Windows Terminal as your Default Command Line Experience

Kayla

Hey Windows Terminal fans! This month we are delivering a servicing release and the next feature release is scheduled for January, so we figured we’d write a blog post discussing Windows Terminal as the default command line experience on Windows and what our future plans are.

What is a default terminal?

A default terminal is the terminal emulator that launches by default when opening a command line application. Starting from the dawn of Windows, the default terminal emulator has always been the Windows Console Host, conhost.exe. This means that shells such as Command Prompt and PowerShell have always opened inside the Windows Console Host.

For a long time, users have not been easily able to replace the console host. There were definitely third parties who hooked the OS to make it possible, but it was never truly supported. Now, we are opening up the functionality to allow for other terminals to be set as default, including Windows Terminal.

💡 More information on the command line architecture in Windows can be found in this series of blog posts.

Default terminal setting

On Windows 11, you are able to set Windows Terminal as your default experience. This setting can be found in multiple places: inside the Developer settings page of Windows settings, inside Windows Terminal’s settings on the Startup page, and inside the Windows Console Host property sheet.

Image win11 defterm

Image terminal defterm

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Moving to the default

Over the course of 2022, we are planning to make Windows Terminal the default experience on Windows 11 devices. We will start with the Windows Insider Program and start moving through rings until we reach everyone on Windows 11. We would love to have your feedback while we are working on this to help iron out all of the bugs and ensure everyone has a great experience with Terminal. 🙂 You can always file issues and feature requests on our GitHub.

Happy new year!

We hope you’ve enjoyed the releases we’ve had this year and are looking forward to next year’s improvements! We’ll continue to keep you in the loop with our developments and plans and will be back in January with our next feature release. Cheers!

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12 comments

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  • Fleet Command

    Starting from the dawn of Windows, the default terminal emulator has always been the Windows Console Host, conhost.exe.

    Windows Console Host is a lot younger than you think. It first appeared in Windows 7 and didn’t become the terminal emulator until Windows 8. Before Windows 8, CSRSS played the role of a terminal. Even CSRSS didn’t start from the “dawn of Windows!” In Windows 3.1, COMMAND.COM was the terminal emulator. It is not to be confused with one of the built-in apps of Windows 3.1 called Terminal.

    • MgSam

      Are you trying to imply that 2012 was not the dawn of Windows? Chiseling into stone tablets doesn’t count as Windows you know.

    • George Schizas

      While you are correct about CSRSS, COMMAND.COM was never a terminal emulator. The “terminal emulator” / “console host” was WINOA386.MOD, in Windows 3.x, Windows 95 and Windows 98 and ME.

  • MgSam

    Glad to see you have a plan for making it the default out-of-the-box. I make this point a lot, but the defaults are far more important than settings allowing people to download or change defaults. 99% of machines are left at the default settings, and in most enterprises, users don’t even have the admin rights to change these sorts of things.

    I’ve not yet been able to get any value out of Windows Terminal or WinGet because they are not shipped with the OS. Looking forward to the day they finally are so I have them available on my work machines.

  • switchdesktopwithfade@hotmail.com

    The UWP-ification of Windows 11 in spite of the entire software industry’s rejection of UWP is slowly turning the OS into hot garbage. Everything you’re doing here is going to have to be undone at some point, especially when antitrust comes walking into town. Most of the court settlement of over 20 years ago has been completely subverted and will need to be revisited with prejudice.

    • Jorge Morales Vidal

      I don’t know what you’re talking about, UWP was introduced in Windows 10 and works really well, on millions of PCs already since 2015. Windows 11 continues based on that legacy and has improved it. I don’t understand how Windows Terminal will be “undone at some point, especially when antitrust comes walking into town”, if it is targeted to developers who already have several options for terminal applications.

      Sometimes I wonder why people are still arguing about the old Microsoft from the nineties, when things changed for good many years ago.

  • IGnatius Foobar

    Will this be yet another “you can select any program you want, but we’ll helpfully switch it back to ours from time to time” option, like the browser choice?

  • Michel de Becdelièvre

    Does this work with UAC level 4 and elevation ?

    Under Windows 10 :
    – set your UAC controls to max
    – login as an ordinary user (not in the administrator group)
    – try loging as an administrator : does not work
    – try using wt in an elevated PowerShell : does not work.

    My experiment with a Windows 11 Pro yesterday tells me it’s still not working.

    This is deeply annoying for developpers in an organisation :
    – they are using their ordinary domain account (not admin)
    – they have an admin logging for debug purpose
    – UAC level 4 is set up at organisation level

    This is clearly linked to UWP. Winget suffer from the same problem (and it is even more ridiculous for an installation tool)

    Do you have a solution ?

  • Edward B

    I would like to see an elevated prompt in a profile as an option.
    I need this for work. Otherwise Windows Terminal is useless to me.