Windows Subsystem for Linux
This article needs to be updated. Please help update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(June 2021)
Compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables natively on Windows
Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is a compatibility layer for running Linuxbinary executables (in ELF format) natively on Windows 10, Windows 11, and Windows Server 2019.
In May 2019, WSL 2 was announced, introducing important changes such as a real Linux kernel, through a subset of Hyper-V features. Since June 2019, WSL 2 is available to Windows 10 customers through the Windows Insider program, including the Home edition. WSL is not available to all Windows 10 users by default. It can be installed either by joining the Windows Insider program or manual install.
The first release of WSL provides a Linux-compatible kernel interface developed by Microsoft, containing no Linux kernel code, which can then run a GNUuser space on top of it, such as that of Ubuntu,openSUSE,SUSE Linux Enterprise Server,Debian and Kali Linux. Such a user space might contain a GNU Bash shell and command language, with native GNU command-line tools (sed, awk, etc.), programming-language interpreters (Ruby, Python, etc.), and even graphical applications (using an X11 server at the host side).
The architecture was redesigned in WSL 2, with a Linux kernel running in a lightweight virtual machine environment.
Introduction and availability
WSL beta was introduced in Windows 10 version 1607 (Anniversary Update) on August 2, 2016. Only Ubuntu (with Bash as the default shell) was supported. WSL beta was also called "Bash on Ubuntu on Windows" or "Bash on Windows".
WSL was no longer beta in Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update), released on October 17, 2017. Multiple Linux distributions could be installed and were available for install in the Windows Store.
WSL is available only in 64-bit versions of Windows 10 from version 1607. It is also available in Windows Server 2019.
Microsoft announced WSL 2 on May 6, 2019, which features a completely new VM-based backend (based on a subset of Hyper-V features) in lieu of the prior system-call adaptation layer. WSL 2 was shipped with Windows 10 version 2004, and was also backported to Windows 10 version 1903 and 1909.
GPU support for WSL 2 was introduced in Windows build 20150. GUI support for WSL 2 was introduced in Windows build 21364. Both of them are shipped in Windows 11.
Microsoft introduced a Windows Store version of WSL on October 11, 2021 for Windows 11.
Microsoft's first foray into achieving Unix-like compatibility on Windows began with the Microsoft POSIX Subsystem, superseded by Windows Services for UNIX via MKS/Interix, which was eventually deprecated with the release of Windows 8.1. The technology behind Windows Subsystem for Linux originated in the unreleased Project Astoria, which enabled some Android applications to run on Windows 10 Mobile. It was first made available in Windows 10 Insider Preview build 14316.
Whereas Microsoft's previous projects and the third-party Cygwin had focused on creating their own unique Unix-like environments based on the POSIX standard, WSL aims for native Linux compatibility. Instead of wrapping non-native functionality into Win32system calls as these prior systems utilized, WSL's initial design (WSL 1) leveraged the NT kernel executive to serve Linux programs as special, isolated minimal processes (known as "pico processes") attached to kernel mode"pico providers" as dedicated system call and exception handlers distinct from that of a vanilla NT process, opting to reutilize existing NT implementations wherever possible.
Though WSL (via this initial design) was much faster and arguably much more popular than its brethren UNIX-on-Windows projects, Windows kernel engineers found difficulty in trying to increase WSL's performance and syscall compatibility by trying to reshape the existing NT kernel to recognize and operate correctly on Linux's API. At a Microsoft Ignite conference in 2018, Microsoft engineers gave a high-level overview of a new "lightweight" Hyper-V VM technology for containerization where a virtualized kernel could make direct use of NT primitives on the host. In 2019, Microsoft announced a completely redesigned WSL architecture (WSL 2) using this lightweight VM technology hosting actual (customized) Linux kernel images, claiming full syscall compatibility.
Microsoft envisages WSL as "primarily a tool for developers – especially web developers and those who work on or with open source projects". In September 2018, Microsoft said that "WSL requires fewer resources (CPU, memory, and storage) than a full virtual machine" (which prior to WSL was the most direct way to run Linux software in a Windows environment), while also allowing users to use Windows apps and Linux tools on the same set of files.
In April 2021, Microsoft released a Windows 10 test build that also includes the ability to run Linux graphical user interface (GUI) apps using WSL 2 and CBL-Mariner. The Windows Subsystem for Linux GUI (WSLg) was officially released at the Microsoft Build 2021 conference. It is included in Windows 10 Insider build 21364 or later.
LXSS Manager Service
LXSS Manager Service is the service in charge of interacting with the subsystem (through the drivers and ), and the way that Bash.exe (not to be confused with the Shells provided by the Linux distributions) launches the Linux processes, as well as handling the Linux system calls and the binary locks during their execution.
All Linux processes invoked by a particular user go into a "Linux Instance" (usually, the first invoked process is init). Once all the applications are closed, the instance is closed.
The command is used to manage distributions in the Windows Subsystem for Linux on the command-line. It can list available distributions, set a default distribution, and uninstall distributions. The command can also be used to run Linux binaries from the Windows Command Prompt or Windows PowerShell. replaces which is deprecated as of Windows 10 1803 and later.
Run command in WSL using PowerShell.
Example using command from Command Prompt.
Hardware and filesystem access
WSL 1's design featured no hardware emulation / virtualization (unlike other projects such as coLinux) and makes direct use of the host file system (through and ) and some parts of the hardware, such as the network, which guarantees interoperability. Web servers for example, can be accessed through the same interfaces and IP addresses configured on the host, and shares the same restrictions on the use of ports that require administrative permissions, or ports already occupied by other applications.
There are certain locations (such as system folders) and configurations whose access/modification is restricted, even when running as root, with sudo from the shell. An instance with elevated privileges must be launched in order to get "sudo" to give real root privileges, and allow such access.
WSL 1 is not capable of running all Linux software, such as 32-bit binaries, or those that require specific Linux kernel services not implemented in WSL. Due to a lack of any "real" Linux kernel in WSL 1, kernel modules, such as device drivers, cannot be run. WSL 2, however, makes use of live virtualized Linux kernel instances.
It is possible to run some graphical (GUI) applications (such as Mozilla Firefox) by installing an X11 server within the Windows (host) environment (such as VcXsrv or Xming), although not without caveats, such as the lack of audio support (though this can be remedied by installing PulseAudio in Windows in a similar manner to X11) or hardware acceleration (resulting in poor graphics performance). Support for OpenCL and CUDA is also not being implemented currently, although planned for future releases.
Microsoft stated WSL was designed for the development of applications, and not for desktop computers or production servers, recommending the use of virtual machines (Hyper-V), Kubernetes, and Azure for those purposes.
In benchmarks WSL 1's performance is often near native Linux Ubuntu, Debian, Intel Clear Linux or other Linux distributions. I/O is in some tests a bottleneck for WSL. The redesigned WSL 2 backend is claimed by Microsoft to offer twenty-fold increases in speed on certain operations compared to that of WSL 1.
In June 2020, a benchmark with 173 tests with an AMD Threadripper 3970x shows good performance with WSL 2 (20H2) with 87% of the performance of native Ubuntu 20.04.0 LTS. This is an improvement over WSL 1, which has only 70% of the performance of native Ubuntu in this comparison. WSL 2 improves I/O performance, providing a near-native level. A comparison of 69 tests with Intel i9 10900K in May 2020 shows nearly the same relative performance.
In December 2020, a benchmark with 43 tests with an AMD Ryzen 5900X shows good performance with WSL 2 (20H2) with 93% of the performance of native 20.04.1 LTS. This is an improvement over WSL 1, which has only 73% in this comparison.
Version 2 introduces changes in the architecture. Microsoft has opted for virtualization through a highly optimized subset of Hyper-V features, in order to run the kernel and distributions (based upon the kernel), promising performance equivalent to WSL 1. For backward compatibility, developers don't need to change anything in their published distributions. WSL 2 settings can be tweaked by the WSL global configuration, contained in an INI file named in the User Profile folder.
The distribution installation resides inside an ext4-formatted filesystem inside a virtual disk, and the host file system is transparently accessible through the 9P protocol, similarly to other virtual machine technologies like QEMU. For the users, Microsoft promised up to 20 times the read/write performance of WSL 1. From Windows an IFSnetwork redirector is provided for Linux guest file access using the UNC path prefix of .
WSL 2 requires Windows 10 version 1903 or higher, with Build 18362 or higher, for x64 systems, and Version 2004 or higher, with Build 19041 or higher, for ARM64 systems.
Concern has been expressed that Windows Subsystem for Linux could be a way to "embrace, extend, and extinguish" Linux.Richard Stallman has expressed fears that integrating Linux functionality into Windows will only hinder the development of free software, calling efforts like WSL "a step backward in the campaign for freedom."Linus Torvalds, by contrast, said that he was not concerned about a Microsoft takeover of Linux, because he believed Linux's GPL 2 licensing and the size of the project made that impossible, as well as citing Microsoft's increased cooperation with the Linux community.
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- 2 minutes to read
You must be running Windows 10 version 2004 and higher (Build 19041 and higher) or Windows 11.
If you're running an older build, or just prefer not to use the install command and would like step-by-step directions, see WSL manual installation steps for older versions.
You can now install everything you need to run Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) by entering this command in PowerShell or Windows Command Prompt and then restarting your machine.
This command will enable the required optional components, download the latest Linux kernel, set WSL 2 as your default, and install a Linux distribution for you (Ubuntu by default, see below to change this).
The first time you launch a newly installed Linux distribution, a console window will open and you'll be asked to wait for files to de-compress and be stored on your machine. All future launches should take less than a second.
Change the default Linux distribution installed
By default, the installed Linux distribution will be Ubuntu. This can be changed using the flag.
- To change the distribution installed, enter: . Replace with the name of the distribution you would like to install.
- To see a list of available Linux distributions available for download through the online store, enter: or .
- To install additional Linux distributions after the initial install, you may also use the command: .
If you want to install additional distributions from inside a Linux/Bash command line (rather than from PowerShell or Command Prompt), you must use .exe in the command: or to list available distributions: .
If you run into an issue during the install process, check the installation section of the troubleshooting guide.
Set up your Linux user info
Once you have installed WSL, you will need to create a user account and password for your newly installed Linux distribution. See the Best practices for setting up a WSL development environment guide to learn more.
Set up and best practices
We recommend following our Best practices for setting up a WSL development environment guide for a step-by-step walk-through of how to set up a user name and password for your installed Linux distribution(s), using basic WSL commands, installing and customizing Windows Terminal, set up for Git version control, code editing and debugging using the VS Code remote server, good practices for file storage, setting up a database, mounting an external drive, setting up GPU acceleration, and more.
Want to try the latest WSL preview features?
Try the most recent features or updates to WSL by joining the Windows Insiders Program. Once you have joined Windows Insiders, you can choose the channel you would like to receive preview builds from inside the Windows settings menu to automatically receive any WSL updates or preview features associated with that build. You can choose from:
- Dev channel: Most recent updates, but low stability.
- Beta channel: Ideal for early adopters, more reliable builds than the Dev channel.
- Release Preview channel: Preview fixes and key features on the next version of Windows just before its available to the general public.
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Microsoft has transformed the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) into an app that you can simply download and install from the Microsoft Store on Windows 11. A preview version of the app is available right now, allowing Windows 11 users to install Windows Subsystem for Linux without having to head into add / remove programs and selecting WSL as an optional inbox component for Windows.
This separate app will now be serviced through the store, which means Microsoft can update WSL independently from Windows, allowing WSL users to “get the latest WSL updates and features faster, and without needing to modify your Windows version.” While there are no new changes with this Store app version just yet, it does mean that future updates can appear without needing to wait for a bigger Windows release or update.
Microsoft enabled Linux GUI apps on Windows 10 for developers last year, and features like this will be available immediately in the Microsoft Store in the future. It appears that this Microsoft Store app for WSL will only work on Windows 11, though. Microsoft doesn’t mention Windows 10 in its blog post, suggesting that you’ll need to update to benefit from the Microsoft Store app. It’s good news for Windows 11 users though, especially those in enterprise environments where it often takes slightly longer to get the latest Windows versions.
Microsoft will still support the inbox version of WSL so you can run them side by side, and aims to move Windows 11 users over to the Microsoft Store version eventually. “Our goals are to make WSL in the Microsoft Store the best way to install and use WSL, as you’ll be able to get the latest updates fastest through that route, and in the long term we’d like to move WSL users to use the store version,” explains Craig Loewen, a program manager for the Windows developer platform.
Microsoft makes Windows Subsystem for Linux for Windows 11 a separate app in the Microsoft Store
Microsoft is making available today, October 11, a preview version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) for Windows 11 in the Microsoft Store. This isn't a new version of WSL; Microsoft is just making the existing WSL 2 available in the Store as an option at this point. Microsoft's goal in doing this is to get users the latest WSL updates and features faster, according to the blog post announcing the new preview.
Up until now, WSL has been installed as an optional component inside Windows. As noted in Microsoft's post, the binaries that make up WSL's logic in that optional component are part of the Windows image and thus are serviced and updated when the OS itself is. By decoupling WSL from the Windows image and making it a separate app available from the Store, users can get updates to the app independently of the OS.
Microsoft has made a number of the new features for WSL that were part of Windows 11 available in the separate WSL preview. WSLg (GUI app support for WSL) is in there. New wsl.exe -- mount features are included. The supported Microsoft Linux kernel is 184.108.40.206; a progress indicator helper function with a 'Please Wait' message is there, and wsl.exe -- version command has been added.
To install and use WSL from the Store, users need to be running Windows 11 build 22000 or higher. The Virtual Machine Platform optional component also must be enabled. If these conditions are met, users can go to the WSL Store page and click install to install WSL, and then install a supported Linux distro of their choice.
Users who have the in-Windows version of WSL installed can still install the preview of WSL from the Store, as the two can run simultaneously. (The Store version will always take precedence, though). And users will be able to use WSL 1 distros with the Store preview as long as the WSL optional component is enabled. And users will have the option to uninstall WSL from the store and go back to the in-Windows version.
"Our goals are to make WSL in the Microsoft Store the best way to install and use WSL, as you'll be able to get the latest updates fastest through that route, and in the long term we'd like to move WSL users to use the store version," blogged Craig Loewen, Program Manager with the Windows Developer Platform.
Last year, Microsoft announced it was removing the Linux kernel from the Windows OS image with WSL2 and would, instead, deliver it to users' machines using Windows update.
WSL enables developers to run a GNU/Linux environment -- including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications -- directly on Windows, unmodified, without a virtual machine or dual-boot setup.
Related Topics:Linux Microsoft Windows Windows 10 Enterprise Software Sours: https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-makes-windows-subsystem-for-linux-for-windows-11-a-separate-app-in-the-microsoft-store/
For windows linux subsystem
Deploying WSL at your company?
We help companies achieve a seamless integration with their WSL deployments. Contact us to learn more about how we support enterprises on the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
What you never thought was possible on Windows
Run your choice of Linux text editors, including vim, emacs, and nano
Spin up Node.js, install your dependencies with npm, and start testing your web app
Install compilers and libraries from the Ubuntu repository, maintained by Canonical
Use your choice of Linux shells, such as bash, zsh and fish
Work with LXD and Docker containers on Windows
Automate Linux and Windows tasks with advanced bash scripting
Leverage Linux security tools to test and harden your network
Crunch big numbers with tools for R and Python
Build, test, and deploy Kubernetes clusters on Windows
Easy to Use
Ubuntu is intuitive, user-friendly, and offers the flexibility for customizations when operating within WSL.
Achieve the same first-class, out-of-the-box, compliant security that is synonymous with Ubuntu. With long-term support releases, you'll have five years of security patches and updates.
Ubuntu is certified on WSL through close collaboration with Microsoft. Enterprise support is provided for Ubuntu from Azure to Windows workstations creating a seamless operating environment.
Install Ubuntu on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)
Enable WSL on Windows 10
Open PowerShell as Administrator:
Type the following command to enable WSL 1:
Type the following command to enable WSL 2:
Restart your computer.
After restarting, download and install the WSL 2 Linux kernel from Microsoft for your device architecture:
- x86_64 for Intel and AMD devices
- arm64 for Snapdragon and other ARM devices
Finally, it is recommended to set WSL 2 as the default WSL environment.
Open PowerShell as Administrator as above and type the following command:
Download Ubuntu for WSL from the Microsoft Store.
Download from the Microsoft Store
Run Ubuntu from the Start Menu.
Set up Ubuntu
Select a username and password for your administrative user.
Once complete, it is recommended you download and try the new Windows Terminal for the best Ubuntu on WSL experience.
Getting Started with WSL
WSL 1 vs WSL 2
- Powered by a Linux binary translation layer.
- Supported on all versions of Windows 10 since Fall Creators Update.
- Supported on all editions of Windows 10, including Home, Pro, Enterprise, and Server.
- Powered by a Linux kernel running on Hyper-V technology.
- Features significant speed and networking improvements.
- Available to everyone, on all editions of Windows 10, as of the May 2020 update from Microsoft.
Latest WSL news from our blog ›
Windows Subsystem for Linux Documentation
The Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers run a GNU/Linux environment -- including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications -- directly on Windows, unmodified, without the overhead of a traditional virtual machine or dual-boot setup.
Try WSL preview features by joining the Windows Insiders Program
To try the most recent features or updates to WSL, join the Windows Insiders Program. Once you have joined Windows Insiders, you can choose the channel you would like to receive preview builds from inside the Windows settings menu. You can choose from:
- Dev channel: Most recent updates, but low stability.
- Beta channel: Ideal for early adopters, more reliable builds than the Dev channel.
- Release Preview channel: Preview fixes and key features on the next version of Windows just before its available to the general public.
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