Windows Subsystem for Linux

If you are a Windows user and also need Linux, Windows Subsystem for Linux or WSL allows you to run an actual Linux distribution in PowerShell. Default setup is Ubuntu but you can run whatever distribution you are comfortable with.

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 dualboot setup.

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does Microsoft’s virtual machine software have THAT much overhead it’s preferred to run command-line only in this “special” sandbox?

Seems the standard virtual machine route would give you 100% compatibility AND full GUI capabilities so not just most commandline and some GUI apps, you get everything in a VM.

Just as Mac and Linux users run Windows in VM. Or is there some big benefit to Linux in Windows via WSL I’m missing?

It’s a lot more closely integrated with the host system than a VM. Think of it more like the inverse of Wine than the inverse of KVM.

The concept of paying Microsoft for the privilege of running Linux grates a bit.


The reason I posted this today is because I needed to compile a custom Chrome OS and I was able to do it this way with only a command line which is all I needed. I opened PoweShell with WSL without having to run a full blown Linux VM. I was able to get to work in seconds.


ah, so by making it ‘builtin’ using their VM or kernel tweaks they keep devs from jumping out to a stock Linux which they get no analytics on.

I can see if you don’t have a server-only VM setup and a click away this is probably much easier and it’s likely they don’t easily let you click and go on a hibernated VM to get the same kind of instant gratification.

They are really not doing this because they love Linux or Linux devs. They need to keep Windows devs out of Linux. Because once you go white and black(Tux) you don’t go back. LOL And maybe they are also making sure Windows devs only think of Linux as CLI or at least for longer than if they booted a full Linux desktop.

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Unfortunately I need to run Windows for work purposes. I have tried running a separate system or VM in the past but found it to be awkward. Most of what I do is command line so I do not miss a GUI environment.

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WSL supports both X and Wayland; it was only the first release that was limited to the command line. They changed the architecture.

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I’ve run VirtualPC decades ago on OS/2 and mention it because that is what Microsoft purchased. But, over the past decade it’s been VMware mostly( free Workstation version ) and VirtualBox. I’ve often setup a VM booting just an ISO image( sometimes a server(no-GUI) and sometimes a full desktop ) and the process of running is pretty much the same; start the VM manager app, select the VM I want to run and let it boot/run. When doing something for extended periods in the VM I will only suspend the VM instead of just powering it off since it’ll often start faster and be exactly where I left off.

I did enjoy OS/2 how all the subsystems were just an app icon click away and they were like they were built into OS/2. DOS, Windows, UNIX(via emx) and of course OS/2 CLI and GUI. Indeed, VMs are a bit clunky but not too clunky if you set up a few for the different ways they might be used.

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full GUI/all apps or only some apps?

I’m not an expert here, since I don’t use WSL, I’m on Linux natively, I just read the news. But a search for “wsl 2 x11 wayland” leads to Run Linux GUI apps with WSL | Microsoft Learn which makes it clear it’s apps in general, and that they are integrated into the Windows experience.

Now, that page tells you to sudo curl followed by sudo apt install which is at least one unnecessary escalation of privilege and is not exactly a good security practice, but I doubt the target audience cares at all.

That’s the operating model here.

It does look like right now it’s extra work to get 3D acceleration working, though.


As far as I can tell, it’s actually running a VM. The way MS does it is very seamless and takes only two commands. You open PowerShell and then open WSL.

…and here’s how the tight integration is done:

Looks like Wayland is the native mode, and X11 is through Wayland, so it’s being done the right way. And they made it open source, under the permissive MIT license. They link from there to the instructions for getting accelerated graphics through to the underlying Windows drivers.


Looks like WSLg will only run on Win 11.

Yeah, it’s actually using a Linux kernel in a lightweight VM. That’s how they get a high level of compatibility.

While WSL 2 does use a VM, it is managed and run behind the scenes, leaving you with the same user experience as WSL 1.

This takes advantage of a lot of the Clear Linux work done at Intel to make booting a Linux kernel as a VM fast, as I understand it.

So WSL 1 is architecturally closer to “the inverse of wine” than WSL 2 is, but I meant it in the user experience sense. :relaxed:

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Or recent Windows 10.

WSL 2 is only available in Windows 11 or Windows 10, Version 1903, Build 18362 or later

A quote frome a review and is stated on the MS GitHub.

Before using WSLg, however, you will need to have installed WSL on a Windows 11 build 22000 or later; WSLg will not work with Windows 10 .

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Indeed, my quote was from the wrong document. :frowning:

hmm, Win11 only had 18% marketshare of Windows users in 2022 and Win10 was 72% yet they are only targeting Win11 with WSLg(GUI). Sounds like the same ‘beat the users with a stick so they upgrade’ tricks they employed going back to the 1990s. I wonder what the marketing reasons for this really are. Can they still be making billions of upgrades of the OS. Doesn’t Windows still fall apart slowly over a few years causing users to want a new machine so it “runs fast again”?

I like that they are shimming a small VM in under the Linux kernel and providing seamless windowing but it’s obviously not being done to enable the most users. The PowerPC and worst Workplace OS didn’t succeed so and OS of OSs playing on equal footing is history. But something about having Microsoft start this back up with Linux just feels REALLY odd.

BTW, on Linux docker containers can get full access to accelerated hardware which is pretty cool and quite fast. But it’s Linux on Linux( LSL: Linux subsystem for Linux ) and not quite Workplace OS. And this also reminds me of Taligent… gawd those apps were so cool.

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I don’t know what it was which caused me to mentally see this again( halloween maybe LOL ) but it seems to fit here nicely. Do you guys remember this?

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That right after he cashed out his stock!

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