How to install Node.js v12.x on Debian and Ubuntu

Josh Sherman
3 min read
Servers / Serverless Node.js Debian / Ubuntu

Feels like barely a week goes by without a new release from the Node.js team. This past week v12.0.0 was released promising speed improvements. It’s an important release because it’s slated to become the long-term service release in October 2019 with maintenance ending April 2022.

If you’re starting a brand new project today, the v12.x series, codenamed Erbium is absolutely the way to go. Heck, if you’re still on v6.x, Boron, you probably should be considering upgrading since it’s at end of life at the end of the month.

This guide is intended for Debian 8+ and Ubuntu 16.04 LTS+ but should also work just the same on other Debian and Ubuntu-based distributions like Linux Mint and elementary OS. Just for good measure, here’s a list:

And will probably to continue to work on Ubuntu 19.10 (Eoan EANIMAL) and beyond. Just want to put it out there, my money’s on Eoan Emu for the next Ubuntu release.

Getting Started

The following steps will use the curl, so we need to make sure it’s installed. To take it a step further, for folks that may be running these commands inside of a Docker container, you should also run an apt update to make sure everything is up to date and ready to go:

su -c 'apt update && apt install -y curl'

A lot of guides out there leverage the sudo command, which is all well and good, but Debian doesn’t ship with sudo by default. Because of this, I’ve opted to leverage the more readily available su command.

Adding the Node.js repository

To get the repository added for Node.js v12.x, we can download a script available from NodeSource that will setup the repository for us, configure signing keys and even take care of any NodeSource repositories previously installed:

su -c 'curl -sL | bash -'

This will take a few moments to run, be patient.

Updating your packages

This aforementioned script should have already resynchronized your package index files so the new repository’s packages are available and ready to install.

In case the update failed to run, you will need to resolve any issues and then re-run the update:

su -c 'apt update'

Installing or upgrading to Node.js v12.x

Once everything is up to date, you can install Node.js v12.x. If you already have Node.js installed, either via the default repositories or a previous NodeSource repository, this command will also handle upgrading the package:

su -c 'apt install -y nodejs'

Verify the currently installed Node.js version

At this point you should have the latest version of the v12.x series of Node.js installed. But don’t take my word for it, you can check for yourself:

node --version # v12.0.0

Troubleshooting and aftercare

Every once in a while somebody will comment on a post like this mentioning that the latest version didn’t actually install correctly. As I do run these steps locally to verify they all work as expected, I’m fairly confident that folks ran into an issue when apt update was run.

Always be mindful of any error messages that may be output as you run these commands. Just because the steps of this guide don’t work for you, doesn’t mean that the guide itself is the problem. Often times another repository you can configured is the culprit and needs to be resolved because this or any other guide will work.

The Tl;DR is that you should never TL;DR command-line output.

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