[Solved] NPM Error spawn ENOENT

Guide to fix NPM Error spawn ENOENT

Mar 2, 2023 | Read time 11 minutes

🔔 Table of contents


Recently I moved to a new machine and started to work on a new react app and confronted with this error when running npx create-react-app my-app.

The error comes up as:

Error: spawn cmd ENOENT

The error spawn cmd ENOENT really means that NPM is trying to command cmd but the command does not exist. Anything with ENOENT stands for “Error NO ENTry”.

There are two main origins of why you will get the ENOENT error:

  1. Code you are writing
  2. Code or packages you are using and depend on (eg create-react-app)

When it is option 2 - the code or package that your are using - then the usual cause is an Environment Issue (or windows quirk)

To fix this error can do the following:

  1. Check if the command or executable exists and located in the PATH
  2. Clear everything and reinstall again with npm install
  3. Upgrade Node.js and NPM
  4. If you are trying to spawn in your own code, then check the spawn() function

1. Check if the command or executable exists and located in the PATH

We first need to make sure that command or executable exists. For example, when I started the npx create-react-app my-app and getting the error:

Error: spawn cmd ENOENT

This means that Node is trying to spawn() the command cmd - but it is not found!

A verbose version of the error might look like the below:

C:\Users\user\react-apps\mern-todo>npm start

> mern-todo@0.1.0 start C:\Users\user\react-apps\mern-todo
> react-scripts start

Starting the development server...

      throw er; // Unhandled 'error' event

Error: spawn cmd ENOENT
    at Process.ChildProcess._handle.onexit (internal/child_process.js:240:19)
    at onErrorNT (internal/child_process.js:415:16)
    at process._tickCallback (internal/process/next_tick.js:63:19)
Emitted 'error' event at:
    at Process.ChildProcess._handle.onexit (internal/child_process.js:246:12)
    at onErrorNT (internal/child_process.js:415:16)
    at process._tickCallback (internal/process/next_tick.js:63:19)
npm ERR! errno 1
npm ERR! mern-todo@0.1.0 start: `react-scripts start`
npm ERR! Exit status 1
npm ERR!
npm ERR! Failed at the mern-todo@0.1.0 start script.
npm ERR! This is probably not a problem with npm. There is likely additional logging output above.

npm ERR! A complete log of this run can be found in:
npm ERR!     C:\Users\user\AppData\Roaming\npm-cache\_logs\2019-08-21T19_28_08_965Z-debug.log


What does ENOENT mean?

In NPM, the error code “ENOENT” stands for “Error NO ENTry”. This error occurs when NPM is trying to access a file or directory that does not exist.

For example, if you try to run an NPM command that references a file or directory that doesn’t exist, such as a non-existent package.json file or a non-existent directory path, NPM will return an “ENOENT” error.

How do I fix this in Windows?

This error commonly happens in Windows, and in the above case, this just means that cmd is not in our $PATH.

Here are the steps to add a CMD to your Windows PATH variable:

  1. Open the Start menu and search for “Environment Variables” and select “Edit the system environment variables”.
  2. Click the “Environment Variables” button.
  3. Under “System Variables”, scroll down and select the “Path” variable, then click the “Edit” button.
  4. Click the “New” button and add the path to your CMD executable file. For example, if your CMD is located in the “C:\Windows\System32” directory, you would add “C:\Windows\System32” to the Path variable.
  5. Click “OK” to close all the windows.

How do I fix this in Linux systems?

In Linux systems, you can check the path of a command by using the which command:

which some-command

This will give a result something like:

some-command is /usr/bin/some-command

To update the $PATH variable in Linux you can do the following:

  1. Open your favourite text editor
  2. Go to the home directory and locate .bashrc file

Scroll down to the bottom of the file and locate the line that defines the $PATH variable. It should look something like this:

export PATH="/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/local/games:/usr/games" 3. Add the path to the directory that contains the executable file you want to add to $PATH, separated by a colon. For example, if you want to add the directory "/home/user/bin" to $PATH, you would modify the line to look like this:

export PATH="/usr/local/bin:/usr/bin:/bin:/usr/local/games:/usr/games:/home/user/bin" 4. Save the file

To verify that the change has been made, you can run the following command in the terminal to see the contents of the $PATH variable:

echo $PATH

This should display the updated $PATH variable, including the path you just added.

Tip: Use the same steps to troubleshoot for other commands instead of cmd

If you are getting the Error: spawn ENOENT issue but for another command, then the process to troubleshoot it is the same.

  1. Check that the command or executable exists on your machine
  2. If it exists, then check that it is in your $PATH variable.
  3. Add the location of the command/ executable in your $PATH variable

3. Clear everything and reinstall again with npm install

One option that worked well for NPM issues for me is to nuke the whole project - removing node_modules and reinstall everything.

To do this we can use the steps, open up the terminal and make sure you are in the root directory of the project:

  1. npm install -g npm@latest to update npm because it is sometimes buggy.
  2. rm -rf node_modules to remove the existing modules.
  3. Run npm cache clean --force to make sure we don’t have random modules from the cache.
  4. Execute npm install to re-install the project dependencies.

Why do I need to use npm cache clean?

You may have noticed that we use the cache clean command like so: npm cache clean --force

Sometimes, your depencies are correct, but you still get the conflicting peer dependency error. This could be due to NPM still looking through the cached modules.

NPM usually stores modules in your local project folder and also a “cached” folder. This will be ~/.npm on linux/ OSX systems, or %AppData%/npm-cache for windows systems.

So the next time you install a similar module it will go off to the cache instead of downloading it! The above command just clears the cache folder.

4. Upgrade Node.js and NPM

Firstly, check your NPM and node versions:

npm --version

If you see npm version is out of date you can install the latest version with:

npm install -g npm@latest

5. If you are trying to spawn in your own code, then check the spawn() function

Now if you are not using some external library but trying to use spawn() to spin up your own command/ executables, the you might get a slightly different error:

        throw er; // Unhandled 'error' event
Error: spawn ENOENT
    at errnoException (child_process.js:1000:11)
    at Process.ChildProcess._handle.onexit (child_process.js:791:34)

To fix this we can:

As an example, the following shows incorrect and correct uses of the spanwn function:

const s = cp.spawn('npm install -D suman', [], { cwd: root});  /*incorrect*/

const s = cp.spawn('npm', ['install -D suman'], { cwd: root});  /*incorrect*/

const s = cp.spawn('npm', ['install','-D','suman'], { cwd: root}); ✔️ /*correct*/
  • Check the cwd (current working directory) - ENOENT will be thrown if you specify “cwd” in the options, but the given directory does not exist.

  • Check that the environment object contains a valid PATH variable.

If you run the spawn function and do not pass in a env option, then Node will assume you are using the process.env object.

So we can inspect that the PATH variable will have the correct path to the command you are trying to execute:

// inspect the PATH key on process.env
console.log( process.env.PATH );
spawn('some-command', ['--help']);

In the above - some-command should exist in the PATH. Now if you specify the env explicitly, then make sure that the env object contains the PATH variable with the correct paths:

var env = <your environment object>
// inspect the PATH key on the env object
console.log( env.PATH );
spawn('some-command', ['--help'], { env: env });

Now in both cases, if you do not have the PATH variable, then Error: spawn ENOENT will definitely be thrown.

Tip: DO NOT install REACT-SCRIPTS globally!

Alot of online answers suggests that when you get this error, then install react-scripts globally. ThIS IS WRONG AND DO NOT DO THIS. react-scripts was intended to work on a project-by-project basis and not to be used globally!

React-scripts a part the create-react-app package, and set of default scripts to do things likeconfigurations for tools like testing, building, and deploying the React application.


In this article I went over a common error when working with NPM projects - Error: spawn ENOENT. This error comes up because we are trying to spawn or execute a command that does not exist.

When trying to troubleshoot this error, we first need to determine where the origin of the error is coming from - your own custom code or from a package that you are depending on.

When it is from a package you are using or depending on such as create-react-app, then you might come across the Error: spawn cmd ENOENT. This just means that node cannot find the CMD command. To fix this we can add CMD to our $PATH variable, clear node_modules and cache and reinstall again with npm install or upgrade to the latest version of NPM.

If Error: spawn ENOENT comes from your code, then make sure that the command exists, check that the command is in your $PATH and finally make sure you are using the spawn() function correctly!

👋 About the Author

G'day! I am Huy a software engineer based in Australia. I have been creating design-centered software for the last 10 years both professionally and as a passion.

My aim to share what I have learnt with you! (and to help me remember 😅)

Follow along on Twitter , GitHub and YouTube