In this guide I will show you how to install Python 2.7 and 3.3 on CentOS 6. The examples below are for Python 2.7.6 and Python 3.3.4, but the procedure is the same for any modern version of Python including the upcoming Python 3.4.0.
CentOS 6 ships with Python 2.6.6 and several critical system utilities, for example
yum, will break if the default Python interpreter is upgraded. The trick is to install new versions of Python in
/usr/local (or some other non-standard location) so that they can live side-by-side with the system version.
This guide should work for all versions of CentOS 6, but I have only verified it on CentOS 6.5 64 bit. It will probably work for some versions of CentOS 5 also.
Execute all the commands below as root either by logging in as root or by using
This tutorial was last updated 2014-02-16:
- The Python versions used in the examples have been updated to 2.7.6 and 3.3.4.
- The list of library prerequisites has been extended so that more features are compiled into Python.
- New parameters for compiling Python with a shared library and for enabling Unicode UTF-32 support in Python 2.7 and Python 3.2 have been added.
- Instructions for installing and using setuptools, pip, virtualenv and pyvenv have been added/updated.
Preparations – install prerequisites
In order to compile Python you must first install the development tools and a few extra libs. The extra libs are not strictly needed to compile Python but without them your new Python interpreter will be quite useless.
yum groupinstall "Development tools"
yum install zlib-devel bzip2-devel openssl-devel ncurses-devel sqlite-devel readline-devel tk-devel gdbm-devel db4-devel libpcap-devel
Things to consider
Before you compile and install Python there are a few things you should know and/or consider:
Python has a long and complicated history when it comes to Unicode support. Unless you have very specific reasons you should configure Python 3.2 and earlier to enable UTF-32 support. This increases memory usage but improves compatibility. In Python 3.3 the Unicode support has been completely rewritten and strings are automatically stored using the most efficient encoding possible.
You enable UTF-32 in Python 2.7 by adding
--enable-unicode=ucs4 to the configure command. In Python 3.2 the flag is called
You should probably compile Python as a shared library. All modern Linux distros ship with Python compiled as a shared library, and there are third-party tools such as mod_wsgi and Blender that won’t work without it. If you compile Python as a shared library you must also tell it how to find the library. You have two options:
- Compile the path into the executable by adding this to the end of the configure command:
- Open the file
/etc/ld.so.confin a text editor and add the path
/usr/local/libto the end of it. After you have added the line you must run
/sbin/ldconfigto make the dynamic linker aware of the change. This is how the file will look after adding the line on a clean install of CentOS 6.5:
Use “make altinstall” to prevent problems
It is critical that you use
make altinstall when you install your custom version of Python. If you use the normal
make install you will end up with two different versions of Python in the filesystem both named
python. This can lead to problems that are very hard to diagnose.
Download, compile and install Python
Here are the commands to download, compile and install Python. If you modify
/etc/ld.so.conf as discussed above you can remove the LDFLAGS parameter below.
# Python 2.7.6:
tar xf Python-2.7.6.tar.xz
./configure --prefix=/usr/local --enable-unicode=ucs4 --enable-shared LDFLAGS="-Wl,-rpath /usr/local/lib"
make && make altinstall
# Python 3.3.4:
tar xf Python-3.3.4.tar.xz
./configure --prefix=/usr/local --enable-shared LDFLAGS="-Wl,-rpath /usr/local/lib"
make && make altinstall
After running the commands above your newly installed Python interpreter will be available as
/usr/local/bin/python3.3. The system version of Python 2.6.6 will continue to be available as
Download and install Setuptools + pip
Setuptools has replaced Distribute as the official package manager used for installing packages from the Python Package Index. Each Python interpreter on your system needs its own install of Setuptools. I also suggest you install pip. It builds on top of Setuptools and provides a few extra functions that are useful when you manage your packages.
The instructions below will install the latest version of Setuptools and pip for you.
# First get the setup script for Setuptools:
# Then install it for Python 2.7 and/or Python 3.3:
# Now install pip using the newly installed setuptools:
# With pip installed you can now do things like this:
pip2.7 install [packagename]
pip2.7 install --upgrade [packagename]
pip2.7 uninstall [packagename]
The packages will end up in
X.Y is the Python version).
If you are using Python 2.7 I strongly recommend that you install virtualenv and learn how to use it. Virtualenv makes it possible to create isolated Python environments. If you are using Python 3.3 then you don’t need virtualenv because that functionality is already built in.
Each isolated Python environment (also called sandbox) can have its own Python version and packages. This is very useful when you work on multiple projects or on different versions of the same project.
Create your first isolated Python environment
# Install virtualenv for Python 2.7 and create a sandbox called my27project:
pip2.7 install virtualenv
# Use the built-in pyvenv program in Python 3.3 to create a sandbox called my33project:
# Check the system Python interpreter version:
# This will show Python 2.6.6
# Activate the my27project sandbox and check the version of the default Python interpreter in it:
# This will show Python 2.7.6
# Activate the my33project sandbox and check the version of the default Python interpreter in it:
# This will show Python 3.3.4
When you use virtualenv to create a sandbox it will automatically install setuptools and pip for you inside the sandbox. If you use pyvenv then you must do it yourself. You can reuse the ez_setup.py file you downloaded earlier and just run it after you activate your new sandbox.