Microsoft Announces Its First Custom-Built Linux Kernel for Windows 10, Serviced Through Windows Updates

May 7, 2019
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Microsoft is bridging gaps with other platforms and companies having recently patched up with Google and now doing some work on the Linux side, as well. The Windows maker has announced that it is going to ship a full Linux kernel with Windows 10. This custom-built Linux kernel developed in-house will be delivered this summer, first to Insiders and then to the public.

“We will be shipping a real Linux kernel for Windows that will make full system call compatibility possible.”

Microsoft says this isn’t its first release of a Linux kernel (shipped one in 2018 when it announced Azure Sphere), but it is the first time on Windows. “This marks the first time that the Linux kernel will be included as a component in Windows,” Microsoft noted in a blog post, adding that the kernel will provide the underpinnings for Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Jack Hammons, Program Manager of Linux Systems Group, further explains how this will ship with Windows.

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“The Microsoft kernel will interface with a userspace selected by the user. This will generally come through installation via the Windows store but can also be “sideloaded” through the creation of a custom distribution package. The only exception to this rule is a small init script that is injected to bootstrap the startup process, forming the connections between Windows and Linux that make WSL so magical.”

The company added that the kernel itself will initially be based on version 4.19, which is the latest long-term stable release of Linux. However, it will continue to be updated “to ensure that the WSL kernel always has the latest Linux goodness.”

The kernel will also be fully open-sourced with Microsoft planning to contribute back all changes that it makes to its custom-built kernel. “When WSL2 is released in Windows Insider builds, instructions for creating your own WSL kernel will be made available on Github,” Hammons wrote.

This kernel has been tuned for the latest WSL 2 and optimized for size and performance to give an amazing Linux experience on Windows. Microsoft will service this Linux kernel through Windows updates offering latest security fixes and kernel improvements.

Relevant: how to get W10 version 1903 before anyone else; the update that gives back control over the update process

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