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pyenv lets you easily switch between multiple versions of Python. It's simple, unobtrusive, and follows the UNIX tradition of single-purpose tools that do one thing well.

This project was forked from rbenv and ruby-build, and modified for Python.

Terminal output example

pyenv does...

  • Let you change the global Python version on a per-user basis.
  • Provide support for per-project Python versions.
  • Allow you to override the Python version with an environment variable.
  • Search commands from multiple versions of Python at a time. This may be helpful to test across Python versions with tox.

In contrast with pythonbrew and pythonz, pyenv does not...

  • Depend on Python itself. pyenv was made from pure shell scripts. There is no bootstrap problem of Python.
  • Need to be loaded into your shell. Instead, pyenv's shim approach works by adding a directory to your
  • Manage virtualenv. Of course, you can create virtualenv yourself, or pyenv-virtualenv to automate the process.

Table of Contents

How It Works

At a high level, pyenv intercepts Python commands using shim executables injected into your

, determines which Python version has been specified by your application, and passes your commands along to the correct Python installation.

Understanding PATH

When you run a command like

, your operating system searches through a list of directories to find an executable file with that name. This list of directories lives in an environment variable called
, with each directory in the list separated by a colon:

Directories in

are searched from left to right, so a matching executable in a directory at the beginning of the list takes precedence over another one at the end. In this example, the
directory will be searched first, then
, then

Understanding Shims

pyenv works by inserting a directory of shims at the front of your

$(pyenv root)/shims:/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin

Through a process called rehashing, pyenv maintains shims in that directory to match every Python command across every installed version of Python—

, and so on.

Shims are lightweight executables that simply pass your command along to pyenv. So with pyenv installed, when you run, say,

, your operating system will do the following:
  • Search your
    for an executable file named
  • Find the pyenv shim named
    at the beginning of your
  • Run the shim named
    , which in turn passes the command along to pyenv

Choosing the Python Version

When you execute a shim, pyenv determines which Python version to use by reading it from the following sources, in this order:

  1. The

    environment variable (if specified). You can use the
    pyenv shell
    command to set this environment variable in your current shell session.
  2. The application-specific

    file in the current directory (if present). You can modify the current directory's
    file with the
    pyenv local
  3. The first

    file found (if any) by searching each parent directory, until reaching the root of your filesystem.
  4. The global

    $(pyenv root)/version
    file. You can modify this file using the
    pyenv global
    command. If the global version file is not present, pyenv assumes you want to use the "system" Python. (In other words, whatever version would run if pyenv weren't in your

NOTE: You can activate multiple versions at the same time, including multiple versions of Python2 or Python3 simultaneously. This allows for parallel usage of Python2 and Python3, and is required with tools like

. For example, to set your path to first use your
Python and Python3 (set to 2.7.9 and 3.4.2 in this example), but also have Python 3.3.6, 3.2, and 2.5 available on your
, one would first
pyenv install
the missing versions, then set
global system 3.3.6 3.2 2.5
. At this point, one should be able to find the full executable path to each of these using
pyenv which
, e.g.
pyenv which python2.5
(should display
$(pyenv root)/versions/2.5/bin/python2.5
), or
pyenv which
(should display path to system Python3). You can also specify multiple versions in a
file, separated by newlines. Lines starting with a
are ignored.

Locating the Python Installation

Once pyenv has determined which version of Python your application has specified, it passes the command along to the corresponding Python installation.

Each Python version is installed into its own directory under

$(pyenv root)/versions

For example, you might have these versions installed:

  • $(pyenv root)/versions/2.7.8/
  • $(pyenv root)/versions/3.4.2/
  • $(pyenv root)/versions/pypy-2.4.0/

As far as Pyenv is concerned, version names are simply directories under

$(pyenv root)/versions

Managing Virtual Environments

There is a pyenv plugin named pyenv-virtualenv which comes with various features to help pyenv users to manage virtual environments created by virtualenv or Anaconda. Because the

script of those virtual environments are relying on mutating
variable of user's interactive shell, it will intercept pyenv's shim style command execution hooks. We'd recommend to install pyenv-virtualenv as well if you have some plan to play with those virtual environments.



For pyenv to install python correctly you should install the Python build dependencies.

Homebrew on macOS

  1. Consider installing with Homebrew:
      brew update
      brew install pyenv
  2. Then follow the rest of the post-installation steps under Basic GitHub Checkout, starting with #2 ("Configure your shell's environment for Pyenv").

If you're on Windows, consider using @kirankotari's

fork. (Pyenv does not work in Windows outside the Windows Subsystem for Linux.)

The automatic installer

Visit our other project:

Basic GitHub Checkout

This will get you going with the latest version of Pyenv and make it easy to fork and contribute any changes back upstream.

  1. Check out Pyenv where you want it installed. A good place to choose is

    (but you can install it somewhere else):
    git clone ~/.pyenv

Optionally, try to compile a dynamic Bash extension to speed up Pyenv. Don't worry if it fails; Pyenv will still work normally:

    cd ~/.pyenv && src/configure && make -C src
  1. Configure your shell's environment for Pyenv

Note: The below instructions for specific shells are designed for common shell setups.
If you have an uncommon setup and they don't work for you, use the guidance text and the Advanced Configuration section below to figure out what you need to do in your specific case.

  1. Adjust the session-wide environment for your account. Define the

    environment variable to point to the path where you cloned the Pyenv repo, add the
    command-line utility to your
    , run the output of
    pyenv init --path
    to enable shims.

    These commands need to be added into your shell startup files in such a way that they are executed only once per session, by its login shell. This typically means they need to be added into a per-user shell-specific

    file, and into
    , too, so that they are also run by GUI managers (which typically act as a
    login shell).

    MacOS note: If you installed Pyenv with Homebrew, you don't need to add the

    lines. You also don't need to add commands into
    if your shell doesn't use it.
  - For **bash**:

 ~~~ bash
 echo 'export PYENV_ROOT="$HOME/.pyenv"' >> ~/.profile
 echo 'export PATH="$PYENV_ROOT/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.profile
 echo 'eval "$(pyenv init --path)"' >> ~/.profile

 - **If your `~/.profile` sources `~/.bashrc` (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint):**

    Put these lines into `~/.profile` _before_ the part that sources `~/.bashrc`:
    export PYENV_ROOT="$HOME/.pyenv"
    export PATH="$PYENV_ROOT/bin:$PATH"
    eval "$(pyenv init --path)"

    <!--This is an alternative option and needn't be replicated to `pyenv init`-->
    Alternatively, for an automated installation, you can run the following:
    ~~~ bash
    echo -e 'if shopt -q login_shell; then' \
          '\n  export PYENV_ROOT="$HOME/.pyenv"' \
          '\n  export PATH="$PYENV_ROOT/bin:$PATH"' \
          '\n eval "$(pyenv init --path)"' \
          '\nfi' &gt;&gt; ~/.bashrc
    echo -e 'if [ -z "$BASH_VERSION" ]; then'\
          '\n  export PYENV_ROOT="$HOME/.pyenv"'\
          '\n  export PATH="$PYENV_ROOT/bin:$PATH"'\
          '\n  eval "$(pyenv init --path)"'\
          '\nfi' &gt;&gt;~/.profile

 **Note:** If you have `~/.bash_profile`, make sure that it too executes the above-added commands,
 e.g. by copying them there or by `source`'ing `~/.profile`.
  • For Zsh:

    Same as for Bash above, but add the commands into both ~/.profile and ~/.zprofile.

  • For Fish shell:

    Execute this interactively:

    set -Ux PYENV_ROOT $HOME/.pyenv
    set -U fish_user_paths $PYENV_ROOT/bin $fish_user_paths

    And add this to ~/.config/fish/

    status is-login; and pyenv init --path | source

    If Fish is not your login shell, also follow the Bash/Zsh instructions to add to ~/.profile.

Proxy note: If you use a proxy, export http_proxy and https_proxy, too.

  1. Add

    into your shell by running the output of

    pyenv init -
    to enable autocompletion and all subcommands.

    This command needs to run at startup of any interactive shell instance. In an interactive login shell, it needs to run after the commands from the previous step.

  - For **bash**:
    ~~~ bash
    echo 'eval "$(pyenv init -)"' >> ~/.bashrc

- **If your `/etc/profile` sources `~/.bashrc` (SUSE):**

  echo 'if command -v pyenv &gt;/dev/null; then eval "$(pyenv init -)"; done' &gt;&gt; ~/.bashrc 
  • For Zsh:

    echo 'eval "$(pyenv init -)"' &gt;&gt; ~/.zshrc
  • For Fish shell: Add this to ~/.config/fish/

    pyenv init - | source

General warning: There are some systems where the BASH_ENV variable is configured to point to .bashrc. On such systems you should almost certainly put the above-mentioned line eval "$(pyenv init -)" into .bash_profile, and not into .bashrc. Otherwise you may observe strange behaviour, such as pyenv getting into an infinite loop. See #264 for details.

  1. Restart your login session for the changes to take effect. E.g. if you're in a GUI session, you need to fully log out and log back in.

In MacOS, restarting terminal windows is enough (because MacOS runs shells in them as login shells by default).

  1. Install Python build dependencies before attempting to install a new Python version.

  2. Install Python versions into

    $(pyenv root)/versions
    . For example, to download and install Python 2.7.8, run:

    pyenv install 2.7.8
    NOTE: If you need to pass a
    option to a build, please use the
    environment variable.

NOTE: If you want to use proxy to download, please set the

environment variables.

NOTE: If you are having trouble installing a Python version, please visit the wiki page about Common Build Problems.


If you've installed Pyenv using Homebrew, upgrade using:

brew upgrade pyenv

If you've installed Pyenv using the instructions above, you can upgrade your installation at any time using Git.

To upgrade to the latest development version of pyenv, use

git pull
cd $(pyenv root)
git pull

To upgrade to a specific release of Pyenv, check out the corresponding tag:

cd $(pyenv root)
git fetch
git tag
git checkout v0.1.0

Uninstalling pyenv

The simplicity of pyenv makes it easy to temporarily disable it, or uninstall from the system.

  1. To disable Pyenv managing your Python versions, simply remove the
    pyenv init
    invocations from your shell startup configuration. This will remove Pyenv shims directory from
    , and future invocations like
    will execute the system Python version, as it was before Pyenv.

will still be accessible on the command line, but your Python apps won't be affected by version switching.
  1. To completely uninstall Pyenv, remove all configuration lines for it from your shell startup configuration, and then remove its root directory. This will delete all Python versions that were installed under
    $(pyenv root)/versions/
   rm -rf $(pyenv root)

If you've installed Pyenv using a package manager, as a final step, perform the Pyenv package removal. For instance, for Homebrew:

   brew uninstall pyenv

Advanced Configuration

Skip this section unless you must know what every line in your shell profile is doing.

pyenv init
is the only command that crosses the line of loading extra commands into your shell. Coming from RVM, some of you might be opposed to this idea. Here's what
pyenv init
actually does. Step 1 is done by
eval "$(pyenv init --path)"
, the others are done by
eval "$(pyenv init -)"
  1. Sets up your shims path. This is the only requirement for pyenv to function properly. You can do this by hand by prepending

    $(pyenv root)/shims
    to your
  2. Installs autocompletion. This is entirely optional but pretty useful. Sourcing

    $(pyenv root)/completions/pyenv.bash
    will set that up. There is also a
    $(pyenv root)/completions/pyenv.zsh
    for Zsh users.
  3. Rehashes shims. From time to time you'll need to rebuild your shim files. Doing this on init makes sure everything is up to date. You can always run

    pyenv rehash
  4. Installs the sh dispatcher. This bit is also optional, but allows pyenv and plugins to change variables in your current shell, making commands like

    pyenv shell
    possible. The sh dispatcher doesn't do anything crazy like override
    or hack your shell prompt, but if for some reason you need
    to be a real script rather than a shell function, you can safely skip it.

To see exactly what happens under the hood for yourself, run

pyenv init -
pyenv init --path

If you don't want to use

pyenv init
and shims, you can still benefit from pyenv's ability to install Python versions for you. Just run
pyenv install
and you will find versions installed in
$(pyenv root)/versions
, which you can manually execute or symlink as required.

Uninstalling Python Versions

As time goes on, you will accumulate Python versions in your

$(pyenv root)/versions

To remove old Python versions,

pyenv uninstall
command to automate the removal process.

Alternatively, simply

rm -rf
the directory of the version you want to remove. You can find the directory of a particular Python version with the
pyenv prefix
command, e.g.
pyenv prefix 2.6.8

Command Reference


Environment variables

You can affect how pyenv operates with the following settings:


default description

| | Specifies the Python version to be used.
Also see
pyenv shell
| Defines the directory under which Python versions and shims reside.
Also see
pyenv root
| | Outputs debug information.
Also as:
pyenv --debug 
| see wiki | Colon-separated list of paths searched for pyenv hooks.
| Directory to start searching for
| | Used to pass additional parameters to
If the
binary is available on PATH, pyenv uses
instead of
to download the Python Source code. If you have an unstable internet connection, you can use this variable to instruct
to accelerate the download.
In most cases, you will only need to use
-x 10 -k 1M
as value to
environment variable


The pyenv source code is hosted on GitHub. It's clean, modular, and easy to understand, even if you're not a shell hacker.

Tests are executed using Bats:

bats test

Please feel free to submit pull requests and file bugs on the issue tracker.

Version History



The MIT License

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