Windows users can now more easily explore Linux on their Windows 11 desktops.
Microsoft has just made the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) available in the Microsoft Store for Windows 11 systems. WSL is the application that allows Windows users to run a GNU/Linux environment directly on Windows without the overhead of a virtual machine or dual-boot setup.
One good aspect is that it installs as a separate app, decoupled from the OS. This means that users can update the app without having to wait for Windows OS updates to become available.
The app in the Microsoft Store is not a new version of WSL. It’s still WSL 2, but is a preview version that was added as an option for end users to get the latest features faster and more conveniently. The binaries will no longer be part of the Windows image.
If you’re not familiar with WSL 2, it’s a major overhaul of the underlying WSL architecture and uses virtualization and a Linux kernel to enable new features. This increases file-system performance and supports full system-call compatibility. To install and use WSL from the Store, users need to be running Windows 11 build 22000 or higher.
New features include that WSLg (the GUI that supports running Linux applications) is now bundled with it. In addition, mounting virtual hard-disk image files will be easier, file system type detection is available, and mount-point naming through WSL is supported. They’ve also added a progress bar to provide feedback on long installs. The Linux kernel has been updated to 18.104.22.168.
While the subsystem for Linux must be enabled for WSL 1, it does not for the Store’s WSL 2 because it remains separate from the Windows image. In addition, Linux GUI apps will already be installed—everything you need in one package.
Users also will have no requirement to remove anything from their systems. They will still have the option to run an older installed version of WSL.
Why a “preview?
At this point, Microsoft is leaning toward eventually moving everyone to the Store version for a better user experience, faster updates and no need to update their OS. User response will drive where they go next. The company’s motivation is to help ensure quality before making this option generally available and to gauge user response.
Anyone running an older version of WSL can run a command like this to view its release:
C:\WINDOWS\system32>wsl -l -v NAME STATE VERSION * Legacy Running 1 Ubuntu Stopped 1 Ubuntu-18.04 Stopped 1
Microsoft has handy release notes for the app that are worth a look. In addition, the app is free, so this might be a good time to tell Windows users they can give Linux a try without making a long-term commitment.