On my machine I have a main folder called "tools" on my root with other tools as well, like ngrok or screentogif.
For instance, you can extract the files into the folder c:\tools\nvm.

Add the environment variables

From the System Properties of your machine, click on the button "Environment Variables".

Environment Variables

Add two environment variables, the first one, called NVM_HOME and this is the patch of NVM. In our case is c:\tools\nvm.
The other variable is called NVM_SYMLINK and it must be a directory should not exists, like c:\tools\nvm\nodejs.

Environment Variables

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Now you can update the Patch value with the two new values: %NVM_HOME%;%NVM_SYMLINK%

Path values

If you want you can create a file called "settings.txt" in the nvm directory and it uses that file like User Environment Variables.
It prevents to restart the machine but it's not mandatory.
The example below is the content of my settings.txt file.
As you can see contains the same parameters values of the environment variables.

root: C:\tools\nvm 
path: C:\tools\nvm\nodejs
arch: 64 
proxy: none
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Launch NVM

Now you are ready to launch and use NVM on your machine.
Open your favorite terminal application and type "nvm".
If everything is configured well, you should see a screen like this one below.

nvm up & running

Top comments (13)

nedvargar profile image

This worked for me. Thank you! One additional step I needed was to add my Dev group to the Create Symbolic Links local policy. Found here: Computer Configuration -> Windows Settings -> Security Settings -> Local Policies -> User Rights Assignment -> Create Symbolic Links

Without this, the version switch wouldn't work. I configured it in a domain GPO

jdanl89 profile image

nvm use will still fail because you do not have admin rights.

To circumvent this, update the NVM_SYMLINK environment variable from C:\tools\nvm\nodejs to C:\tools\nvm\v20.12.2. (I'm using Node v20.12.2, if you're using a different version, then the folder name will be different.) (You will need to close and reopen the command prompt after changing the env var.)

Further details:
The nvm use command basically just changes the NVM_SYMLINK env var to the name of the folder containing the desired version of Node. It is trying to change the system-level env var, but if you're following this article, you created it as a user-level env var. nvm isn't smart enough to know that.

sidharthsreekumar profile image
Sidharth Sreekumar

I have tried but for it to fully work, I think we need admin rights. After following the steps nvm command works but fails when I try to install node by using nvm install latest. I am getting the following error.

C:\dev-tools\nvm could not be found or does not exist. Exiting.
Downloading node.js version 16.15.1 (64-bit)...
Error while creating C:\dev-tools\nvm\v16.15.1\ - open C:\dev-tools\nvm\v16.15.1\ The system cannot find the path specified.
Could not download node.js v16.15.1 64-bit executable.

Is this something you have also come across?

kasuken profile image
Emanuele Bartolesi

Did you try to remove the - symbol in the folder name?

sidharthsreekumar profile image
Sidharth Sreekumar

I haven't yet. Will try and let you know. Thanks for the suggestion.

Thread Thread
kaushik_ganguly_389c8fc30 profile image
Kaushik Ganguly

Have you got the fix

bestmed profile image

Thanks, working perfect here ;)
I guess we all know you are referecing "Path" variable and not "Patch" in here :

Now you can update the Patch value with the two new values: %NVM_HOME%;%NVM_SYMLINK%

geertclaes- profile image
Geert • Edited

Managed to get temp admin to add System Properties. npm install lts and latest worked fine too. However, why do I need admin right when setting the current node version? nvm use ... requires admin login?

njalbuero profile image
Nhielsan Albuero

Doesn't work for me, first off I can't edit system environment variables without admin rights.

discodan profile image
Disco Dan Silva

I get the following error when I try nvm use 6.11.0:
exit status 1: You do not have sufficient privilege to perform this operation.

andrewbaisden profile image
Andrew Baisden

Nice tutorial I use it on macOS. So much better for doing development because you can switch versions on the fly.

kasuken profile image
Emanuele Bartolesi

in Windows as well... if you have a "normal" account.

revalenza profile image
Robert Valenzuela

this wont work because symlink require admin rights to work