Microsoft is bringing WSL 2 to older versions of Windows 10

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Microsoft has announced that it is going to backport WSL 2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux 2) to Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909.

The company says that the move comes in response to user feedback, and it opens up WSL 2 and a world of Linux in Windows to a wider audience. Among the key advantages of the second version of WSL are an integrated full Linux kernel.

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The backporting is the result of months of work, and it's something that will be welcomed by people who are, for whatever reason, running version 1903 or 1909 of Windows 10. The backport is being delivered via Windows Update, so you'll just need to perform a manual check for updates via Settings.

Writing on the Windows Command Line blog, Microsoft says: "Support for Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2 distros is being backported to Windows 10 version 1903, and 1909! Yes, you read that right. We heard how much you liked WSL 2 and wanted to expand its accessibility, and over the last few months we worked on bringing it back to 1903 and 1909".

The company goes on to explain:

We've heard great customer feedback on how many users have enjoyed using WSL 2, and the primary goal for this backport is to make WSL 2 available to more Windows users!

WSL 2 is a new version of the architecture in WSL that changes how Linux distributions interact with Windows. Each Linux distribution can run as WSL 1 or as WSL 2, and can be switched between at any time. All the features for WSL 2 distros will now be available for an even larger user base:

  • File system performance now on par with Mac and Linux speeds
  • Improved System Call Support for all Linux applications notably: Docker, FUSE, rsync, etc.
  • Full Linux kernel built into WSL 2
  • Docker Desktop has added support to use WSL 2 as its engine, giving faster startup speeds and improved resource usage. Please read this blog post on the Docker blog to learn more.

At the moment, the backported version of WSL 2 for Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909 is only available for x64 systems. Microsoft says that if you're running ARM64, you will need to upgrade to Windows 10 version 2004 to get access to WSL 2. Microsoft says: "Once you’ve verified that you have the correct version of Windows please follow the instructions here to install WSL, or simply update to use WSL 2".

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