How to Upgrade to a Newer Version of Python#

Most Linux installations include a version of both Python 2 and 3.

You can view your current default version of Python (version 2) using the command:

  % python -V
This will respond with something akin to:
Python 2.7.16

You can also check your version of Python 3:

  % python3 -V
with the response being akin to:
Python 3.7.3

To prepare to upgrade to a newer version of Python, first make sure your Pi is up to date, as well as install the required development packages:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt-get install -y build-essential tk-dev libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev libreadline6-dev libdb5.3-dev libgdbm-dev libsqlite3-dev libssl-dev libbz2-dev libexpat1-dev liblzma-dev zlib1g-dev libffi-dev

Then, to install a specific version of Python, e.g., 3.8.5, download, configure, make and install the package:


tar zxf Python-3.8.5.tgz
cd Python-3.8.5
./configure --enable-optimizations
make -j4
sudo make install
or alternatively:
sudo make altinstall
if you don't want the newly-installed version to be the default version on your Pi. The latter is an absolute requirement on a typical Ubuntu desktop (for example), as if you replace the default version of Python you will disable/break your OS (e.g., see How to Install Python 3.8 on Ubuntu). On a Raspberry Pi this isn't so far as I've seen a problem. But note that I typically use a console (headless), not a desktop.

In the above directions, replace "3.8.5" above with whatever version you want to install. You can browse the directory of available downloads at:

You must be patient. On a Pi 4, this can take a long time, around 20 minutes; on a 3 B+ a very long time. On a Pi Zero basically overnight.

If you're logging into your Pi remotely to do the upgrade, it's interesting to run a second ssh session with top or htop running, to watch your Pi's processors working very hard.

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