How to Change Your Default Anaconda Python Environment

When working with Python, especially for development projects that span across different versions or require specific package dependencies, managing environments becomes crucial. Anaconda, a popular Python distribution for data science and machine learning, offers a powerful solution for environment management. However, one common question that arises is how to change the default Python environment in Anaconda. This blog post will guide you through the process, ensuring you can tailor your development environment to your project's needs.

Understanding Anaconda Environments

Before diving into the how-to, it's essential to understand what an Anaconda environment is. In essence, an environment is a separate space where you can maintain different versions of Python and various packages, isolated from each other. This isolation prevents conflicts between package versions and allows for more flexible development workflows.

Why Change the Default Environment?

The default environment in Anaconda, typically named base, comes with Python and several pre-installed packages. While convenient for getting started, you might need a different Python version or a clean environment for a new project. Changing the default environment allows you to customize your setup without altering the base environment, preserving it for other uses.

Step-by-Step Guide to Change the Default Environment

1. Create a New Environment

First, create a new environment with the desired Python version. Open your terminal (or Anaconda Prompt on Windows) and run:

conda create --name myenv python=3.8

Replace myenv with your preferred environment name and 3.8 with the Python version you need.

2. Activate the New Environment

To use the newly created environment, you need to activate it:

conda activate myenv

3. Setting the New Environment as Default (Optional)

While Anaconda doesn't provide a direct way to set a newly created environment as the "default" in the sense that it automatically activates upon opening a terminal, you can use a workaround. By editing your shell's configuration file (e.g., .bashrc, .bash_profile, or .zshrc), you can add the activation command:

echo "conda activate myenv" >> ~/.bashrc

Replace ~/.bashrc with the appropriate configuration file for your shell. This command appends the activation command to the end of your shell's config file, activating the environment by default whenever a new terminal session starts.

4. Returning to the Base Environment

If you need to switch back to the base environment, simply deactivate the current environment:

conda deactivate


Managing Python environments with Anaconda enhances your development workflow, allowing for project-specific configurations without interference. Changing the default environment, while not directly supported through a single command, is straightforward with the steps outlined above. By creating and activating a new environment, you tailor your setup to your project's requirements, ensuring a more organized and efficient development process.