The Differences Between pnpm and npm: A Comprehensive Guide

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In the vast ecosystem of JavaScript, package managers play a pivotal role in project development, offering streamlined ways to manage dependencies and share packages. Among the plethora of package managers, npm (Node Package Manager) has long been the default choice for many developers. However, pnpm (Performant npm) has been gaining traction for its unique approach to package management, promising efficiency and performance improvements. This article delves into the key differences between pnpm and npm, shedding light on their respective advantages and use cases.

What is npm?

npm is the default package manager for Node.js, allowing developers to share and consume JavaScript modules from the npm registry. It handles package installation, version management, and dependency resolution. npm's widespread adoption comes from its early integration with Node.js and a vast registry of packages.

What is pnpm?

pnpm is a modern package manager for JavaScript that aims to improve upon the inefficiencies of npm and yarn. It introduces a novel approach to node_modules organization and package installation, significantly reducing disk space usage and installation time.

Key Differences Between pnpm and npm

Storage Efficiency

pnpm: Utilizes a content-addressable filesystem to store packages. Each version of a package is stored once on a disk, and symbolic links are used to create the node_modules structure. This approach drastically reduces disk space usage.

npm: Stores a copy of each package and its dependencies in the node_modules directory of every project, leading to significant duplication and increased disk space usage.


pnpm: Offers faster installation times compared to npm, thanks to its efficient handling of dependencies and use of hard links. pnpm's concurrent operations further enhance its performance.

npm: While improvements have been made over the years, npm's installation process can be slower, especially in projects with a large number of dependencies.

Dependency Resolution

pnpm: Enforces strict dependency resolution, ensuring that packages use the exact version specified in the package's package.json. This leads to more predictable and reliable builds.

npm: Allows more flexibility in dependency resolution, which can be beneficial in some scenarios but may lead to inconsistencies and "dependency hell" in complex projects.

When to Use pnpm over npm


While npm continues to be a reliable and widely-used package manager, pnpm offers compelling advantages in terms of efficiency, performance, and disk space usage. The choice between pnpm and npm ultimately depends on project requirements and developer preference. Exploring both options can provide valuable insights and help optimize your development workflow.