How to easily upgrade npm packages

TLDR: How to update npm packages?

The simplest way is to install npm-check-updates, run npx ncu, followed by npx ncu -u to update the package.json followed by npm install to update packages in package.lock and node_modules.

Option 1: Classic npm approach

npm comes with the tools to upgrade your packages out of the box. When running npm outdated you can get a list of packages that have available updates:

npm outdated result

We can update individual packages by running npm update {package-name}. Let's try it for the last package on the list:

npm update sass

Now if we run npm outdated again we can (as seen in the image below) that the package was indeed updated. One thing to note is that while package.lock was updated package.json remains untouched.

npm outdated result after sass upgrade

Now we could do the same for all the packages and if you have a production-critical application, you probably want to pay close attention to the packages that you upgrade and the implications that an upgrade could have.

Option 2: npm-check-updates approach

Another option, that I find slightly more convenient, especially for more low-risk projects is using the npm-check-updates package. To install it simply run:

npm install -g npm-check-updates

After it's installed we can check for updates by running:

npx ncu

Similar to npm outdated this gives us a list of all available updates:

npm-check-updates list of updates

In order to update one single package we can run:

npx ncu -uf sass

followed by:

npm install

Now if we run npx ncu again we see the sass package was updated:

npm-check-updates with sass package updated

What is nice about the npm-check-updates package is that we can also update all of the packages if we choose so by running:

npx ncu -u

followed again by

npm install

Now if we run npx ncu again we get:

npm-check-updates result without any updates left

Now both package.json and package.lock were updated, so this makes it clearer what version of the packages we have without the need to look into the package.lock file.


If you want to easily upgrade all your packages you can use the npm-check-updates npm package with the commands shown above, otherwise, you can also use npm's built-in commands npm outdated and npm update.