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How to fix problems using globally installed npm packages after switching from bash to zsh

If you’ve recently switched to zsh and found that you can no longer use globally installed npm packages here’s the fix.


You need to update your $PATH variable to include the npm bin directory

The problem

You’ve switched to zsh and everything’s going well. You want to install a new package globally for example browserify so you can use it:

npm install -g browserify

installing browserify globally npm

So far so good but now you try to use the package

browserify wont-work.js -o example.js

cannot use global npm package not in path

What’s going on? Why is it not working? The answer is that zsh doesn’t know where to find the recently installed package (or any other globally installed package for that matter). First, let’s find out what the current npm prefix is.

npm prefix -g

This will tell you the current prefix for npm

show npm prefix

Let have a look at the contents of the directory

cd ~/npm-global

list npm global directory

Here you can see the bin directory. This is what needs to be in your $PATH. If you want you can cd into that directory to take a look (it will list any global packages you have installed) but for the sake of not repeating myself, I won’t list that step here.

You can check what is currently in your $PATH variable by using the following command in terminal

echo $PATH

Adding the bin directory to our path

So now we know what we need in our $PATH but how do we add it? First we need to open up our zsh config file.

pico ~/.zshrc

zsh configuration file 1

From here we can add the bin directory to our path add the following to the top (, middle or bottom if you prefer) of the file.

#Add node bin directory to path

export PATH=$HOME/npm-global/lib/node_modules:$PATH

adding npm bin to global path

The first line is just a comment to remind you why the line is in there if you come back to this file in the future. The second is what actually adds the file to your path. The $HOME variable is the location of my home directory and at the end I’ve added everything that’s currently in the $PATH variable seperating it via colon.

now exit pico using CMD+X and saving your changes.

Once again echo $PATH to check the bin directory has been added. You should see the path to your node bin directory at the beginning. Only one more thing to do restart your terminal and you should be good to go.