Linux Tactic

Unleashing the Power of WSL: Everything You Need to Know

Introduction to Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)

If you’re a developer, chances are you’re familiar with Linux and use it regularly. On the other hand, if you’re a Windows user, you might have had difficulties running Linux tools natively on your system.

But that is no longer the case with the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), a feature for Windows 10 that allows you to run Linux applications directly on Windows. In this article, we’ll go over the basics of WSL, how it works, and its features.

We’ll explore the improvements made in WSL2, and how it enhances the experience of developers using the technology.

What is WSL and its purpose?

WSL is a compatibility layer for Windows 10 that enables Linux binary executables to run natively on Windows. Essentially, WSL allows you to run a Linux operating system on top of your Windows 10 operating system without requiring a virtual machine or dual boot setup.

It provides a full-fledged Linux environment that you can use to run any Linux-based application, including command-line tools and utilities. The primary purpose of WSL is to make it easier for developers to work with Linux tools and dependencies on their Windows machines.

Instead of having to use a separate virtual machine or dual-boot setup to run Linux apps, WSL enables them to run directly on your Windows system. This feature makes it easier to develop applications that use cross-platform tools and libraries.

How WSL works

WSL works by using a kernel component that translates Linux system calls into Windows system calls. When you install WSL, it creates a lightweight Linux distribution that coexists with the Windows subsystem.

This Linux distribution is simply a set of packages that provide a Linux environment that runs on top of the Windows kernel. At the core of WSL is a compatibility layer that translates Linux system calls to Windows equivalents.

This layer allows Linux binaries to run directly in the Windows environment without requiring any changes to the applications themselves.

WSL also uses the Bash shell, providing all the standard Linux utilities and command-line operations.

This means you can use the same Linux command-line tools and utilities that developers are accustomed to, without the need for a dedicated Linux machine.

WSL 2 Features

Overview of WSL 2

WSL 2 is the successor to the original WSL, providing enhanced features and capabilities. One of the most significant differences between the two versions of WSL is that WSL 2 includes its own lightweight and optimized Linux kernel.

This kernel provides better system call compatibility and faster performance, making WSL 2 feel more like a “real” Linux system.

Improvements in performance and system call compatibility

WSL 2 brings major improvements to performance and system call compatibility. The new version of WSL 2 includes a lightweight VM with a full Linux kernel.

This means that WSL 2 provides a more comprehensive Linux environment than WSL, with faster start-up times, improved I/O performance, and support for more native system calls.

Optimized Linux kernel for WSL 2

WSL 2 includes an optimized Linux kernel that is built specifically for WSL use cases. This kernel is tuned to run effectively on a virtual machine and is optimized for fast I/O performance.

The new kernel also includes changes made by Microsoft’s development team to improve compatibility with Windows. WSL 2 supports running Docker natively on Windows.

This means you can use Docker to build containerized applications that run directly on your Windows system. Additionally, WSL 2 enables developers to run multiple Linux distros side by side, and you can use one distro as a backend for another.


Windows Subsystem for Linux is a powerful and feature-packed tool that makes it easy to develop cross-platform applications by running Linux tools natively on your Windows system. WSL2 is the successor to WSL, providing enhanced performance and capabilities by including its own Linux kernel and better system call compatibility.

With WSL2, developers can run Docker containers natively on Windows and run multiple Linux distributions side by side. Whether you’re a Windows developer or a Linux user, WSL should be a part of your toolbox.

3) Checking WSL version

If you’re using Windows 10 and want to know what version of Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) you are currently using, there are simple methods to identify it. Here are a few ways to check your WSL version:

Command prompt and system info checks

One way to check your WSL version is by using the command prompt. First, open the command prompt and type `wsl –list –verbose` then press enter.

You should see a list of the different distributions installed on your machine and the accompanying WSL version beside each of them. WSL 1 will display as “version 1” and WSL 2 as “version 2.”

Another method is by checking the system information.

Open the search bar, type in “System Information,” and launch the application. From there, navigate to the “System Summary” section and scroll down until you see the “Hyper-V Requirements” subheading.

If the “VM Monitor Mode Extensions” line is enabled, you’re using WSL 2. Otherwise, it means you’re running WSL 1.

Enabling WSL 2 and troubleshooting

If you’re currently running WSL 1 and want to switch to WSL 2, you need to ensure that your Windows 10 operating system is updated with the latest version. After updating, open the PowerShell prompt as an administrator and type in the following command to enable WSL 2: `dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart`.

After running this command, you’ll need to restart your system to complete the installation process. Next, enter the following command to set the version of WSL you want to use: `wsl –set-version 2`, replacing `` with the name of the Linux distro you want to use.

If you encounter any issues after running these commands, you may want to uninstall and reinstall your Linux distribution.

4) Choosing WSL version

Advantages of WSL 2 over WSL 1

While WSL 1 is a significant improvement over the previous methods of using Linux on Windows, WSL 2 takes things to the next level. WSL 2 offers better compatibility with Linux system calls, resulting in better performance and efficiency.

It uses a full Linux kernel and can run more specialized software that requires low-level hardware access, such as Docker containers. WSL 2 also provides more efficient way of accessing files between the two operating systems.

It doesn’t share the same underlying architecture as the existing Windows system. This results in faster read and write speeds and better performance for applications running in WSL.

One significant benefit of WSL 2 over WSL 1 is the ability to update the kernel independently of the Windows host. This allows for better compatibility with the latest Linux releases, access to new features and improvements in file system performance.

Exceptions where WSL 1 is preferable

Despite its many advantages, there are still some cases where WSL 1 is preferable to WSL 2. One of the most notable advantages of WSL 1 is the ability to access files stored within the Windows file system.

This feature is not available in WSL 2, making it essential for Windows users who need seamless file sharing between the two operating systems. Additionally, WSL 1 is better suited for applications that require direct access to Windows hardware, such as those that require serial port support.

In some cases, these applications may exhibit bugs or other issues when run on WSL 2, and may require the use of WSL 1.

Setting WSL version for specific distribution

If you want to specify which version of WSL a particular Linux distribution will use, you can do so using the following command: `wsl –set-version `. Replace `` with the name of the distribution you want to modify and `` with the version you want to use (1 or 2).

This will allow you to run different versions of WSL for different distributions, depending on the needs of your workload. In conclusion, the check WSL version command can be easily achieved through command prompt and system info checks.

Enabling WSL 2 on Windows 10 requires entering a specific command in the PowerShell prompt. The advantages of WSL 2 over WSL 1 are many, including better performance and the ability to update the kernel independently of the Windows host.

However, there are still cases where WSL 1 is preferable, especially for users who require file sharing between the two operating systems or need access to serial port support. Finally, the ability to set a different WSL version for a specific Linux distribution name allows for more flexibility and customization depending on your needs.

In conclusion, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is an excellent tool for developers that runs Linux tools directly on Windows. Checking the WSL version can be done through the command prompt and checking the system information, while enabling WSL 2 requires running particular commands on PowerShell and troubleshooting any installation issues that may arise.

WSL 2 offers better performance, file system access, and kernel updates. However, WSL 1 is still useful for certain use cases, such as direct access to Windows hardware.

Knowing how to switch between versions for specific Linux distributions provides more flexibility for developers. Overall, WSL is a crucial part of the toolbox for any Windows user looking to access Linux tools natively on their systems.

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