Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is now much easier to install on Windows 11 thanks to its recent inclusion in the Microsoft Store, as announced on the Microsoft blog. It’s also on the Windows 10 store, for those of you holding out against the upgrade steamroller, though oddly this isn’t mentioned in the blog post.
Previously, WSL had to be installed as an optional Windows component, but now it’s treated just like any other app. The version of the subsystem that’s installed is described as a ‘preview’, but its screenshots show Kali, Debian, OpenSuse and Ubuntu distributions all running at the same time, also with GUI applications.
Treating WSL as an app will allow it to get updates independently of Windows Update, so they’re likely to come faster, but Microsoft will continue supporting the older version for some time too. The kernel used in the new version is 126.96.36.199.
It’s also the first production build with WSLg support - that’s graphics and sound. Though this was allowed in the Windows 10 version, it required starting a companion system distro that ran alongside your work, providing an X server and everything else that was missing from the Microsoft one. Now, this will no longer be necessary, leading to better performance and lower resource use. Linux binaries will also be able to access the host system’s GPU for AI and machine learning development, and Linux file system-formatted drives will be available directly inside WSL.