Install WSL

Prerequisites

You must be running Windows 10 version 2004 and higher (Build 19041 and higher) or Windows 11.

Note

To check your Windows version and build number, select Windows logo key + R, type winver, select OK. You can update to the latest Windows version in the Settings menu or using the Windows Update Assistant.

If you're running an older build, or just prefer not to use the install command and would like step-by-step directions, see WSL manual installation steps for older versions.

Install

You can now install everything you need to run Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) by entering this command in PowerShell or Windows Command Prompt and then restarting your machine.

wsl --install

This command will enable the required optional components, download the latest Linux kernel, set WSL 2 as your default, and install a Linux distribution for you (Ubuntu by default, see below to change this).

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

Change the default Linux distribution installed

By default, the installed Linux distribution will be Ubuntu. This can be changed using the -d flag.

  • To change the distribution installed, enter: wsl --install -d <Distribution Name>. Replace <Distribution Name> with the name of the distribution you would like to install.
  • To see a list of available Linux distributions available for download through the online store, enter: wsl --list --online or wsl -l -o.
  • To install additional Linux distributions after the initial install, you may also use the command: wsl --install -d <Distribution Name>.

Tip

If you want to install additional distributions from inside a Linux/Bash command line (rather than from PowerShell or Command Prompt), you must use .exe in the command: wsl.exe --install -d <Distribution Name> or to list available distributions: wsl.exe -l -o.

If you run into an issue during the install process, check the installation section of the troubleshooting guide.

Set up your Linux user info

Once you have installed WSL, you will need to create a user account and password for your newly installed Linux distribution. See the Best practices for setting up a WSL development environment guide to learn more.

Set up and best practices

We recommend following our Best practices for setting up a WSL development environment guide for a step-by-step walk-through of how to set up a user name and password for your installed Linux distribution(s), using basic WSL commands, installing and customizing Windows Terminal, set up for Git version control, code editing and debugging using the VS Code remote server, good practices for file storage, setting up a database, mounting an external drive, setting up GPU acceleration, and more.

Want to try the latest WSL preview features?

Try the most recent features or updates to WSL by joining the Windows Insiders Program. Once you have joined Windows Insiders, you can choose the channel you would like to receive preview builds from inside the Windows settings menu to automatically receive any WSL updates or preview features associated with that build. You can choose from:

  • Dev channel: Most recent updates, but low stability.
  • Beta channel: Ideal for early adopters, more reliable builds than the Dev channel.
  • Release Preview channel: Preview fixes and key features on the next version of Windows just before its available to the general public.

Additional resources