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Microsoft adds Windows Subsystem for Linux Preview to Windows 11 Microsoft App Store

It’s now even easier to install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 11. Jack Wallen lets you in on how it’s done.

Image: IB Photography/Shutterstock

If you’re running Windows 11, Microsoft has just made it considerably easier for you to install Windows Subsystem for Linux Preview. Instead of having to go through the Settings application to install WSL, users can now simply open the Microsoft App Store, search for WSL and click to install. 

For those who have yet to experience WSL, you’re in for a treat … that is, if you’re looking to run Linux binaries in Windows. WSL is a compatibility layer (similar to what Wine is to Windows on Linux). With this layer, users can work with Linux applications natively on Windows desktops. 

According to Microsoft:

The Windows Subsystem for Linux preview is now available in the Microsoft Store as a store application for Windows 11 machines! Installing WSL through the store will allow you to get the latest WSL updates and features faster, and without needing to modify your Windows version.

Traditionally, Windows Subsystem for Linux was installed as an optional component, which required users to locate the Turn Windows Features On or Off option and enable it. This was necessary, as WSL was part of the Windows image and was updated as a part of the OS itself.

SEE: Windows 11: Tips on installation, security and more (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Now that the binaries have migrated outside of the operating system image, they are much easier to install and manage (like you would any Windows application). One major side effect of this is that, whenever new features are added to WSL (such as GUI app support, GPU compute and Linux file system mounting), the updates will be made available immediately to users (instead of having to go through the much slower process of being added to the Windows image and then sent out as a Windows update).

New features in WSL 2

One thing to understand is that this isn’t a new release of Windows Subsystem for Linux, it’s just Microsoft decoupling it from the Windows image. So don’t expect a collection of major updates. That being said, along with the simplicity of installation, there are a few notable features to be found in this release. Those features include:

  • WSLg (GUI app support for Wayland and X server-related scenarios) has been added.
  • New wsl.exe –mount features includes –vhd for mounting VHD files, filesystem detection for wsl –mount, updated Linux kernel to 5.10.60.1, a new progress indicator, wsl –install no longer requires the –distribution argument.
  • Added wsl.exe –version to display relevant information.

The big news is that WSL 2 makes it possible for users to run Linux GUI applications, without having to resort to a virtual machine tool or dual booting. That alone is worth the price of entry (which is free).

Pre-requisites for WSL2 on Windows 11

In order to successfully install WSL2 on Windows 11, you need to make sure you have the following pre-requisites:

Windows 11 build number 22000 or higher.

Virtual Machine Platform optional component must be enabled.

To enable the Virtual Machine Platform component, open an elevated PowerShell prompt and issue the command:

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

Once you’ve met those conditions, you can head over to the Microsoft App Store, search for WSL, and install. 

If you’ve upgraded Windows 10 to Windows 11, and already had WSL installed, you can still go to the Microsoft App Store and install the new version from there (the original and new versions can run simultaneously).

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