What’s new in the Windows Subsystem for Linux – September 2020

Craig Loewen

This blog post highlights the WSL updates being made over the past few months, in addition to some sneak previews of our upcoming features and future plans.

WSL 2 support is now available in Windows 10 version 1903 and 1909

We’ve heard feedback on how many users have enjoyed using WSL 2 and have made WSL 2 available to more Windows users with this backport. Customers running Windows 10 version 1903 and 1909 can now enjoy faster file system performance, 100% system call compatibility, and be able to use Docker Desktop with the WSL2-based engine. Read more about these updates, including how to ensure your machine has them, in the blog post announcement.

Update on running Linux GUI apps in WSL

GUI app support in WSL is becoming a reality! We are getting closer to an initial preview and happy to announce a preview release for Windows Insiders within the next couple of months.

Below is an early look at an internal build running GUI apps in WSL! You can see that WSL will support many different types of applications, including IDEs running fully in a Linux environment. We have included lots of fit and finish details, such as showing the icons for Linux apps in the task bar and support for audio with your microphone (and yes, that really is the Linux version of Microsoft Teams running in WSL).

WSL GUI app support

Stay tuned for more details about this feature coming soon. If you’d like to learn more about the architecture behind this change, check out the X11 and Wayland talk at the XDC 2020 conference from Steve Pronovost.

WSL –install with distro support is coming soon to Insiders

At the BUILD 2020 conference we announced that we will be adding a new command that will allow you to fully install WSL called wsl --install. The first iteration of this feature is currently available in Windows Insiders. Within the next couple of weeks, the --install argument will include the ability to install WSL distros, meaning you will be able to fully set up WSL on your machine, along with your chosen distro, with just one command.

Access Linux file systems using WSL

Starting with Windows Insiders preview build 20211, WSL 2 offers a new feature: wsl --mount. This new parameter allows a physical disk to be attached and mounted inside WSL 2, enabling you to access filesystems that aren’t natively supported by Windows (such as ext4). You can also navigate to these files inside of Windows File Explorer.

Access EXT4 in Windows

To learn more about this feature read the WSL 2 mount disk doc or announcement blog post.

Open-sourcing TensorFlow with DirectML

WSL includes support for GPU compute workflows, available now in Windows Insiders builds. Read more about this change and how to get started in our docs: GPU accelerated machine learning training. Additionally, we made the source code of TensorFlow-DirectML, an extension of TensorFlow on Windows, available to the public as an open-source project on Github. TensorFlow-DirectML broadens the reach of TensorFlow beyond its traditional Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) support, by enabling high-performance training and inferencing of machine learning models on any Windows devices with a DirectX 12-capable GPU through DirectML. DirectML is a hardware-accelerated deep learning API on Windows. You can learn more about this change on the announcement blog post.

Linux kernel versions now auto-updated via Microsoft Update for WSL

Earlier this year, we announced that the Linux kernel in WSL 2 will be serviced out of the Windows image. This means you can have greater control over your Linux kernel version, as well as your Windows version, enabling you to stay safe and secure as Windows keeps you up to date. The new kernel versions are no longer only for Windows Insiders, now any device that has WSL enabled and has opted in to Microsoft Updates will automatically receive the latest kernel version! Find our Linux kernel release history on the WSL docs.

Follow up with us

Let us know what you think about these changes via Twitter, you can follow me @craigaloewen and find all the WSL team members in this twitter list. If you run into any issues, or have technical feedback and feature requests for our team please file an issue on our WSL repo in Github.