WSL 2 will be generally available in Windows 10, version 2004

Craig Loewen

WSL 2 will soon be officially available as part of Windows 10, version 2004! As we get ready for general availability, we want to share one additional change: updating how the Linux kernel inside of WSL 2 is installed and serviced on your machine. We’ve heard lots of community feedback that the install experience could be streamlined, and we’re taking the first step towards this by improving the servicing model of the Linux kernel. We’ve removed the Linux kernel from the Windows OS image and instead will be delivering it to your machine via Windows Update, the same way that 3rd party drivers (like graphics, or touchpad drivers) are installed and updated on your machine today. This change will give you more agility and flexibility over Linux kernel updates in WSL 2. Read on to learn more about how you’ll see this in the user experience.

How will I notice this change?

Our end goal is for this change to be seamless, where your Linux kernel is kept up to date without you needing to think about it. By default this will be handled entirely by Windows, just like regular updates on your machine. Inside of the initial release of Windows 10, version 2004, and in the latest Windows Insiders slow ring preview build you will temporarily need to manually install the Linux kernel, and will receive an update in a few months that will add automatic install and servicing capabilities. We made this change now and will have a patch later to ensure that all users in the initial general release of WSL 2 will be serviced via this dynamic model, and no one will be left in a middle state using the prior system.

Automatic install and updates

If you’ve ever gone to your Windows settings, and clicked ‘Check for Updates’ you might have seen some other items being updated like Windows Defender malware definitions, or a new touchpad driver, etc. The Linux kernel in WSL 2 will now be serviced in this same method, which means you’ll get the latest kernel version independently of consuming an update to your Windows image. You can manually check for new kernel updates by clicking the ‘Check for Updates’ button, or you can let Windows keep you up to date just like normal.

Image wsl1

If you’re installing WSL for the first time, we’ll check for updates and install the Linux kernel for you during the WSL install process.

Temporary experience of manually installing the Linux kernel in Windows 10, version 2004 and Windows Insiders slow ring

After updating to Windows 10 build 19041.153, when you run any of the following commands:

  • wsl (If a WSL 2 distro is your default distro)
  • wsl --set-version <Distro> 2, – wsl --set-default-version 2
  • wsl --import and wsl --export targeting WSL 2

You’ll see a one-time message instructing you to update your kernel. It will instruct you to go to the link:

Command Prompt showing WSL

Once there, follow the instructions to download the MSI package, run it to install your Linux kernel, and you’ll be finished and ready to use WSL 2. When automatic install and update of the Linux kernel is added you’ll start getting automatic updates to your kernel right away.

Future plans and where to learn more

We’re excited for the release of WSL2, and to keep working on the WSL install experience. If you’d like to learn more about WSL 2, check out our latest overview video WSL 2: Code faster on the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Please stay tuned for more updates from us soon!

As always you can reach members of the WSL team that are on Twitter, or me personally @craigaloewen on Twitter if you have any general questions. For technical issues please file an issue on the WSL Github Repo. We always love hearing your feedback, thank you for helping make WSL amazing, and we’ll see you with the next update soon!


  • 3/13/2020 – Thank you to our WSL distro partners: Canonical, Debian, openSUSE, Kali Linux, and Pengwin for adding a change to their distro launcher to help support this experience!
  • 3/13/2020 – Added link to WSL 2 explanation video
  • 6/22/2020 – Changed verbage to ‘WSL 2’


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • Pushpendra Kumar 0

    This is really great job. Though I have another impression of Windows and Microsoft products entirely. In my opinion which doesn’t matter for MS of course, but MS has great or can say top office and software development products in the world, but Kernel.
    So why not MS port their product to Linux kernel ??
    Frankly developers who want to develop on Linux, they need Linux to be in power, not an emulator of Windows. So for me WSL2 would be just like Putty through which I connect to Linux server and do the job.
    Although I’m not sure if there are problems in adapting Linux kernel for Windows, problems like Licensing etc.

  • Gregory Regan 0

    …this looks very interesting, do you think it’ll eventually be included in Win 10 multi-session 2004??

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