How to Install Linux on Windows with WSL
If you want to try out the improved Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (aka WSL 2) in the latest Windows versions here’s how — we cover everything you need to do to install it in this post.
Install WSL 2 on Windows 10
RequirementsTo install WSL 2 on Windows 10 you need:
- Windows 10 May 2020 (2004), Windows 10 May 2019 (1903), or Windows 10 November 2019 (1909) or later
- A computer with Hyper-V Virtualization support
Installing WSL 2 on OS Build 2004 (or later)
wsl.exe --installAs soon as you hit enter, the process automatically gets to work. It enables the WSL optional features required, fetches the latest WSL Linux kernel version, and installs Ubuntu as your default distro:
Install WSL 2 (Old Method)If you use an earlier version of Windows 10 you can still install WSL 2 (Microsoft backported WSL 2 to older versions of Windows 10 in Windows Update KB4566116) but the process isn’t quite as simple as in the 2004 update. To install WSL 2 on Windows 10 (OS Build 1909 or 1903) you need to follow 4 steps:
- Enable WSL 2
- Enable ‘Virtual Machine Platform’
- Set WSL 2 as default
- Install a Linux distro
Step 1. Enable WSLRegardless of which version of WSL you want to use you first need to enable it. To do this open the PowerShell tool as an Administrator and run the command below. Be careful not to mistype or leave out any character in the command:
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
Only want to use WSL 1? You can skip to step 4.
Step 2. Enable ‘Virtual Machine Platform’
WSL 2 requires Windows 10’s “Virtual Machine Platform” feature to be enabled. This is separate from Hyper-V and hands some of the more interesting platform integrations available in the new version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
To enable Virtual Machine Platform on Windows 10 (2004) open PowerShell as Administrator and run:
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart
To enable Virtual Machine Platform on Windows 10 (1903, 1909) open PowerShell as Administrator and run:
Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName VirtualMachinePlatform -NoRestart
To ensure all of the relevant bits and pieces fall neatly in to place you should restart your system at this point or you may find that things don’t work as intended.
Step 3. Set WSL 2 as default
Open PowerShell as Administrator and run this command to set WSL 2 as the default version of WSL:
wsl --set-default-version 2
You can (at any time) configure a distro to run in WSL 1 mode if you need to.
Step 4. Install a distroWith WSL and the necessary virtualization tech all in place all that is left for you to do is pick and install a Linux distro from the Microsoft Store. Several different distros are available, including OpenSUSE, Penguins, Fedora Remix, and Alpine Linux. But my personal recommendation is (naturally) Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (though 18.04 LTS and 16.04 LTS are also available). To install Ubuntu on Windows 10 open the Microsoft Store app, search for “Ubuntu 20.04”, and hit the “Get” button: Ubuntu 20.04 LTS on the Microsoft Store
5. Use WSL 2When you installed Ubuntu (or a different Linux distro) a shortcut was added to the Start Menu. Use this to “open” Ubuntu (or whichever distro you chose). The first time you run the distro things will seem a little slow. This is expected; the distro has to unpack and decompress all of its contents — just don’t interrupt the process. You will also be promoted to set a username and password for use on the distro. Try to pick something you won’t forget.
Convert Ubuntu on WSL 1 to WSL 2If you use WSL 1 you can upgrade an existing WSL 1 installation to WSL 2. To convert an existing WSL 1 distro to WSL 2 run the following in PowerShell, e.g.,:
wsl.exe --set-version Ubuntu 2
You should replace ‘Ubuntu’ with the name of whichever distro your WSL 1 install runs.