Windows Subsystem for Linux Installation Guide for Windows 10

Install Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows Subsystem for Linux has two different versions to choose between during the installation process. WSL 2 has better overall performance and we recommend using it. If your system does not support WSL 2, or you have a specific situation that requires cross-system file storage, then you may want to stick with WSL 1. Read more about Comparing WSL 2 and WSL 1.

Note

To use the new wsl --install command and skip steps 1-6 below, you need to join the Windows Insiders Program and install a preview build of Windows 10 (OS build 20262 or higher).

Once the preview build is installed, you can open a command prompt window with administrator privileges and run wsl --install. This will automatically enable the optional WSL and Virtual Machine Platform components, download and install the latest Linux kernel, set WSL 2 as the default, and download Ubuntu (this can be changed using wsl --install -d Debian as an example, to see a list of available Linux distributions, enter wsl --list --online). Once the command has completed, you will be prompted to restart. After restarting, the Linux distribution (Ubuntu by default) completes installing and opens a Linux command line for you to begin using. You could then skip to Step 7 - Set up a new distribution.

Install Steps

  • Open a command window with Administrator privileges
  • Run wsl.exe --install
  • Restart your machine if necessary and directed by the command
  • Upon restart your installation will finish and you'll be ready to start using WSL!

This will install the Ubuntu distribution. You can also install other distributions by passing in arguments, for example wsl --install -d Debian will install Debian. Running wsl --list --online will show you a list of available distributions.

Step 1 - Enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux

You must first enable the "Windows Subsystem for Linux" optional feature before installing any Linux distributions on Windows.

Open PowerShell as Administrator and run:

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart

We recommend now moving on to step #2, updating to WSL 2, but if you wish to only install WSL 1, you can now restart your machine and move on to Step 6 - Install your Linux distribution of choice. To update to WSL 2, wait to restart your machine and move on to the next step.

Step 2 - Update to WSL 2

To update to WSL 2, you must be running Windows 10.

Requirements

  • For x64 systems: Version 1903 or higher, with Build 18362 or higher.
  • For ARM64 systems: Version 2004 or higher, with Build 19041 or higher.
  • Builds lower than 18362 do not support WSL 2. Use the Windows Update Assistant to update your version of Windows.

To check your version and build number, select Windows logo key + R, type winver, select OK. (Or enter the ver command in Windows Command Prompt). Update to the latest Windows version in the Settings menu.

Note

If you are running Windows 10 version 1903 or 1909, open "Settings" from your Windows menu, navigate to "Update & Security" and select "Check for Updates". Your Build number must be 18362.1049+ or 18363.1049+, with the minor build # over .1049. Read more: WSL 2 Support is coming to Windows 10 Versions 1903 and 1909. See the troubleshooting instructions.

Step 3 - Enable Virtual Machine feature

Before installing WSL 2, you must enable the Virtual Machine Platform optional feature.

Open PowerShell as Administrator and run:

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart

Restart your machine to complete the WSL install and update to WSL 2.

Step 4 - Download the Linux kernel update package

  1. Download the latest package:

    Note

    If you're using an ARM64 machine, please download the ARM64 package instead. If you're not sure what kind of machine you have, open Command Prompt or PowerShell and enter: systeminfo | find "System Type".

  2. Run the update package downloaded in the previous step. (Double-click to run - you will be prompted for elevated permissions, select ‘yes’ to approve this installation.)

Once the installation is complete, move on to the next step - setting WSL 2 as your default version when installing new Linux distributions. (Skip this step if you want your new Linux installs to be set to WSL 1).

Note

For more information, read the article changes to updating the WSL2 Linux kernel, available on the Windows Command Line Blog.

Step 5 - Set WSL 2 as your default version

Open PowerShell and run this command to set WSL 2 as the default version when installing a new Linux distribution:

wsl --set-default-version 2

Note

The update from WSL 1 to WSL 2 may take several minutes to complete depending on the size of your targeted distribution. If you are running an older (legacy) installation of WSL 1 from Windows 10 Anniversary Update or Creators Update, you may encounter an update error. Follow these instructions to uninstall and remove any legacy distributions.

If wsl --set-default-version results as an invalid command, enter wsl --help. If the --set-default-version is not listed, it means that your OS doesn't support it and you need to update to version 1903, Build 18362 or higher.

If you see this message after running the command: WSL 2 requires an update to its kernel component. For information please visit https://aka.ms/wsl2kernel. You still need to install the MSI Linux kernel update package.

Step 6 - Install your Linux distribution of choice

  1. Open the Microsoft Store and select your favorite Linux distribution.

    View of Linux distributions in the Microsoft Store

    The following links will open the Microsoft store page for each distribution:

  2. From the distribution's page, select "Get".

    Linux distributions in the Microsoft store

Step 7 - Set up a new distribution

The first time you launch a newly installed Linux distribution, a console window will open and you'll be asked to wait for a minute or two for files to de-compress and be stored on your PC. All future launches should take less than a second.

You will then need to create a user account and password for your new Linux distribution.

Ubuntu unpacking in the Windows console

CONGRATULATIONS! You've successfully installed and set up a Linux distribution that is completely integrated with your Windows operating system!

Install Windows Terminal (optional)

Windows Terminal enables multiple tabs (quickly switch between multiple Linux command lines, Windows Command Prompt, PowerShell, Azure CLI, etc), create custom key bindings (shortcut keys for opening or closing tabs, copy+paste, etc.), use the search feature, and custom themes (color schemes, font styles and sizes, background image/blur/transparency). Learn more.

Install Windows Terminal.

Windows Terminal

Set your distribution version to WSL 1 or WSL 2

You can check the WSL version assigned to each of the Linux distributions you have installed by opening the PowerShell command line and entering the command (only available in Windows Build 18362 or higher): wsl -l -v

wsl --list --verbose

To set a distribution to be backed by either version of WSL please run:

wsl --set-version <distribution name> <versionNumber>

Make sure to replace <distribution name> with the actual name of your distribution and <versionNumber> with the number '1' or '2'. You can change back to WSL 1 at anytime by running the same command as above but replacing the '2' with a '1'.

Additionally, if you want to make WSL 2 your default architecture you can do so with this command:

wsl --set-default-version 2

This will set the version of any new distribution installed to WSL 2.

Troubleshooting installation

Below are related errors and suggested fixes. Refer to the WSL troubleshooting page for other common errors and their solutions.

  • Installation failed with error 0x80070003

    • The Windows Subsystem for Linux only runs on your system drive (usually this is your C: drive). Make sure that distributions are stored on your system drive:
    • Open Settings -> **System --> Storage -> More Storage Settings: Change where new content is saved Picture of system settings to install apps on C: drive
  • WslRegisterDistribution failed with error 0x8007019e

    • The Windows Subsystem for Linux optional component is not enabled:
    • Open Control Panel -> Programs and Features -> Turn Windows Feature on or off -> Check Windows Subsystem for Linux or using the PowerShell cmdlet mentioned at the beginning of this article.
  • Installation failed with error 0x80070003 or error 0x80370102

    • Please make sure that virtualization is enabled inside of your computer's BIOS. The instructions on how to do this will vary from computer to computer, and will most likely be under CPU related options.
  • Error when trying to upgrade: Invalid command line option: wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2

    • Enure that you have the Windows Subsystem for Linux enabled, and that you're using Windows Build version 18362 or higher. To enable WSL run this command in a PowerShell prompt with admin privileges: Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux.
  • The requested operation could not be completed due to a virtual disk system limitation. Virtual hard disk files must be uncompressed and unencrypted and must not be sparse.

    • Deselect “Compress contents” (as well as “Encrypt contents” if that’s checked) by opening the profile folder for your Linux distribution. It should be located in a folder on your Windows file system, something like: USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited...
    • In this Linux distro profile, there should be a LocalState folder. Right-click this folder to display a menu of options. Select Properties > Advanced and then ensure that the “Compress contents to save disk space” and “Encrypt contents to secure data” checkboxes are unselected (not checked). If you are asked whether to apply this to just to the current folder or to all subfolders and files, select “just this folder” because you are only clearing the compress flag. After this, the wsl --set-version command should work.

Screenshot of WSL distro property settings

Note

In my case, the LocalState folder for my Ubuntu 18.04 distribution was located at C:\Users<my-user-name>\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited.Ubuntu18.04onWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc

Check WSL Docs GitHub thread #4103 where this issue is being tracked for updated information.

  • The term 'wsl' is not recognized as the name of a cmdlet, function, script file, or operable program.

  • Error: This update only applies to machines with the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

    • To install the Linux kernel update MSI package, WSL is required and should be enabled first. If it fails, it you will see the message: This update only applies to machines with the Windows Subsystem for Linux.
    • There are three possible reason you see this message:
    1. You are still in old version of Windows which doesn't support WSL 2. See step #2 for version requirements and links to update.

    2. WSL is not enabled. You will need to return to step #1 and ensure that the optional WSL feature is enabled on your machine.

    3. After you enabled WSL, a reboot is required for it to take effect, reboot your machine and try again.

  • Error: WSL 2 requires an update to its kernel component. For information please visit https://aka.ms/wsl2kernel .

    • If the Linux kernel package is missing in the %SystemRoot%\system32\lxss\tools folder, you will encounter this error. Resolve it by installing the Linux kernel update MSI package in step #4 of these installation instructions. You may need to uninstall the MSI from 'Add or Remove Programs', and install it again.