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Windows 10 will soon make it easier to install Linux distros in WSL

Windows Subsystem for Linux
(Image credit: Microsoft)

The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20246 has further improved the Windows Subsystem for Linux, popularly referred to as WSL. 

Users of this latest Insider Preview build, available in the Dev Channel, can now get a fully functional Linux environment on a fresh Windows 10 installation, with just a single command.

The feature has essentially been rolled out in two stages. With the Insider Preview Build 20150, released earlier this year in June 2020, the developers first introduced the [wsl.exe --install] command. 

Back then, the command could automate all the steps required to enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux optional component, along with the optional Virtual Machine Platform component.

Instead of going through the rather involved process of enabling WSL manually, users could just use the [wsl.exe -- install] command from inside the PowerShell app to install WSL on a fresh installation.

Now installs Linux

In the latest Preview Build 20246 released last week, the command will now also install any of the supported Linux distributions.

For instance, [wsl.exe --install --distribution Ubuntu] will enable the WSL subsystem and download and install the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS distribution.

Microsoft announced WSL about 4 years back at their Build 2016 developer conference. With WSL, users could run their favourite Linux command-line tools directly in Windows. 

In a blog post summarising the latest edition of the Build 2020 conference, Craig Loewan, a Program Manager of the Windows Developer Platform shared that “WSL usage has grown enormously from initially just a few thousand people downloading the first preview build to more than 3.5 million monthly active devices today!” 

Miles to go

Microsoft has recently introduced WSL 2, which is the significantly improved version of the subsystem. Not only is WSL 2 significantly faster, it also allows for full system compatibility by putting a real Linux kernel at the heart of things. 

And they aren’t close to being done yet

Microsoft claims that one of its near-term goals for WSL is to have the ability to run graphical Linux apps on the Windows desktop alongside the usual Windows apps.

To that end, Microsoft WSL developers have already demonstrated some early work on this in the Build 2020 conference. 

At the speed the developers are pushing out new features in the WSL subsystem, owing obviously to its increasing popularity, it wouldn’t be long before the ability to run GUI Linux apps on WSL lands in an Inside Build.