Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is now generally available for Windows 10 and 11 in the Windows Store.
Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers run a GNU/Linux environment -- including most command-line tools, utilities, and apps -- directly on Windows, unmodified, without a traditional VM or dual-boot setup.
Users can, for example, install a complete Ubuntu terminal environment in minutes on their Windows machine.
That lets users develop cross-platform applications without leaving Windows. Users need to be running Windows 10 version 21H1, 21H2, or 22H2, or on Windows 11 21H2 with all of the November updates applied.
There are two types of WSL distros: “WSL 1”, and “WSL 2” type distros, with different architectures.
As Microsoft’s Craig Loewen explained: “WSL 2 distros have faster file system performance and use a real Linux kernel, but require virtualization. You can learn more about WSL 1 and WSL 2 distros here.”
What's Windows Subsystem for Linux for?
(One user earlier described WSL 2 as “essentially a thin Linux VM with the benefit of having Linux binaries callable directly from Windows. You can have as many WSL distros installed as you want. It's not much of a difference comparing to a full OS install, except that you won't have access to gpu-acceleration in WSL…”)
WSL is, as one fan, Microsoft MVP Hayden Barnes puts it, “undoubtedly a tool for power-users, developers, and *NIX/Linux geeks who want to run Windows. Most of the things you can do with WSL are going to be related to programming, the console, sysadmin, automation, AI/data science, and other geeky things”
(He has a great one-stop shop on WSL resources on GitHub here.)
Microsoft noted: “There is also the ‘in-Windows’ version of WSL as a Windows Optional component, and WSL in the Microsoft Store as the “Store version of WSL”. These matter for how WSL is serviced on your machine.”
With GA users will get faster dedicated updates and servicing rather than having to wait for a Windows OS update. All Windows 10 users can now use Linux GUI apps after updating to the Microsoft Store version.
As part of the WSL GA release Microsoft said that it is backporting WSL functionality to Windows 10 and 11 to make the Store version of WSL the default experience. Changes include the fact that wsl.exe --install will now automatically install the Store version of WSL, and will no longer enable the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” optional component, or install the WSL kernel or WSLg MSI packages as they are no longer needed (The Virtual machine platform optional component will still be enabled, and by default Ubuntu will still be installed).