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What is the Windows Subsystem for Linux?

The Windows Subsystem for Linux allows developers to run a GNU / Linux environment (including most command line tools, utilities, and applications) right on Windows as is, without the overhead of a traditional VM or dual-boot setup.

You've got the following possibilities:

  • Select your preferred GNU / Linux distributions from the Microsoft Store.
  • Run common command line tools such as,, or other ELF-64 binaries.
  • Run bash shell scripts and GNU / Linux command line applications such as:
    • Tools: vim, emacs, tmux
    • Languages: NodeJS, Javascript, Python, Ruby, C / C ++, C # & F #, Rust, Go etc.
    • Services: SSHD, MySQL, Apache, lighttpd, MongoDB, PostgreSQL.
  • Install additional software with your own package manager for the GNU / Linux distribution.
  • Access Windows applications using a Unix-like command line shell.
  • Access GNU / Linux applications on Windows.

What is WSL 2?

WSL 2 is a new version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux architecture that enables the Windows Subsystem for Linux to run ELF64 Linux binaries on Windows. The main goals are one increased file system performance as well as adding full system call compatibility.

This new architecture changes the way these Linux binaries interact with Windows and your computer's hardware, but provides the same user experience as WSL 1 (the most recent, generally available version).

Individual Linux distributions can be performed using the WSL 1 or WSL 2 architecture. Any distribution can be upgraded or downgraded at any time, and you can use WSL 1 and WSL 2 distributions in parallel. WSL 2 has a completely new architecture that takes advantage of running a real Linux kernel.


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