I'm trying to install a .deb package however it requires several dependencies such as nodejs, nodejs-underscore, but all of those are already installed via nvm and are available.

Is there anyway I can have apt-get recognize packages installed via nvm so that they don't clash? I know that apt-get is system-wide whereas nvm works at local user-space so this might need some hacking.


The simplest approach, whenever possible is to only use either nvm or .deb packages. This will probably save you a lot of headaches in the long run, so look into that first. It seems like nearly anything node-related that is provided by a .deb package could be installed via nvm instead.

If that really isn't possible, however, you may be able to create "dummy" .deb packages using equivs-control and equivs-build to tell apt that you have the dependencies installed. Note that this could potentially confuse apt if you get things wrong. Also, even if you uninstall nvm packages, apt will still think you have the substitutes you've defined in the dummy packages until you uninstall the dummy packages themselves.

First, install "equivs" so we can build the dummy packages:

sudo apt-get install equivs

Create a control file that describes the dummy package:

cd ~
equivs-control nodejs-dummy

Edit this control file:

nano nodejs-dummy

Un-comment and change lines in the control file as desired. In particular set the "Provides:" line to list the packages that you've substituted using nvm. For example:

Package: nodejs-dummy
Version: (version slightly higher than what the apt package actually provides)
Maintainer: Your Name <yourname@example.com>
Provides: nodejs
Architecture: all
Description: Something that will remind you what this does ;)

Build the package:

equivs-build nodejs-dummy

Finally, install it:

sudo dpkg -i nodejs-dummy_use_the_actual_filename.deb

Rinse and repeat for whatever packages you've substituted using nvm. If a package depends on a specific version of another package you've replaced with nvm, you may need to use that exact version number it depends on. I'm not sure what issues might arise from do so, however, and you'll likely need to keep rebuilding your dummy packages whenever the OS packages change versions.

  • 1
    Thanks a lot for the reply! My ranking is low so upvote doesn't count but I did up vote! – Louisgv Aug 9 '16 at 1:52
  • 3
    @Louisgv if this answered your question, consider accepting it. – Boris the Spider Aug 9 '16 at 7:58
  • Didn't know about equivs. This is a great tool, thanks! – brandizzi Aug 9 '16 at 12:48

This is a problem with how nvm distributes software. They simply are not doing any distro specific packaging. To be specific did a quick read of nvm and they are just wget'ing binaries. For instance, here's what it installs for nodejs 6: https://nodejs.org/.../lates.../node-v6.3.1-linux-x64.tar.gz This does not contain any standard .deb or .rpm metadata so until they properly release real packages there is not much any of the distro level package managers can do and they will likely conflict with one another. If I'm understanding the point of nvm releasing proper packages is not something they are interested in exactly because it ties them to supporting distro specific packages. So instead we have the hack that is nvm. Maybe file an issue against their git. This can only be corrected by the nodejs community.

Notably npm and nvm currently seem to not support any concept of code signing(source) so when compared to distro packaging which is well supported in most distro's package managers. This is a fairly insecure approach to installing system packages.


No, you can't as you said already. Apt works at system level, where regular nvm install packages at user level.

You have two options -

  • Either your desired package via nvm and use the other nvm packages already intalled, or

  • install the package using apt-get and install all the dependencies with it.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.