What is Windows subsystem (WSL)?

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What is Windows subsystem (WSL)?

WSL is a compatibility layer developed by Microsoft that allows you to run a full-fledged Linux® environment directly on your Windows operating system. With WSL, you can use Linux® command-line tools and run Linux® applications without the need for a virtual machine or dual-boot setup.

How does WSL work?

WSL works by translating Linux® system calls into Windows system calls, allowing Linux® binaries to run natively on Windows. It provides a Linux® -compatible kernel interface that redirects system calls and manages the file system, network, and process execution. This allows you to seamlessly integrate Linux® tools and utilities into your Windows workflow.

What are the benefits of using WSL?

Using WSL has several benefits. Firstly, it enables developers to utilize Linux® tools and utilities without having to switch to a different operating system or set up a virtual machine. This makes it easier to develop and test cross-platform applications. Additionally, WSL provides access to the rich Linux® ecosystem, including popular programming languages, tools, and package managers. It also offers improved performance compared to traditional virtualization solutions.

Can I use WSL on any Windows version?

No, WSL is only available on certain versions of Windows. Initially, it was introduced in Windows 10 version 1607 and has since received various updates and improvements. As of now, WSL is supported on Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions. However, with the release of Windows 11, WSL becomes available to all Windows 11 editions, including Home.

What Linux® distributions are supported by WSL?

WSL currently supports several Linux® distributions, including Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Kali Linux®, and more. These distributions can be installed directly from the Microsoft Store or by downloading the distribution's appx package. Each distribution runs as a separate, isolated environment, allowing you to install different distributions side by side.

How can I install and enable WSL on my Windows machine?

To install WSL, you can follow these steps:

  • Open Windows PowerShell as an administrator.
  • Run the command wsl --install to enable the necessary Windows features and download the Linux® kernel update.
  • Restart your computer when prompted.
  • After the restart, open the Microsoft Store and search for the desired Linux® distribution.
  • Choose the distribution you want to install and click the "Install" button.
  • Once the installation is complete, launch the distribution from the Start menu or by executing its command in Command Prompt or PowerShell.

Can I access files from my Windows system within WSL?

Yes, you can access files from your Windows system within WSL. WSL provides a convenient way to mount and access Windows drives, allowing you to work seamlessly with files and directories between the two environments. By default, your Windows drives are automatically mounted under the /mnt directory within WSL. For example, you can access your C: drive from WSL by navigating to /mnt/c/.

Can I run graphical applications with WSL?

Yes, you can run graphical applications with WSL by utilizing a Windows X server. One popular X server for Windows is Xming. After installing an X server, you can configure WSL to use it by setting the DISPLAY environment variable. This will enable you to run Linux® graphics processing unit (GUI) applications and have them displayed on your Windows desktop.

Does WSL support Docker?

Yes, WSL supports Docker. With WSL 2, which is the latest version of WSL, you can run Docker containers directly within the Linux® environment provided by WSL. This offers improved performance compared to running Docker within a virtual machine. WSL 2 also integrates with Docker Desktop, making it easier to manage and work with containers.

Can I access the Windows command-line tools within WSL?

Yes, you can access Windows command-line tools from within WSL. WSL provides interoperability between the Windows and Linux® environments, allowing you to run Windows executables and use Windows-specific commands. For example, you can execute ipconfig or regedit from within WSL to access network information or modify the Windows registry.

Can I use WSL for web development?

Absolutely, WSL is a popular choice among web developers as it provides easy access to a vast array of tools and frameworks commonly used in web development. You can install popular programming languages such as Python, Node.js, and Ruby, as well as run popular web servers and databases like Apache, Nginx, MySQL, and PostgreSQL. With WSL, you can seamlessly develop and test web applications on your Windows machine.

Does WSL support graphics processing unit (GPU) acceleration?

As of now, GPU acceleration is not natively supported within WSL. However, Microsoft has introduced a technology called DirectML, which allows machine learning workloads to leverage GPU acceleration within WSL. This enables developers to utilize GPU resources for machine learning tasks and training models. It's important to note that this capability is specific to machine learning workloads and may not be applicable to other types of applications.

Can I use WSL to develop Android™ applications?

Yes, you can use WSL for Android™ development. With WSL, you can install and configure the necessary tools for Android™ development, such as the Android™ SDK, java development kit (JDK), and Android™ Studio. This allows you to build, test, and debug Android™ applications directly on your Windows machine using the Linux® environment provided by WSL.

Is it possible to access WSL from other devices on the network?

By default, WSL is only accessible from the local machine. However, you can configure WSL to accept incoming connections from other devices on the network by enabling remote access. This allows you to access and manage your WSL instance from another computer, tablet, or mobile device connected to the same network.

Can I use WSL with multiple Linux® distributions simultaneously?

Yes, you can have multiple Linux® distributions installed and running simultaneously within WSL. Each distribution operates as a separate instance, allowing you to switch between them or run different distributions side by side. This is particularly useful if you need to work with multiple Linux® environments or test applications across different distributions.

Does WSL support graphics processing unit (GPU) passthrough for machine learning tasks?

While WSL currently does not support GPU passthrough for general use, there is ongoing development to improve GPU support in WSL. Microsoft has announced plans to bring GPU acceleration capabilities to WSL and provide better integration between the Windows and Linux® graphics subsystems, which will benefit machine learning workloads that require GPU resources.

Can I access files stored on Windows drives from WSL?

Yes, you can access and work with files stored on Windows drives directly from within WSL. Windows drives are automatically mounted in the /mnt/ directory within WSL, allowing you to navigate and manipulate files seamlessly across both environments. This enables easy sharing of files between Windows and Linux® applications.

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