Use different Python version with virtualenv

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Problem :

How do I create a virtual environment for a specified version of Python?

Solution :

Since Python 3, the documentation suggests creating the virtual environment using:

python3 -m venv "my_env_name"

Please note that venv does not permit creating virtual environments with other versions of Python. For that, install and use the virtualenv package.

Obsolete information

The pyvenv script can be used to create a virtual environment:

pyvenv "/path/to/new/virtual/environment"

Deprecated since Python 3.6.

There is an easier way,

virtualenv venv --python=python2.7

Thanks to a comment, this only works if you have python2.7 installed at the system level (e.g. /usr/bin/python2.7).

Otherwise, if you are using homebrew you can use the path to give you what you want.

virtualenv venv --python=/usr/local/bin/python

You can find the path to your python installation with

which python

This will also work with python 3.

which python3
>> /usr/local/bin/python3
virtualenv venv --python=/usr/local/bin/python3

Ultimately condensing to:

virtualenv venv -p `which python`
virtualenv venv -p `which python3`

virtualenv --python=/usr/bin/python2.6 <path/to/myvirtualenv>

Under Windows for me this works:

virtualenv --python=c:Python25python.exe envname

without the python.exe I got WindowsError: [Error 5] Access is denied
I have Python2.7.1 installed with virtualenv 1.6.1, and I wanted python 2.5.2.

Mac OSX 10.6.8 (Snow Leopard):

1) When you do pip install virtualenv, the pip command is associated with one of your python versions, and virtualenv gets installed into that version of python. You can do

 $ which pip   

to see what version of python that is. If you see something like:

 $ which pip

then do:

$ ls -al /usr/local/bin/pip
lrwxrwxr-x  1 root  admin  65 Apr 10  2015 /usr/local/bin/pip ->

You can see the python version in the output.

By default, that will be the version of python that is used for any new environment you create. However, you can specify any version of python installed on your computer to use inside a new environment with the -p flag:

$ virtualenv -p python3.2 my_env  
Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/local/bin/python3.2  
New python executable in my_env/bin/python  
Installing setuptools, pip...done.  

virtualenv my_env will create a folder in the current directory which
will contain the Python executable files, and a copy of the pip
[command] which you can use to install other packages.

virtualenv just copies python from a location on your computer into the newly created my_env/bin/ directory.

2) The system python is in /usr/bin, while the various python versions I installed were, by default, installed into:


3) The various pythons I installed have names like python2.7 or python3.2, and I can use those names rather than full paths.


1) I had some problems getting virtualenvwrapper to work. This is what I ended up putting in ~/.bash_profile:

export WORKON_HOME=$HOME/.virtualenvs
export PROJECT_HOME=$HOME/django_projects  #Not very important -- mkproject command uses this
#Added the following based on: 
export VIRTUALENVWRAPPER_PYTHON=/usr/local/bin/python2.7 
#source /usr/local/bin/
source /Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/bin/

2) The -p option works differently with virtualenvwrapper: I have to specify the full path to the python interpreter to be used in the new environment(when I do not want to use the default python version):

$ mkvirtualenv -p /usr/local/bin/python3.2 my_env
Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/local/bin/python3
New python executable in my_env/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip...done.
Usage: source deactivate

removes the 'bin' directory of the environment activated with 'source
activate' from PATH. 

Unlike virtualenv, virtualenvwrapper will create the environment at the location specified by the $WORKON_HOME environment variable. That keeps all your environments in one place.

[November 2019] I needed to install a Python 3.7 environment (env) on my Python 3.8-based Arch Linux system. Python 3.7 was no longer on the system, so I could not downgrade Python, to install a package that I needed.

Furthermore, I wanted to use that package / Python 3.7 inside a virtual environment (venv). This is how I did it.

Download Python version source files:

I downloaded the Python 3.7.4 source files from



I then extracted that archive (source files) to



[Note: in my system env, not a venv.]

cd /mnt/Vancouver/apps/python_versions/src/Python-3.7.4/
time ./configure                 ## 17 sec
time make                        ## 1 min 51 sec
time sudo make install           ## 18 sec
time make clean                  ## 0.3 sec

Examine installed Python versions:

$ which python

$ python --version
Python 3.8.0

$ which python3.7

$ python    ## Python 3.8 [system / env]
Python 3.8.0 (default, Oct 23 2019, 18:51:26) 
[GCC 9.2.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

$ python3.7    ## newly-installed Python 3.7 package
Python 3.7.4 (default, Nov 20 2019, 11:36:53) 
[GCC 9.2.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import sys
>>> print(sys.version)
3.7.4 (default, Nov 20 2019, 11:36:53) 
[GCC 9.2.0]

$ python3.7 --version                                                                                                 
Python 3.7.4

How to create a venv for a specific Python version:


The module used to create and manage virtual environments is called venv. venv will usually install the most recent version of Python that you have available. If you have multiple versions of Python on your system, you can select a specific Python version by running python3 or whichever version you want.

To create a virtual environment, decide upon a directory where you want to place it, and run the venv module as a script with the directory path:

python3 -m venv tutorial-env

This will create the tutorial-env directory if it doesn’t exist, and also create directories inside it containing a copy of the Python interpreter, the standard library, and various supporting files.

Create Python 3.7 venv [on a Python 3.8 operating env / system]:

python3.7 -m venv ~/venv/py3.7      ## create Python 3.7-based venv
source ~/venv/py3.7/bin/activate    ## activate that venv
deactivate                          ## deactivate that venv (when done, there)

Added to ~/.bashrc:

alias p37='echo "   [Python 3.7 venv (source ~/venv/py3.7/bin/activate)]" && source ~/venv/py3.7/bin/activate'

Test Python 3.7 venv:

$ p37                                                                                                                 
[Python 3.7 venv (source ~/venv/py3.7/bin/activate)]

(py3.7)$ python --version
Python 3.7.4

(py3.7)$ python
Python 3.7.4 (default, Nov 20 2019, 11:36:53) 
[GCC 9.2.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import sys
>>> print(sys.version)
3.7.4 (default, Nov 20 2019, 11:36:53) 
[GCC 9.2.0] 

You should have that Python version installed. If you have it then basically,

With virtualenv,

virtualenv --python=python3.8 env/place/you/want/to/save/to

with venv

python3.8 -m venv env/place/you/want/to/save/to

The above examples are for python3.8, you can change it to have different versions of virtual environments given that they are installed in your computer.

$ virtualenv --python=/usr/bin/python3.2 name_of_your_virtualenv

These two commands should work fine.

virtualenv -p python2 myenv (For python2)

virtualenv -p python3 myenv (For python3)

You can call virtualenv with python version you want. For example:

python3 -m virtualenv venv

Or alternatively directly point to your virtualenv path. e.g. for windows:

c:Python34Scriptsvirtualenv.exe venv

And by running:


Python 3.5.1 (v3.5.1:37a07cee5969, Dec  5 2015, 21:12:44) 
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5666) (dot 3)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

you can see the python version installed in virtual environment

The -p approach works well, but you do have to remember to use it every time. If your goal is to switch to a newer version of Python generally, that’s a pain and can also lead to mistakes.

Your other option is to set an environment variable that does the same thing as -p. Set this via your ~/.bashrc file or wherever you manage environment variables for your login sessions:

export VIRTUALENV_PYTHON=/path/to/desired/version

Then virtualenv will use that any time you don’t specify -p on the command line.

On the mac I use pyenv and virtualenvwrapper. I had to create a new virtualenv. You need homebrew which I’ll assume you’ve installed if you’re on a mac, but just for fun:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

brew install pyenv
pyenv install 2.7.10
pyenv global 2.7.10
export PATH=/Users/{USERNAME}/.pyenv/versions/2.7.10/bin:$PATH
mkvirtualenv -p ~/.pyenv/versions/2.7.10/bin/python  {virtual_env_name}

I also froze my requirements first so i could simply reinstall in the new virtualenv with:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Even easier, by using command substitution to find python2 for you:

virtualenv -p $(which python2) <path/to/new/virtualenv/>

Or when using virtualenvwrapper :

mkvirtualenv -p $(which python2) <env_name>

For Mac(High Sierra), install the virtualenv on python3 and create a virtualenv for python2:

 $ python3 -m pip install virtualenv
 $ python3 -m virtualenv --python=python2 vp27
 $ source vp27/bin/activate
 (vp27)$ python --version
 Python 2.7.14

These seem a little overcomplicated for Windows. If you’re on Windows running python 3.3 or later, you can use the python launcher py to do this much more easily. Simply install the different python version, then run:

py -[my version] -m venv env

This will create a virtual environment called env in your current directory, using python [my version]. As an example:

py -3.7 -m venv env

This creates a virtual environment called env using python3.7 and activates it. No paths or other complex stuff required.

As already mentioned in multiple answers, using virtualenv is a clean solution. However a small pitfall that everyone should be aware of is that if an alias for python is set in bash_aliases like:


this alias will also be used inside the virtual environment. So in this scenario running python -V inside the virtual env will always output 3.6 regardless of what interpreter is used to create the environment:

virtualenv venv --python=pythonX.X

On windows:

py -3.4x32 -m venv venv34


py -2.6.2 -m venv venv26

This uses the py launcher which will find the right python executable for you (assuming you have it installed).

I utilized this answer for Windows

py -3.4 -m venv c:pathtowhereveryouwantit

In windows subsystem for linux:

  1. Create environment for python3:

    virtualenv --python=/usr/bin/python3 env
  2. Activate it:

    source env/bin/activate

I use pyenv to manage my python version.

pyenv install 3.7.3
pyenv local 3.7.3

Check your python version:

$ python --version
Python 3.7.3

Create the virtual environment with venv:

python -m venv .

Then activate the Virtual Environment:

source bin/activate

Check your python version:

$ python --version
Python 3.7.3

You may need to remove the previous virtual environment

rm -rf bin

End of 2020:

The most seamless experience for using virtualenv (added benefit: with any possible python version) would be to use pyenv and its (bundled) pyenv-virtualenv plugin (cf

Usage: pyenv virtualenv <python_version> <environment_name>



That being said, nowadays the best possible alternative instead of using virtualenv (and pip) would be Poetry (along with pyenv indicated above, to handle different python versions).

Another option, because it’s supported directly by the PyPA (the org behind pip and the PyPI) and has restarted releasing since the end of May (didn’t release since late 2018 prior to that…) would be Pipenv

This worked for my usage in Windows 10, where I have Python 3.7 and want to downgrade for a project in Python 3.6.6:

I used “venv” to create a new environment called “venv”, I downloaded from ; install “Download Windows x86-64 executable installer-” ; then I used the following command line in the directory where I want to create my environment

>C:Users...PythonPython36python.exe -m venv venv

Finally, I activated the environnent using the command line:


And check the python version by calling:

>python --version
Python 3.6.6

On Linux Ubuntu 21.04 (currently Python 3.9.5) I needed to get a virtualenv of Python 3.7.8. Full steps to get working:

Find the Python version source you want, for example 3.7.8 is here:

Download the Gzipped source tarball

Unzip it with tar zxvf Python-3.7.8.tgz (amend as required with your version number if different from 3.7.8)

Copy the unzipped folder to /usr/bin with: sudo cp -r Python-3.7.8 /usr/bin

cd /usr/bin/Python-3.7.8/

Check the contents if you wanted to see what you have so far: ls

sudo time ./configure
sudo time make
time sudo make install
time make clean

Check how your python is set up and reporting:

which python
python --version

Should be all relating to your primary install (Python 3.9.5 for me)

To check your new install:

which python 3.7
python3.7 --version

Should be all relating to your 3.7.8 install

If you want to run it to check, do:


Install venv:

sudo apt install venv

To create a venv (maybe in your repo, if so, add .venv to .gitignore):

python3.7 -m venv .venv

To activate your venv:

source .venv/bin/activate

Check your version:

python --version

Yes, the above answers are correct and works fine on Unix based systems like Linux & MAC OS X.

I tried to create virtualenv for Python2 & Python3 with the following commands.

Here I have used venv2 & venv3 as their names for Python2 & Python3 respectively.

Python2 »

MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ virtualenv venv2 --python=`which python2`
Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/local/bin/python2
New python executable in /Users/admin/venv2/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ ls venv2/bin/
activate        easy_install        pip2.7          python2.7
activate.csh        easy_install-2.7    python          wheel       pip         python-config    pip2            python2
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 

Python3 »

MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ virtualenv venv3 --python=`which python3`
Running virtualenv with interpreter /usr/local/bin/python3
Using base prefix '/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/3.6'
New python executable in /Users/admin/venv3/bin/python3
Also creating executable in /Users/admin/venv3/bin/python
Installing setuptools, pip, wheel...done.
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ ls venv3/bin/
activate        easy_install        pip3.6          python3.6
activate.csh        easy_install-3.6    python          wheel       pip         python-config    pip3            python3
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 

Checking Python installation locations

MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ which python2
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ which python3
MacBook-Pro-2:~ admin$ 

It worked for me

sudo apt-get install python3-minimal

virtualenv --no-site-packages --distribute -p /usr/bin/python3 ~/.virtualenvs/py3

virtualenv -p python3 myenv

Link to Creating virtualenv

This was a bug with virtualenv.
Just upgrading your pip should be the fix.

pip install --upgrade virtualenv

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