How to Update pip in a Virtual Environment


In Python, pip is a widely used package manager that allows developers to install and manage 3rd party libraries that are not part of the Python standard library. When working within a virtual environment, you may need to make sure that pip itself is up-to-date. This Byte will guide you through the process of updating pip within a virtual environment, and dealing with any errors that you may encounter.

pip and Virtual Environments

Python's virtual environments are an important part of Python development. They allow developers to create isolated spaces for their projects, making sure that each project can have its own set of dependencies that do not interfere with each other.

pip is the go-to tool for managing these dependencies. However, like any other software, pip itself gets updated from time to time. If one of your projects has been around for a long time, you'll likely need to update pip at some point. That or maybe the virtual environment you created came with a flawed version of pip, so you need to update it to resolve issues.

Upgrading pip

Upgrading pip in a virtual environment is fairly straightforward. First, you need to activate your virtual environment. The command to do this will depend on your operating system and the tool you used to create the virtual environment.

On Unix or MacOS, if you used venv to create your environment, you would activate it like this:

$ source env/bin/activate

On Windows, you would use:

$ .\env\Scripts\activate

Once your virtual environment is activated, you can upgrade pip using this command:

$ pip install --upgrade pip

However, if you're on Windows, then this is the recommended command:

$ py -m pip install --upgrade pip

This command tells Python to run the pip module, just like it would run a script, and pass install --upgrade pip as arguments.

The --upgrade flag tells pip to upgrade any already installed packages to the latest version. The install command tells pip what to do.

Dealing with Errors During the Upgrade

While upgrading pip, you may encounter some errors. A common error you may see is a PermissionError. This typically happens when you try to upgrade pip that was installed system-wide (i.e., not in a virtual environment), or when you do not have the necessary permissions.

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If you see this error, a possible solution is to use a virtual environment where you have full permissions. If you are already in a virtual environment and still encounter this error, you can try using the --user option:

$ pip install --upgrade pip --user

This command tells pip to install the package for the user that is currently logged in, even if they do not have administrative rights.

Upgrading pip in Different Virtual Environment Systems

In the Python ecosystem, different virtual environment systems have different ways of handling pip upgrades. Let's take a look at a few of the most common ones: venv, virtualenv, and pipenv.


Venv is the built-in Python virtual environment system. If you're using venv, you can upgrade pip within your virtual environment by first activating the environment and then running the pip upgrade command. Here's how you do it:

$ source ./venv/bin/activate
(venv) $ python -m pip install --upgrade pip

The output should show that pip has been successfully upgraded.


Virtualenv is a third-party Python virtual environment system. The process of upgrading pip in a virtualenv is the same as in venv:

$ source ./myenv/bin/activate
(myenv) $ python -m pip install --upgrade pip

Again, the output should confirm that pip has been upgraded.


Pipenv is a bit different. It's not just a virtual environment system, but also a package manager. To upgrade pip in a Pipenv environment, you first need to ensure that Pipenv itself is up-to-date:

$ pip install --upgrade pipenv

Then, you can update pip within the Pipenv environment by running:

$ pipenv run pip install --upgrade pip

Note: If you're using a different virtual environment system, refer to its specific documentation to find out how to upgrade pip.


This byte has shown you how to upgrade pip in three of the most common virtual environment systems: venv, virtualenv, and pipenv. Keeping your tools up-to-date is a good practice to make sure you can get the most out of the latest features and fixes.

Last Updated: September 6th, 2023
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