Windows Subsystem for Linux gets new Settings GUI and distro manager

Microsoft is adding more graphical elements to manage Linux distros from WSL on Windows.

WSL GUI settings
WSL GUI settings / Image: Mauro Huculak
  • You can now configure advanced options for Linux distros with the new Settings GUI for WSL.
  • Dev Home is getting a new feature to install, uninstall, start, and stop Linux distros using a graphical interface.

Microsoft is preparing to introduce two graphical experiences for the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), including a new Settings app for configuring settings and a new “Environments” experience inside the Dev Home app for managing Linux distributions.

WSL Settings GUI

Although it’s possible to install a Linux distro and start using it without extra steps, WSL includes the “.wslconfig” and “wsl.conf” files to configure advanced settings. The “wsl.conf” file can be used to configure settings for each distribution, while the “.wslconfig” file allows you to configure settings globally for all distros.

WSL Settings GUI
WSL Settings GUI / Image: Microsoft

The only caveat with these files is that they are text files that can be difficult to configure as you have to input the exact settings you want to use. The new “Settings” app for WSL includes every option available for your computer and is organized into categories, making it easier to configure.

For example, the interface allows you to change the settings for processor, memory allocation, and swap, and you can even configure folder access, network, and other settings.

The new interface works with the “.wslconfig” file, meaning that it can read the current configuration, and you can update your existing settings from the experience. You can think of this new Settings app as a way to read and modify the WSL configuration files without directly modifying them.

Microsoft is still working on this feature, and while there isn’t a release date, the company said it’s coming soon.

WSL Manager from Dev Home

In the Dev Home app, Microsoft is also working on a new “Environment” experience that allows you to manage various aspects of your Linux distros. For example, you can create new WSL environments, and it’s possible to start and stop distros.

Dev Home manage WSL distros
Dev Home manage WSL distros / Image: Mauro Huculak

It’s important to note that this feature is not only for Linux distributions. It also works to create and manage Hyper-V environments.

This implementation is also coming soon, but the company is making available a preview of the WSL Dev Home extension from GitHub that you can download and install on your computer.

You will also need to install WSL on Windows 11 before setting up Linux distributions using the Environments feature.

Dev Home WSL new environment
Dev Home WSL new environment / Image: Mauro Huculak

Other WSL updates

In addition to these features, Microsoft has also announced a few improvements for WSL, including the ability to release the memory allocation back to the operating system using the default autoMemoryReclaim=dropCache setting, and the default dnsTunneling=true setting has been added to improve networking.

Furthermore, as part of the May 2024 update, WSL ships some additional experimental features, including the wsl --manage distro --set-sparse true or false to enable automatic disk space to reclaim.

Also, you can use the networkingMode=mirrored setting to support mirrored networking mode, which adds new features, such as IPv6 support.

Finally, for organizations using WSL, Microsoft is also adding the principles of zero trust by adding Microsoft Defender for Endpoints, Intune agent, and Microsoft Entra ID integration.

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and Email him at [email protected].