Windows Subsystem for Linux Is Now Available as an App for Windows 11 Users

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Microsoft has released a preview of Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which is now available in the Microsoft Store as a store application exclusively for Windows 11 machines. This means WSL is now decoupled from your Windows version, and you can update it like any other app to get the latest WSL features and improvements.

The company clarified that "this is the exact same WSL that you know and love, all that we’ve changed is where it gets installed and updated from." WSL for Windows 11 will be made generally available for everyone after a testing period of this initial preview.

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"Traditionally, WSL has been installed as an optional component inside of Windows," Microsoft writes in today's blog post. "This means that you would go to the 'Turn Windows Features on or off' dialogue to enable it, requiring you to restart your machine. The actual binaries that make up WSL’s logic in that optional component are part of the Windows image and are serviced and updated as part of Windows itself."

This change moves those binaries from being part of the Windows image, to instead being part of an application that you install from the Store. This decouples WSL from your Windows version, allowing you to update through the Microsoft Store instead. So now once new features like GUI app support, GPU compute, and Linux file system drive mounting are developed, tested and ready for a release you will get access to it right away on your machine without needing to update your entire Windows OS, or going to Windows Insider preview builds.

While everything is the same, here are some of the new features that Microsoft has packaged with this Preview:

  • WSLg is now bundled as part of the WSL app!
  • New wsl.exe --mount features!
    • Add --mount --vhd to make mounting VHD files easier.
    • Implement filesystem detection for wsl --mount. This change implements filesystem type detection if no --type is specified when using wsl.exe --mount.
    • Add --name feature to wsl --mount. This change adds support for optionally naming a mountpoint when mounting a disk through WSL.
  • Updated Linux kernel to 5.10.60.1
  • Added progress indicator helper function used to show a Please Wait message with animated dots on the conversion process to show users that WSL is still running.
  • Switched wsl --install to not require the --distribution argument. This change switches wsl --install to not require the --distribution argument but maintains support to avoid breaking existing scripts.
  • Added wsl.exe --version command which displays relevant version information.

How to install WSL for Windows 11

To install and run WSL for Windows 11 through Microsoft Store, make sure you are running Windows 11 build 22000 or higher) and have the Virtual Machine Platform optional component enabled:

Run: dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all in an elevated PowerShell prompt

Head over to this page to download WSL, install it, and then install a Linux distro of your choice to start using it.

You can currently install both the WSL for Windows 11 app and the in-Windows version of WSL simultaneously. Microsoft said that the "WSL store version will always take precedence, so when it’s installed on your machine then that’s the version of WSL that you’ll be interacting with."

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How to uninstall Windows Subsystem for Linux from the Microsoft Store

To go back to the in-Windows version, simply follow these steps:

  1. Search for “Windows Subsystem for Linux” in the start menu.
  2. Right-click on the application and click “Uninstall” to uninstall the store version.
  3. Ensure the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” optional component is turned on; see this step for details.

Need more information, check out the FAQs in this blog post.

- Relevant: Microsoft Offers an Easy Way Out of Windows 11 – How to Roll Back to Windows 10 Without Losing Anything

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