Nodejs and npm setup on WSL

Recently, I’ve been focused on developing a Chrome extension, Skater. This extenion started off as a hackathon project among friends, resulting in a scrappy, messy codebase written in vanilla js. While a lot of fun to develop at the time, revisiting and making changes without a testing framework in place has been a headache. I’ve made the decision to revisit the extension and implement a testing suite with jest. You can follow along with those updates on the jest-implement branch. Being an occasional Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) user, I wanted to get node and npm set up properly, so that I can switch between Mac and PC at will.

Dos and Don’ts


  • Install Node via a Windows installer (if you plan on using it with WSL)
  • Don’t even apt-get install nodejs



If you have used the apt-get command to install nodejs, you might get an error like this for npm:

: not foundram Files/nodejs/npm: 3: /mnt/c/Program Files/nodejs/npm:
: not foundram Files/nodejs/npm: 5: /mnt/c/Program Files/nodejs/npm:
/mnt/c/Program Files/nodejs/npm: 6: /mnt/c/Program Files/nodejs/npm: Syntax error: word unexpected (expecting "in")

This is a known issue, and there’s an entire GitHub thread about it.

As someone who spent way too much time trying to fix this, I encourage you to go the nvm route for setting up a dev environment on WSL.

Written on November 7, 2020