Windows Subsystem for Linux is a compatibility layer that allows you to run various Linux = distros right away on your Windows 10 and Windows 11 systems. While WSL 1 made its debut back in 2016, there was a need to have better performance of this subsystem, hence WSL 2 was released. Today, we will be taking a look at how you can install WSL 2 on Windows 11 PCs easily.
While there may not be any visual differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2, there are differences that separate the two based on their functions and performances. Here are the differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2.
|Features||WSL 1||WSL 2|
|Integration between Windows and Linux||Yes||Yes|
|Fast boot times||Yes||Yes|
|Small resource footprint compared to traditional Virtual Machines||Yes||Yes|
|Runs with current versions of VMware and VirtualBox||Yes||Yes|
|Full Linux Kernel||No||Yes|
|Full system call compatibility||No||Yes|
|Performance across OS file systems||Yes||No|
Now that you have seen the differences between WSL 1 and WSL 2, let’s take a look at how you can install WSL 2 on your Windows 11 PC.
How to Install WSL 2 on Windows 11 / 10 PC
WSL 2 can be installed on Windows 10 as well as Windows 11 PCs. While WSL 2 can be installed on any Windows 11 PC, there is a certain requirement that needs to be met if you wish to install WSL 2 on Windows 10.
Windows 10 x64 Systems
- Version 1903 or newer
- Build 18362 or newer
Windows 10 ARM64 systems
- Version 2004 or newer
- Build 19041 or newer
If your Windows 10 system is not on a build that is newer than the mentioned ones, it is recommended that you update it to the latest available version, or simply install Windows 11 on your PC provided it passes the system requirements for Windows 11.
If you simply thought that you could install and run WSL 2 on your system, you are wrong. In fact, you will have to first enable two features in order to get WSL 2 working on your system.
Enable Windows Subsystem for Linux.
This is an optional feature that is available in Windows 10 as well as Windows 11 systems. However, to get WSL 2 working on your system, you need to enable this feature. Follow these steps
- Click on the Start Button and type in Powershell.
- When you see Windows Powershell in the results, select it and choose Run as Administrator.
- When the Windows Powershell launches, all you need to do is paste the following command and press the enter key.
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename: Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
- The feature will take a couple of seconds to be installed. It will let you know once the installation has been completed.
Enable Virtual Machine Platform
In order to run WSL 2 on your system as well as run various Linux distros right away, your system will have to have virtualization capabilities and features in order to run WSL 2. Here is how you can enable the Virtualization features
- Open up the Start Menu and search for Windows Powershell.
- Make sure to run it as an administrator.
- Now, all you need to do is paste the following command line and hit the enter key to execute it.
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart
Now that you have enabled these features on your Windows PC, it is time to download the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 to your PC. There are two ways you can follow to download the WSL 2 package. Let’s take a look.
How to Install WSL 2
The first method of installing WSL 2 onto your system is by using the command line. Here is how you can install WSl 2 on your Windows PC.
- Launch the Start menu and type in Windows Terminal.
- Make sure that your Windows PC is connected to the internet.
- When you see it in the search results, select it and choose Run as administrator.
- With Windows Terminal open, type in:
- Once you hit the enter key, the installation of WSL 2 will now begin.
The second method to installing WSL 2 on your Windows PC is by installing it from the Microsoft Store. Here is how you can install it from the Microsoft Store.
- First off, connect your Windows PC to the internet.
- Now, open the Start menu and launch the Microsoft Store.
- When the Store launches, all you need to do is click on the search bar in the middle of the app.
- Type in Windows Subsystem and hit the enter key.
- You will see the Windows Subsystem for Linux Preview in the search results.
- Click on the button that says Get.
- Now, click on Install.
- WSL will now be downloaded and installed on your Windows PC.
- The app weighs around 400MB.
And this is how you can install WSL 2 on your Windows PC. With WSL 2 installed, you can now install any Linux Distro on your Windows PC. In fact, you will also be able to run the OS natively without you having to dual boot or install a new OS to your system.
Download and Install Linux Distros
The Microsoft Store is a great place where you can get a variety of Linux distros to install and use on your PC. You can download the following Linux distros from the Microsoft Store right away.
- Alpine WSL
- Fedora Remix for WSl
- Kali Linux
- open SUSE Leap
- Pengwin Enterprise
- SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
Once you have downloaded the distro that you want, you need to restart your PC. With the PC restarted, simply search for the distro that you downloaded in the Start menu and launch it. The distro will now load up and will be ready for you to use. And this is how you can run Linux on your Windows PC without having to dual boot or install it as a partition on your Windows PC.
This is how you can install WSL 2 on your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PCs. The process is simple and easy to follow. Now that you are able to run Linux distros within Windows, which will your go-to Linux distro that you will be using? Let us know in the comments below. If you have any queries, feel free to leave them below as well.