Open Sourcing a WSL Sample for Linux Distribution Maintainers and Sideloading Custom Linux Distributions

Tara Raj

We are happy to announce that we have open sourced a WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) sample  for Linux distribution maintainers.  This sample allows distro maintainers to build WSL distro packages for the Microsoft Store and developers to create custom Linux distro packages for sideloading.  You can find the distro launcher repo on GitHub.

This project enables:

  • Linux distribution maintainers to package and submit a Linux distribution as an appx that runs on WSL
  • Developers to create custom Linux distributions that can be sideloaded onto their dev machine

We know that many Linux distros rely entirely on open source software, so we would like to bring WSL closer to the OSS community. We hope open sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store.

First, a little background on how we distribute Linux distros for WSL. We distribute Linux distros for WSL as UWP applications through the Microsoft Store. You can install those applications that will then run on WSL – the subsystem that sits in the Windows kernel. This delivery mechanism has many benefits as discussed in an earlier blog post.

Sideloading a Custom Linux Distro Package

You can create a custom Linux distro package as an application to sideload on your personal machine. Please note that your custom package would not be distributed through the Microsoft Store unless you submit as a distribution maintainer.

To set up your machine to sideload apps, you will need to enable this in the system settings under “For Developers”.  Be sure to either have developer mode, or sideload apps selected

For Linux Distro Maintainers

To submit to the Store, you will need to work with us to receive publishing approval. If you are a Linux distribution owner interested in adding your distribution to the Microsoft Store, please contact

Thanks & Feedback

A big thanks to our Linux partners for helping provide feedback on the sample. Please visit the Distro Launcher repo to start creating distro packages for WSL. We hope you can use this sample to create custom Linux distros for more of your WSL needs!

Be sure to let us know how you use the Distro Launcher for WSL by submitting issues on our sample GitHub repo and Tweeting us at #WSL – @tara_msft and @benhillis.


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