How To Set Up a Virtual Python Environment (Windows)

virtualenv is a tool to create isolated Python environments. You can read more about it in the Virtualenv documentation. This article provides a quick summary to help you set up and use a virtual environment.

Where’s My Python?

Sometimes the trickiest part of setting up a virtual environment on Windows is finding your python distribution. If the installer didn’t add it to your PATH variable, you may have to go looking. If you downloaded and installed python from and accepted all the defaults during installation, python.exe may be found in one of the following locations:

64-bit (Preferred)




Install virtualenv

If you try to run virtualenv and find it isn’t present, you can install it using pip.

pip install virtualenv

virtualenv.exe will likely now be found in your python installation directory under the Scripts subdirectory.

Create a Virtual Python Environment

cd to your project directory and run virtualenv to create the new virtual environment.

The following commands will create a new virtual environment under my-project/my-venv.

cd my-project
virtualenv --python C:\Path\To\Python\python.exe venv


If Windows cannot find virtualenv.exe, see Install virtualenv. You can either add the executable’s home directory to your PATH variable, or just include the full path in your command line. If you aren’t sure where python.exe is installed, see Where’s My Python?.

Activate the Environment

Now that we have a virtual environment, we need to activate it.


After you activate the environment, your command prompt will be modified to reflect the change.

Add Libraries and Create a requirements.txt File

After you activate the virtual environment, you can add packages to it using pip. You can also create a description of your dependencies using pip.

The following command creates a file called requirements.txt that enumerates the installed packages.

pip freeze > requirements.txt

This file can then be used by collaborators to update virtual environments using the following command.

pip install -r requirements.txt

Deactivate the Environment

To return to normal system settings, use the deactivate command.


After you issue this command, you’ll notice that the command prompt returns to normal.


Much of this article is taken from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Python. Go buy a copy right now.