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How to install WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux 2) on Windows 10

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 is now available on Windows 10 with various improvements, and this how you can install and start using it.

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 on Windows 10

WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2) is a new version of the architecture that allows you to use Linux on top of Windows 10 natively (using a lightweight virtual machine), and it is meant to replace WSL.

The feature runs a real Linux kernel in this new version, which improves performance and app compatibility over the previous version while maintaining the same experience as the first release.

In this guide, you will learn the steps to install the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 on Windows 10.

Install WSL2 on Windows 10 2004 or higher

Since August 2021, Microsoft simplifying the install process of the WSL on Windows 10 2004 and higher releases to only one command that downloads and installs all the required components, including the virtual machine platform and Ubuntu Linux by default.

To install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10 2004 or higher, use these steps:

  1. Open Start on Windows 10.

  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to install the WSL on Windows 10 and press Enter:

    wsl --install

    Single command install WSL
    Single command install WSL
  4. Restart your computer to finish the WSL installation on Windows 10.

  5. Continue with the Linux distro setup as necessary.

Once you complete the steps, the required Linux components will automatically install the latest version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Install WSL with specific distro

To install WSL with a specific distro on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to view a list of available WSL distros you can install on Windows 10 and press Enter:

    wsl --list --online
    Quick note: At the time of this writing, you can install Ubuntu, Debian, Kali Linux, openSUSE, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.
  4. Type the following command to install the WSL with a specific distro on Windows 10 and press Enter:

    wsl --install -d DISTRO-NAME

    Windows 11 install WSL specific distro

    In the command, remember to replace “DISTRO-NAME” for the name of the distro you want to install, such as Debian.

  5. Restart your computer.

  6. Continue with the Linux distro setup as necessary.

After you complete the steps, the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 components will install with the distro of Linux you specified. 

Update WSL kernel

To update the WSL kernel to the latest version, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to update the WSL kernel and press Enter:

    wsl --update

    WSL update command
    WSL update command

Once you complete the steps, if an update is available, then it will download and install on the device.

If the update command doesn’t work, open Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options, and turn on the Receive updates for other Microsoft products when you update Windows toggle switch.

Install WSL2 on Windows 10 1909 or older

Alternatively, it’s possible to install WSL on Windows 10 version 1909 and older versions using the legacy processes, which requires to enable WSL1, the Virtual Machine Platform, converting existing distros (if applicable), and configuring Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 as the new default for future distro installations.

If you have an ARM64 system, then the Linux integration is support on version 2004 and higher.

Enable Windows Subsystem for Linux

If you are not already using Linux on Windows 10, you must enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux (version 1) with these steps:

  1. Open Start on Windows 10.

  2. Search for Turn Windows features on or off and click the top result to open the experience.

  3. Check the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” option.

    Enable WSL 1 on Windows 10
    Enable WSL on Windows 10
  4. Click the OK button.

  5. Click the Restart button.

Once you complete the steps, you need to enable the Virtual Machine Platform feature. According to Microsoft, this is an optional step, but I could not use the new architecture without the virtualization feature enabled.

Enable Virtual Machine Platform

To enable the Virtual Machine Platform on Windows 10, use these steps:

Important: The motherboard and processor must support virtualization, and the option has to be enabled on the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI).
  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for PowerShell, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to enable the Virtual Machine Platform feature and press Enter:

    Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName VirtualMachinePlatform

    Enable Virtual Machine Platform on Windows 10 using PowerShell
    Enable Virtual Machine Platform on Windows 10 using PowerShell
  4. Restart your computer.

After you complete the steps, you can set the Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2 the new default architecture and convert existing distros.

Enable Windows Subsystem for Linux 2

To start using WSL2 or covert WSL distros to WSL2, use these steps:

  1. Download this WSL 2 kernel update (required).

  2. Double-click the wsl_update_x64.msi file and apply the update.

  3. Open Start.

  4. Search for PowerShell, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  5. Type the following command to set Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 your default architecture for new distros that you install and press Enter:

    wsl --set-default-version 2

    Enable WSL 2 on Windows 10 20H1
    Enable WSL 2 on Windows 10 20H1
  6. (Optional) Type the following command to convert the distro from WSL to WSL 2 and press Enter:

    wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2
    Convert distro WSL 1 to WSL 2 on Windows 10 20H1
    Convert distro WSL to WSL 2 on Windows 10 20H1

    Make sure to change Ubuntu for the distro’s name that you want to convert in the command. If you do not know the name, you can use the wsl -l -v command.

Once you complete the steps, your device will start using the new version of Windows Subsystem for Linux as the default architecture. (See video tutorial.)

Confirm distro platform

To confirm distros are using the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.

  2. Search for PowerShell, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.

  3. Type the following command to verify the version of the distro and press Enter:

    wsl --list --verbose
  4. Confirm the version of the distro version is set to 2.

    Check distro using Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 on PowerShell
    Check distro using Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 on PowerShell.

After you complete the steps, you will know if the process has been completed successfully or if you need to troubleshoot any of the steps.

Update August 3, 2021: This guide was originally published in 2020, and it’s been revised to include the new method to install the platform with a single command for compatible versions of Windows 10.