Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) for Windows 11 has been updated with various new features and improvements, including support for Linux GUI applications, changes to make it easier to install and update the platform. form, file explorer integration, storage enhancements, etc.
On Windows, WSL is the platform that allows you to run Linux distributions (such as Ubuntu and Debian) using a lightweight virtual machine, alongside Windows, without the need to configure a full virtual machine. or configure a dual boot system.
In this Windows 11 guide, we’ll show you the most important changes that come with the updated version of Windows Subsystem for Linux.
New changes for the Windows Subsystem for Linux
While this is still considered WSL version 2, there have been many improvements to the experience including a new, faster installation process, support for Linux graphical applications, file explorer integration , etc.
In Windows 11, the WSL installation process has been significantly simplified. Previously, you had to first activate WSL 1 through the “Windows Features” interface, activate the virtualization platform and download an update for the kernel to switch to WSL 2. From this new version, Microsoft implements two new orders, including the
wsl --install and
wsl --update to install and update the system faster.
In other words, if the Windows Subsystem for Linux is not configured on your computer, you can now run the
wsl --install to install all the components required to start using Linux on Windows 11. The command will configure the virtual machine platform, install the WSL components, download the Windows subsystem for the Linux kernel, configure support for the Linux kernel. Linux GUI application and will install Ubuntu by default. After running the command, the only additional step is to restart the computer to apply the configuration.
It should be noted that the custom Linux kernel available in the Windows 11 system image has been removed and is now downloaded from the Microsoft Store.
If you are using the
wsl --install order with the
--distribution option, you can also specify the distribution you want to download in case you don’t want to use Ubuntu as the default distribution.
You can still use the
wsl --list --online to view all of the available distributions you can get on Windows 11.
In addition, there is a new
wsl --update to check and install any updates available for the platform.
While these commands are new for Windows 11, they are also available for Windows 10.
Linux GUI applications
Perhaps one of the most significant improvements in this update is support for Linux GUI applications. So that basically means that you can now install graphics apps and run them along with Windows 11 apps.
Microsoft is introducing this feature for developers to test their apps, but you can use it to run your favorite editors, tools, and programs. Support also comes with GPU-accelerated 3D graphics, microphones, and speakers, which means if you install a media app, those components will be available to apps.
Once you configure the Windows Subsystem for Linux with the install command, it also sets up an X server that runs automatically, which includes Wayland, Pulse Audio, and other components to get everything working. Then, after closing the application and the WSL session, the system distribution will automatically stop.
In addition, when installing the application, the system will add an entry in the Start menu to launch the program without the need to type the command in the console. Additionally, when running an application, you will notice that the icon also includes a Linux log, indicating that it is not a native Windows application.
When running an application, you will notice that the system renders the visuals as if it is installed on Linux. For example, the application frame, menus, buttons, and other events are the same as the Linux GUI. However, Windows does not render these visuals. Instead, you see a remote desktop connection to the distribution running the app.
Attach and mount the disks on the distributions
In this updated version of Windows Subsystem for Linux, it is also possible to connect and mount a drive to access unsupported Linux file systems on Windows 11.
The process of mounting a drive is straightforward. You would open PowerShell and run the
wmic diskdrive list brief to determine the disk you want to mount, then (for example) the
wsl --mount .physicaldrivepath --partition 1 The command will mount the first partition using the physical drive’s ext4 file system.
If you need to mount a different file system, you would use (for example) the
wsl --mount .physicaldrivepath -t vfat command to mount the filesystem as “fat”.
Once the drive is mounted, you can still access the file from File Explorer using the
wsl.localhostdistronamemountpoint order. (Of course, you should always update the orders with the correct information for your situation.)
File Explorer with Linux Integration
In addition, the Windows Subsystem for Linux is now better integrated with the File Explorer application. For example, the default file manager on Windows 11 now includes a “Linux” entry in the navigation pane, giving you quick access to all the files in the distributions.
In addition, the default path has been changed from
wsl.localhost to improve performance and reliability, but you can still use the original path to access files.
Execute commands at startup
The platform also includes a new option to run Linux commands when starting a distro. However, to use this new feature, you need to modify the
/etc/wsl.config configuration file by adding the option “command” under the section “boot”.
The WSL solution now also ships with GPU compute, a new feature that allows Linux binaries to leverage the GPU to perform more intensive machine learning (ML) and data science development workflows.
More Windows resources
For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common Windows 10 and Windows 11 questions, visit the following resources: