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Windows users now able to run Linux apps and distros natively

Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Subsystem for Linux, bringing native Linux capabilities to Windows 10 for the first time via the Microsoft Store

Windows and Linux logos appearing in front a background of of neon green code

Microsoft has made its Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) generally available, widening the number of Windows users that can now run Linux apps natively.

Windows 10 and Windows 11 users can now download WSL from the Microsoft Store to run Linux distros and Linux GUI apps without the need for virtualisation software.

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The launch marks a major milestone for the project that's been in development for years. WSL can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store provided the user is running Windows 10 version 2004 or higher. 

With WSL now being on the Microsoft Store, it's expected that users will receive faster updates to the subsystem rather than having to wait for an update to the Windows operating system itself.

Users of Windows 10 will also be able to use Linux GUI applications with the Microsoft Store version for the first time, a feature previously reserved only for Windows 11.

"Today the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in the Microsoft Store is dropping its "Preview" label and becomes generally available with our latest release," said Craig Loewen, program manager at Windows Developer Platform in a blog post.

"We are also making the Store version of WSL the default for new users who run wsl --install and easily upgradeable by running wsl --update for existing users. In response to the WSL community's requests, WSL in the Store will now also be available on Windows 10 in addition to Windows 11. So, Windows 10 users will also be able to enjoy all of the latest features for WSL, including systemd and Linux GUI app support!"

WSL was released by Microsoft in 2018 as a compatibility layer enabling Windows users to run Linux binaries on their systems either natively, or via Windows 10 command prompt and PowerShell. In 2021, Microsoft made Windows Subsystem for Linux a Windows 11 app.

More information on installing and launching Linux GUI apps can be found on the official WSLg GitHub page, while a separate Microsoft page provides instructions for installing Linux on Windows using WSL.

Josep Prat, open source engineering director at Aiven, told IT Pro that making WSL generally available is “great news” for the developer community.

“Linux systems, or Unix-compatible ones for that matter, provide an excellent set of command-line tools that make developer’s lives easier. Developers appreciate its portability, knowing that scripts working on their system would also work on production systems, which are almost exclusively Linux based,” he said.

“We need to acknowledge that Linux systems, despite having great command line tools, were not always the most UX-friendly ones. With general availability for WSL under Windows, developers can now enjoy all the power of Linux command line tools while having an operating system with 'batteries included' when it comes to UX and ease of use. Kudos to Microsoft for investing in Linux and Windows interoperability.”

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