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Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2), and Ubuntu

Other Windows 10 related notes

JYP is still working on this page! Some content may be out of date, or still related to WSL 1

The commands on this page have to be typed:

  • either in Windows PowerShell terminals
  • or in bash terminals running in WSL

It should be clear enough which type of terminal you have to use

What is WSL ?

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) lets you run a Linux distribution on your Windows computer, without the overhead of a traditional Virtual Machine (VM) or dual-boot setup

More reading:


Windows version

The basics before starting

Once you have verified that your Windows is recent enough, you should also:

Computer CPU and memory

Contrary to other virtual machines, WSL is well integrated with the Windows operating system and the hardware drivers and has a low default CPU and memory footprint!

  • You should be able to play with WSL even with 8 Gb of RAM, but 16 Gb is recommended
  • Of course, depending on what you need to do on your computer, a better processor will always help
  • WSL+Ubuntu will use more CPU and RAM if you use it for running CPU and/or memory intensive processes! As would be the case with any Windows application… :-)

Disk usage


  • WSL is part of the Windows operating system and will be installed (and updated) on C:\
  • The Linux installation(s) will be installed (and updated) on C:\
    • They can only be relocated to other partitions afterwards
  • ⇒ We should start with at least 10 Gb of free space on C:\ (but more space is always better and safer)
    • The initial installation will not use much space (2-3 Gb), but we always need space on C:\ for other applications and Windows maintenance (temporary files, updates, …)

FIXME The rather technical Disk usage sections below should be moved somewhere else!

How does it work?

WSL+Linux seems to use a combination of actual Windows files/folders and ext4 Linux partitions stored in .vhdx (Dynamic Virtual Hard Disk) files. The Linux disk (of type ext4) is stored in a single some_name.vhdx Windows file that will automatically grow until it reaches a predefined maximum size of 256 Gb (if there is enough space on the Windows disk…)

Disks seen from Linux

The disks and partitions usage, as seen from Linux, can be displayed with df -h

stdu@sadira034:~$ df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdb        251G  1.5G  237G   1% /
tmpfs           6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /mnt/wsl
tools           472G  118G  355G  25% /init
none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /dev
none            6.2G  8.0K  6.2G   1% /run
none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/lock
none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/shm
none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/user
tmpfs           6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
drivers         472G  118G  355G  25% /usr/lib/wsl/drivers
lib             472G  118G  355G  25% /usr/lib/wsl/lib
C:\             472G  118G  355G  25% /mnt/c
D:\             480G  2.6G  478G   1% /mnt/d
  • The 251G Size of / depends on the 256G default size of the growing virtual disk where Linux is installed
  • The /mnt/c and /mnt/d are the way to access the Windows C: and D: disks from Linux, and their Size is the actual size of the Windows disks
  • Some Filesystems like drivers are actually Windows file systems!
    • stdu@sadira034:/usr/lib/wsl/drivers$ du -sh /usr/lib/wsl/drivers
      9.1G    /usr/lib/wsl/drivers
      stdu@sadira034:/usr/lib/wsl/drivers$ du -sh /mnt/c/Windows/System32/DriverStore/
      9.1G    /mnt/c/Windows/System32/DriverStore/

Some important disk locations

  • Accessing Windows files from Linux: /mnt/
    e.g C:\ is available in /mnt/c
  • Accessing Linux files from the Windows Explorer: \\wsl$
  • WSL+Ubuntu installation:
    • Main directory: C:\Users\your_login\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc
    • vhdx file: C:\Users\jypeter\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc\LocalState\ext4.vhdx
      • stdu@sadira034:~$ ls -lh /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
        -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 1.2G Aug 24 15:20 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
  • Linux swap (virtual memory) file:
    • stdu@sadira034:~$ ls -lh /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Temp/swap.vhdx
      -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 63M Aug 24 14:52 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Temp/swap.vhdx

Sample disk usage

  • Disk size after the initial installation of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
    -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 1.2G Aug 24 15:20 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
  • Disk size after upgrading to Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS with sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
    -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 2.6G Aug 24 15:24 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
    • Size of the backup tar file of this installation, generated with wsl --export: ~1.4 Gb

Hyper-V requirements

You can skip reading this WSL requirement if you are installing WSL for the first time, and are therefore directly installing WSL 2

Come back here later (only) if you have problems

WSL 2 needs the Virtual Machine Platform to be enabled on your computer. If you have never used WSL before, you can probably go directly to the Base installation section and wsl should install everything correctly

If you have problems (e.g. The virtual machine could not be started because a required feature is not installed), or if you are updating WSL 1 to WSL 2, type systeminfo in a PowerShell to check if your machine meets the Hyper-V requirements

If you get a No for one of the Hyper-V requirements, check the virtualization settings in your computer BIOS.
You can have a look at the x86 virtualization wikipedia page if you are wondering what VT-x and VT-d means for Intel processors (AMD-v and AMD IOMMU for AMD)

Example: HP laptop with an Intel CPU, and virtualization not activated in the BIOS

  • Hyper-V section of the systeminfo output
    • Configuration requise pour Hyper-V:         Extensions de mode du moniteur d’ordinateur virtuel : Oui
                                                  Virtualisation activée dans le microprogramme : Non
                                                  Traduction d’adresse de second niveau : Oui
                                                  Prévention de l’exécution des données disponible : Oui
  • Virtualization section of the HP BIOS: you need to enable Virtualization Technology (VTx) and Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VTd) in the BIOS, save the settings and finish booting
  • Hyper-V section of the systeminfo output with virtualization activated in the BIOS (after activation and reboot)
    •                                             Virtualisation activée dans le microprogramme : Oui

Miscellaneous technical links and information, in case we need this later…

Base installation

  • Open a PowerShell in administrator mode
    • StartWWindows PowerShell then right-click on Windows PowerShell and select Run as Administrator
    • Use a Windows Terminal, if you have already installed it. Use CTRL+<left click> on Windows Powershell in the pull-down menu to get a Powershell in administrator mode
  • Determine which Linux distributions are (directly) available for installation.
    We will use the default Ubuntu distribution
    • Ubuntu will always automatically upgrade to the latest LTS release available (contrary to Ubuntu-<even_number>.04 that will stick to the specified <even-number> release)
    • We could specify a specific Linux version (or even import any Linux distribution, or create a custom Linux distribution!)
    • PS C:\> wsl --list --online
        NAME            FRIENDLY NAME
      * Ubuntu          Ubuntu
        Debian          Debian GNU/Linux
        kali-linux      Kali Linux Rolling
        openSUSE-42     openSUSE Leap 42
        SLES-12         SUSE Linux Enterprise Server v12
        Ubuntu-16.04    Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
        Ubuntu-18.04    Ubuntu 18.04 LTS
        Ubuntu-20.04    Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
  • Install the latest Ubuntu LTS version available
    This step will run pretty quickly
    PS C:\> wsl --install -d Ubuntu
    Installation en cours : Plateforme de machine virtuelle
    Plateforme de machine virtuelle a été installé.
    Installation en cours : Sous-système Windows pour Linux
    Sous-système Windows pour Linux a été installé.
    Téléchargement en cours : Noyau WSL
    Installation en cours : Noyau WSL
    Noyau WSL a été installé.
    Téléchargement en cours : Ubuntu
    L’opération demandée est réussie. Les modifications ne seront pas effectives avant que le système ne soit réamorcé.
  • Reboot the computer and be patient
    • This step will take some time (make sure you have 15-30 mn available). Windows will install and configure what it needs for running WSL+Ubuntu, reboot, and install some more stuff
    • The final installation step will take place when you open your Windows session. A terminal opens, displaying the final installation of Ubuntu, and asking you for a username and password, and giving you access to a bash prompt
      Do not use an existing password for the Linux installation
    • Installing, this may take a few minutes...
      Please create a default UNIX user account. The username does not need to match your Windows username.
      For more information visit:
      Enter new UNIX username: stdu
      New password:
      Retype new password:
      passwd: password updated successfully
      Installation successful!
      To run a command as administrator (user "root"), use "sudo <command>".
      See "man sudo_root" for details.
      Welcome to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS (GNU/Linux x86_64)
       * Documentation:
       * Management:
       * Support:
        System information as of Tue Aug 23 17:32:20 CEST 2022
        System load:  0.0                Processes:             8
        Usage of /:   0.4% of 250.98GB   Users logged in:       0
        Memory usage: 0%                 IPv4 address for eth0:
        Swap usage:   0%
      stdu@sadira034:~$ echo $SHELL
  • Note: after installing (even from the PowerShell command line), Ubuntu will appear as a regular installed application in the Microsoft Store and the list of applications
  • Get some information about your new Ubuntu installation
    • $ lsb_release -d
      Description:    Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS
    • Disk usage example
    • $ df -h
      Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
      /dev/sdb        251G  1.1G  238G   1% /
      tmpfs           6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /mnt/wsl
      tools           472G  112G  361G  24% /init
      none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /dev
      none            6.2G  4.0K  6.2G   1% /run
      none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/lock
      none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/shm
      none            6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /run/user
      tmpfs           6.2G     0  6.2G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
      drivers         472G  112G  361G  24% /usr/lib/wsl/drivers
      lib             472G  112G  361G  24% /usr/lib/wsl/lib
      C:\             472G  112G  361G  24% /mnt/c
      D:\             480G  2.6G  478G   1% /mnt/d
  • Get some disk usage information about your WSL installation
    • From Windows, the installed files are located in
    • From (inside) WSL, the installed files are in
    • stdu@sadira034:/mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages$ find /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/ -type f -print
      stdu@sadira034:/mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages$ ls -lh /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
      -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 1.2G Aug 24 11:37 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Packages/CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc/LocalState/ext4.vhdx
    • Note: location of the vhdx swap file:
      • From windows: C:\Users\jypeter\AppData\Local\Temp\swap.vhdx
      • From WSL:
        stdu@sadira034:~$ ls -lh /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Temp/swap.vhdx
        -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 63M Aug 24 14:52 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/AppData/Local/Temp/swap.vhdx
  • Update Ubuntu with: sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
    • stdu@sadira034:~$ lsb_release -a
      No LSB modules are available.
      Distributor ID: Ubuntu
      Description:    Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
      Release:        20.04
      Codename:       focal
      stdu@sadira034:~$ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade
      [sudo] password for stdu:
      Get:1 focal-security InRelease [114 kB]
      Get:2 focal InRelease [265 kB]
      278 upgraded, 32 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
      Need to get 174 MB of archives.
      After this operation, 305 MB of additional disk space will be used.
      Do you want to continue? [Y/n] Y
      stdu@sadira034:~$ lsb_release -a
      No LSB modules are available.
      Distributor ID: Ubuntu
      Description:    Ubuntu 20.04.4 LTS
      Release:        20.04
      Codename:       focal
    • More details about updating WSL and/or Ubuntu (you can safely skip this for now)
  • Update the Linux kernel used by WSL, after stopping the running WSL instances
    • PS C:\> wsl --status
      Distribution par défaut : Ubuntu
      Version par défaut : 2
      La dernière mise à jour effectuée du Sous-système Windows pour Linux date du 23/08/2022
      Les mises à jour WSL automatiques sont activées.
      Version du noyau : 5.10.16
      PS C:\> wsl -l -v
        NAME      STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu    Running         2
      PS C:\> wsl --terminate Ubuntu
      PS C:\> wsl -l -v
        NAME      STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu    Stopped         2
      PS C:\> wsl --update
      Recherche de mises à jour en cours... Veuillez patienter
      Téléchargement de mises à jour en cours... Veuillez patienter.
      Installation en cours des mises à jour... Veuillez patienter
      Cette modification sera effective au prochain redémarrage complet de WSL. Pour forcer un redémarrage, exécutez « wsl --shutdown ».
      Version du noyau :
      PS C:\> wsl --status
      Version du noyau :
      PS C:\> wsl cat /proc/version
      Linux version (oe-user@oe-host) (x86_64-msft-linux-gcc (GCC) 9.3.0, GNU ld (GNU Binutils) #1 SMP Wed Mar 2 00:30:59 UTC 2022

After the base installation

After completing the base installation steps, you get a Ubuntu machine with:

  • a root and user account
    • the user account is pre-configured to use sudo for commands that need root access
  • pre-installed base Linux applications
    • no graphics
    • enough to play a bit with a Linux computer and test that the installation is working, but not enough to do some real work

Opening a terminal

Having a terminal you can efficiently interact with is the basis of your future work with WSL+Ubuntu!

  • Read the sub-sections below to find out the different ways to open terminals
  • Opening the first terminal (after opening a regular Windows session) will start WSL+Ubuntu
    • The next terminals will open instantly (because Ubuntu is already running)
  • Closing all terminals will not stop WSL+Ubuntu. Read the rebooting WSL section if you need a clean start of WSL without rebooting Windows

Optional reading (if you really have time):

The default terminal

The default terminal will be available without installing extra applications like WSLtty or the Windows Terminal. It will work for testing WSL, but it is not recommended if you want to work comfortably

The Default WSL+Ubuntu terminal is basically a bash shell running inside a regular Windows cmd text console. You do not need to have an X server running to use it!

There are several ways to open a default terminal:

  • Type wsl+<Enter> in the (Cortana) Search field on the task bar
  • The other ways listed below will only work as supposed if you have not restored or relocated a Linux installation!
    If you are using a restored/relocated installation, this will trigger a re-installation of the default Ubuntu on C:\. Not a major problem, but it will use some unwanted space on C:\ and you will need to use 'wsl --unregister Ubuntu' to remove this unwanted version
    • Type ubuntu+<Enter> in the (Cortana) Search field on the task bar
    • Select Ubuntu from the Start menu
    • Click on the Ubuntu icon on the task bar
      • if you don't have a Ubuntu icon on the task bar yet: right-click on the Ubuntu icon (in the Start menu) → More → Pin to the task bar
      • to open more terminals: right-click on the Ubuntu icon on the task bar → Ubuntu
Copy/paste in the default terminal

Check this Windows Terminal section

The WSLtty terminal

  • If you can't open a WSLtty terminal after upgrading from WSL to WSL 2, install the latest version of WSLtty !

WSLtty allows you to use the efficient Mintty as a terminal for WSL. You do not need to have an X server running to use it!

  • Use winget (in a PowerShell) to install WSLtty
    • PS C:\Users\your_login> winget install wsltty
      Trouvé WSLtty [Mintty.WSLtty] Version 3.6.0
      Installé correctement
  • After installing WSLtty, you will get several new ways to open a terminal:
    • A WSL terminal icon on the desktop, that will be The Way to open a terminal
    • StartUUbuntu terminal (or Ubuntu_custom terminal or something similar if you have restored/relocated a Linux installation)
    • StartWWSL Terminal in the Start menu
      • There is also a WWSLtty folder, than you probably will not need (more details in Configuration), except possibly configure WSL shortcuts (run after adding or removing WSL distributions, in order to create the respective set of shortcuts in the Start menu)
  • Open a terminal and right-click in it to check the available options
    • Recommended text options:
      • use the Text option to select the nice Cascadia Code font bundled with the Windows Terminal
      • if you don't automatically get the en_US.UTF8 localization in WSLtty when trying to specify a correct system language, explicitly force Locale=en_US and Character set=UTF-8 in the text options
    • You can access even more options with CTRL+right-click
    • Note: the WSLtty (non-default) settings are stored in: C:\Users\jypeter\AppData\Roaming\wsltty\config
  • You can cycle between the open WSLtty terminals with CTRL+Tab and Shift+CTRL+Tab
  • Extra technical stuff (on the Mintty wiki)

The Windows Terminal

The Windows Terminal is really nice and powerful, and will become the recommended (by JYP) option as soon as we can use regular Linux select-copy/paste (Feature request: add xterm-style select/copy/paste options)

Terminals started from Linux

You can install additional graphical terminals in the Linux installation, but you will need to have a running X server if you want to open them. In these terminals, the usual Linux copy/paste rules will apply!

  • xterm package
  • xfce4-terminal package

Where are the files?

Accessing Linux files from the Windows Explorer

  • You can access the Linux files in / from Windows by opening the virtual \\wsl$ path in the Windows explorer
    • Your Linux home directory is located in \\wsl$\Ubuntu\home\<your_login>
    • There will be some content in \\wsl$ only if a Linux installation is running (i.e. it shows as Running in wsl -l -v)

Accessing Windows files from Linux

When you are in a Windows explorer window, you can directly open a Linux terminal in a specific directory by holding Shift and right-clicking on a directory and selecting Ouvrir l'interpréteur de commandes Linux ici (Open the Linux command line here?) in the context menu.

The Windows partitions are mounted under /mnt in Linux:

$ df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
/dev/sdb        251G  1.5G  237G   1% /
C:\             472G  121G  351G  26% /mnt/c
D:\             480G  4.2G  476G   1% /mnt/d

Read the Mounting disks and network drives section if you want to access remote server disks on your local network, or just want to access USB disks/sticks on your local computer.


  • The wslpath command can be used to make Windows↔Linux path conversion
  • FIXME More technical WSL disks information (move the disk technical information to the advanced usage section, and link to it)

Linux version installed

You can use the following commands to get some information about WSL and the currently installed Linux

$ date
Tue Sep 13 16:48:10 CEST 2022

$ env | grep WSL

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS
Release:        20.04
Codename:       focal

$ cat /proc/version
Linux version (oe-user@oe-host) (x86_64-msft-linux-gcc (GCC) 9.3.0, GNU ld (GNU Binutils) #1 SMP Wed Mar 2 00:30:59 UTC 2022

$ uname -a
Linux sadira034 #1 SMP Wed Mar 2 00:30:59 UTC 2022 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

$ cat /etc/*release*
VERSION="20.04.5 LTS (Focal Fossa)"
PRETTY_NAME="Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS"

Ubuntu packages installed

$ dpkg --list | head -n 10
| Status=Not/Inst/Conf-files/Unpacked/halF-conf/Half-inst/trig-aWait/Trig-pend
|/ Err?=(none)/Reinst-required (Status,Err: uppercase=bad)
||/ Name                           Version                           Architecture Description
ii  accountsservice                0.6.55-0ubuntu12~20.04.5          amd64        query and manipulate user account information
ii  adduser                        3.118ubuntu2                      all          add and remove users and groups
ii  alsa-topology-conf             1.2.2-1                           all          ALSA topology configuration files
ii  alsa-ucm-conf                  1.2.2-1ubuntu0.13                 all          ALSA Use Case Manager configuration files
ii  apparmor                       2.13.3-7ubuntu5.1                 amd64        user-space parser utility for AppArmor

$ dpkg --list > /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/Ubuntu_Installed_List_`date +"%y-%m-%d"`.txt
$ wc -l /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/Ubuntu_Installed_List_*.txt
642 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/Ubuntu_Installed_List_22-08-29.txt

Full (example) list of installed packages: ubuntu_installed_list_22-08-29.txt

Update ubuntu

Use the following to update your ubuntu installation:

$ sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade


$ sudo -s

$ apt-get update
$ apt-get upgrade

Managing WSL

This is just place to store some technical information, that will probably not be needed by most people

Getting ready for some real work

We often assume below that you are using the root account (with sudo -s, or sudo) when executing the apt* installation commands, and other admin commands

Create a backup before starting

Nothing will go wrong, but it does not hurt to save an image of your full installation, in case you want to try some really different settings later.

Specifying a correct system language

WSL will automatically try to use in the terminals the same language as the one used by the Windows computer, but this could lead later to some difficult to debug side-effects when you connect to remote Linux servers (e.g. the sort command may give different results !).

It is safer to force the Linux installation to use a standard English localization. The update-locale command will change the content of the /etc/default/locale file

$ sudo update-locale LANG=en_US.UTF8
$ echo $LANG

$ locale -v

After updating the system localization (and possibly restarting wsl with wsl --shutdown), open the available terminals and type echo $LANG in order to check that are indeed getting en_US.UTF8

If you are still not getting en_US.UTF8 in some terminals (e.g. you are still getting C.UTF-8), you can check if you can override the localization options in the terminals settings. Check the Text options of the WSLtty terminals

Package management

How does it work ?

  • Ubuntu applications are distributed through package files in Debian format (.deb files) that are found in software repositories
  • High level package management tools such as aptitude or synaptic rely on apt which, itself, relies on dpkg to manage the packages in the system
    • The apt tool merges functionality of apt-get and apt-cache and by default has a fancier colored output format, making it more pleasant for humans. For usage in scripts or advanced use cases, apt-get is still preferable or needed
    • apt* tools and dpkg are pre-installed on Ubuntu
    • aptitude can be used on the command-line or through a text-based interface
      • You do not need to have an X server running to use aptitude, therefore aptitude can be used in the early stages of a Linux installation, or on a remote Linux computer
    • synaptic is a graphical package manager
      • You need to have an X server running in order to use it

What about snap ?

Installing extra package managers

  • Installation: sudo apt install aptitude synaptic
    • It may install lots of dependencies, but that's to be expected if no other packages have been installed yet
      $ sudo apt install aptitude synaptic
      Reading package lists... Done
      Building dependency tree
      Reading state information... Done
      The following NEW packages will be installed:
        adwaita-icon-theme aptitude aptitude-common at-spi2-core cpp cpp-9 fontconfig gcc-9-base
        x11-xserver-utils xdg-utils
      0 upgraded, 129 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
      Need to get 31.2 MB of archives.
      After this operation, 137 MB of additional disk space will be used.
      Do you want to continue? [Y/n]

Some useful commands

  • apt update: update the list of packages known by your system
  • apt upgrade: upgrade all the packages on your system
  • apt search word: find packages whose description contain word
  • apt install foo: install the foo package and all its dependencies
  • apt show package: print the detailed information of a package
  • apt remove foo: remove the foo package from your system
  • dpkg -l: list installed packages
  • dpkg -L package_name: list files installed from package_name
  • dpkg -S path/command: name of the package used to install path/command


$ dpkg -l | grep -i wsl
ii  ubuntu-wsl                        1.450.2                           amd64        Ubuntu on Windows tools - Windows Subsystem for Linux integration
ii  wslu                              2.3.6-0ubuntu2~20.04.0            all          collection of utilities for the Windows 10 Linux Subsystem

$ dpkg -L wslu

$ apt show wslu
Package: wslu
Version: 2.3.6-0ubuntu2~20.04.0
Description: collection of utilities for the Windows 10 Linux Subsystem

Adding useful packages

There is not that much installed by default in Ubuntu, and we use apt insall to get ready for some real work!

$ sudo apt install gcc libglu1-mesa mesa-utils x11-apps xterm xfce4-terminal emacs evince eog imagemagick nco cdo netcdf-bin ncview


  • Some of the installed packages (nco cdo netcdf-bin ncview) are used for handling data files in NetCDF format may not be useful to people outside LSCE
  • Adding lots of extra packages requires much more disk space, and the size of the .vhdx will increase significantly!
    • $ ls -lh /mnt/d/WSL_Distributions/Ubuntu_custom/ext4.vhdx
      4.7G Sep 16 18:02 /mnt/d/WSL_Distributions/Ubuntu_custom/ext4.vhdx
    • Size of the backup after adding the extra packages: we go from 549 Mb to 1.2 Gb!
      1.2G Sep 19 13:52 WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-09-19.tar.gz

Using an X server

You will need to have an X server running locally on your Windows 10 machine if you want to display graphics generated by the Linux running locally, or on a remote server. Applications running in text mode only (e.g. vi) do not require a running X server.

You will get a Can't open display error if no server is running (even if the DISPLAY variable is correctly defined)

your_login@your_machine:~$ echo $DISPLAY
your_login@your_machine:~$ xterm &
xterm: Xt error: Can't open display: localhost:0.0
[Everything is fine after starting a local X server]
jyour_login@your_machine:~$ xterm &
[1] 55

Installing an X server

Configuration (in your local Linux account)

  • Set the DISPLAY variable in the shell by hand, or automatically in the shell configuration file(s):
    • bash shell: export DISPLAY=localhost:0.0
      Can be defined in the ~/.bashrc file
    • tcsh shell: setenv DISPLAY localhost:0.0
      Can be defined in the ~/.login, or the ~/.cshrc file
  • Warning! export DISPLAY=:0.0 will also work for using graphics locally, but will fail when trying to use graphics on a remote computer, with a connect /tmp/.X11-unix/X0: No such file or directory error message (source)

Updating WSL and ubuntu

You don't have to worry about the Upgrade section if you have just installed WSL+Ubuntu, because you are already using the latest Ubuntu stable release!


Nothing to do! WSL is automatically updated, provided you have enabled the Get updates for other Microsoft products option

WSL command line options

Updating ubuntu

The Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS that was initially installed from the Windows Store when the test computer was running Win 10 1709 was automatically updated to Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS when the computer was updated to Win 10 1809.

$ lsb_release -a
No LSB modules are available.
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description:    Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS
Release:        18.04
Codename:       bionic

We also ran the do-release-upgrade command to complete the upgrade (from 16.04 to 18.04) [ More info from WSL team - more info from Ubuntu ]

And we then ran the usual upgrade commands. These commands can be run any time for updating the installed packages

$ sudo -s
$ apt-get update
$ apt-get upgrade

Full list of the resulting installed packages, generated with

$ dpkg --list >$ dpkg --list > /mnt/h/Scratch/jyp/pkg_190221.txt
$ wc -l /mnt/h/Scratch/jyp/pkg_190221.txt
578 /mnt/h/Scratch/jyp/pkg_190221.txt

Upgrading Ubuntu

You can skip this section if you have just installed Ubuntu, since you are already running the latest stable release available

The updates are for maintaining the same version of Ubuntu (e.g. you go from version 18.04.2 to 18.04.5), while upgrades are for going from one major version to the next (e.g 16.xx18.xx20.xx). We try to only use the stable major releases, that have an even version number.

We use the LTS versions (Long Time Support) to ensure even more stability, which means that we will get updates of a given major release for quite some time after the next major release is available, so it is not mandatory to upgrade Ubuntu if you are still receiving updates for the (major) release you are using

There should not be any risk, but it may be a good idea to create a backup of your current Ubuntu before upgrading it!

Use sudo for each command below, or just become root by using sudo su -

  • Launch the upgrade with the do-release-upgrade command and follow the instructions
    • if you get a There is no development version of an LTS available message, use do-release-upgrade -d
    • if you get a Please install all available updates for your release before upgrading message, use apt-get dist-upgrade and then try do-release-upgrade -d again (see How to Solve the Upgrade Ubuntu Install Updates Error)
    • if you get sleep: cannot read realtime clock: Invalid argument error, temporarily replace the sleep binary with an executable empty file. Do not forget to restore the original sleep command after the upgrade!!
      • # sleep 1
        sleep: cannot read realtime clock: Invalid argument
        # mv /bin/sleep /bin/sleep.back
        # ls -l /bin/sleep.back
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 35000 Jan 18  2018 /bin/sleep.back
        # touch /bin/sleep
        # chmod +x /bin/sleep
        # sleep 1
      • Note: you may have to use the empty sleep command trick again, if the sleep command itself is updated and breaks the upgrading process again. Do not forget to restore the original sleep command after the upgrade!!
        Restarting services possibly affected by the upgrade:
          cron: stopping...sleep: cannot read realtime clock: Invalid argument
        dpkg: error processing package libpam0g:amd64 (--configure):
         installed libpam0g:amd64 package post-installation script subprocess returned error exit status 1
        E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
        # ls -l /bin/sleep
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 39256 Sep  5  2019 /bin/sleep
        # mv /bin/sleep /bin/sleep.back2
        # touch /bin/sleep
        # chmod +x /bin/sleep
    • Do not forget to restore the correct sleep executable, if you had to move it
      • # ls -l /bin/sleep*
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root     0 Aug 23 23:57 /bin/sleep
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 35000 Jan 18  2018 /bin/sleep.back
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 39256 Sep  5  2019 /bin/sleep.back2
        # cp -p /bin/sleep.back2 /bin/sleep
        # ls -l /bin/sleep*
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 39256 Sep  5  2019 /bin/sleep
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 35000 Jan 18  2018 /bin/sleep.back
        -rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 39256 Sep  5  2019 /bin/sleep.back2

Cleaning up things

Advanced configuration

Get Linux configuration files

  • You can either adapt your existing Linux configuration files (.profile, .bashrc, …) from another Linux computer, or download some example files in your WSL home directory and use (and improve) them as suggested below (or as you wish)
    • $ cd
      $ scp -pr <your_login> .
    • You get a default .bashrc file in your home directory when your WSL account is created. Add the following line at the end of ~/.bashrc to use what is defined in the downloaded WSL_config directory:
      source ~/WSL_config/
    • If you use the emacs text editor, you can use your own .emacs configuration file, or get an example configuration file the following way:
      • $ cd
        $ ln -s WSL_config/emacs .emacs
      • Font configuration (type, size, …): FIXME
  • You can either copy the full .ssh directory of your Linux account, or just get the private key files:

This assumes that you have already created a private/public ssh key pair and that the private key is available somewhere in the Windows 10 computer

ssh from WSL

Authorizing ssh to use old dsa keys

dsa ssh keys are disabled by default (becoming obsolete). ssh will ask for your password even if you have a ~/.ssh/id_dsa file. ssh -v will print Skipping ssh-dss key /home/<your_login>/.ssh/id_dsa - not in PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes. The solution is to generate a new couple of public/private keys not based on dsa encryption, or to use the user ssh config file to authorize dsa (source)

  • Add PubkeyAcceptedKeyTypes +ssh-dss to ~/.ssh/config (before the HOST sections)
  • Make sure the config file has the correct access rights: chmod 600 config
Using Putty Pageant as an ssh agent

This assumes that you have installed the full Putty package (with the msi installer), converted your private ssh key with PuTTYgen, and unlocked the converted ssh private key in Pageant.

The converted ssh private key is located in a Windows 10 folder

  • Download the required binaries from the weasel-pageant github page and extract them to a Windows directory, e.g. C:\Utils\weasel-pageant-x.x
  • Add the following line to your ~/.bashrc file:
    eval $(/mnt/c/Utils/weasel-pageant-x.x/weasel-pageant -rb -a $HOME/.weasel-pageant.sock)
    • This is done by default in the ~/WSL_config/ if you have downloaded and adapted it
  • Open a new terminal:
    • Type ssh-add -l: it will display either The agent has no identities, or as many lines as you have entered keys in Pageant
    • Type ssh user@host to connect to a computer where you have your public key

Note: the other similar solutions are ssh-agent-wsl (the key is stored in the Windows ssh-agent instead of Pageant) or wsl-ssh-pageant

Using Ubuntu as an ssh-agent

The ssh key (and other ssh settings) are in the ~/.ssh directory of your WSL+Ubuntu account

This is the most simple setting, but there will be one running ssh-agent per terminal, and the key will be stored independently for each terminal (which means that you will have to type ssh-add and your pass-phrase for each terminal)

  • It's not possible by default to add a key to ssh-agent ('ssh-add' will print Could not open a connection to your authentication agent)
  • If you want to use ssh-add in a terminal, you first need to type eval `ssh-agent -s` in the (or eval $(ssh-agent))
    • In that case, it's just easier to add eval $(ssh-agent) to the .bashrc file!
      • This is done by default in the ~/WSL_config/ if you have downloaded and adapted it
Notes & TODO

ssh to WSL

FIXME Maybe check OpenSSH-Server connection issues

Maybe it could be useful to do a ssh from the Win10 part of the machine to the WSL part, and from outside the machine to the WSL part

It would probably already be enough to enable the ssh server on Win10 (the ssh 1709 release beta features are now officially in Win10)

Google search: wsl ssh

Creating shortcuts to Linux programs on the Windows desktop

  • Install wslu (A collection of utilities for WSL) if it is not already installed
    • apt-get install wslu
  • Have a quick look at the wslu github page and wiki to find about the available tools (that you may need later)
  • You can create a shortcut by using wslusc in any Linux terminal
    • e.g. you can create a shortcut on the Windows desktop to start emacs (in WSL!) with:
      wslusc -g emacs
      • This will make it easier to start emacs, but since this is a graphical Linux application, you need to have an X server running before you click on the emacs shortcut!
  • You can optionally get some information about the technical details

Mounting disks and network drives

By default, the local disks and the external USB disks available (and decrypted!) when WSL is started (i.e. when the first WSL terminal is opened) are automatically available (mounted) in /mnt : the content of C:\ is available in /mnt/c, etc… The list of available disks is refreshed when the Windows session is restarted (the user logs out and in, or Windows is rebooted) or when just WSL is restarted.

Extra local disks or network drives (what you can access by opening \\dfshost\dfs\ in the file explorer when you are on the LSCE network) can be either mounted on the fly with the mount command, or automatically by configuring the /etc/fstab file.

You will access the network drives with the access rights you have in the current Windows session (and you may have to access the drives in Windows before you can mount them in WSL)

Warning! In all cases, the owner, groups and permissions displayed may not be accurate (but the actual access rights will apply).

  • the user/group of the files may appear as your_login/your_login or root/root. Example of a local file belonging to the current Windows jypeter user, and a system file
    • $ ls -l /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/Desktop/File_on_Desktop.txt
      -rwxrwxrwx 1 jypeter jypeter 0 Jan 21 11:50 /mnt/c/Users/jypeter/Desktop/File_on_Desktop.txt
      $ ls -l /mnt/c/Windows/notepad.exe
      -r-xr-xr-x 3 jypeter jypeter 181248 Mar 19  2019 /mnt/c/Windows/notepad.exe
  • the access rights may appear as rwxrwxrwx even if the actual rights are more restrictive. Example after mounting the LSCE /home/scratch01 disk
    • # File access rights seen from WSL+Ubuntu
      $ ls -l /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/
      -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 2755154 Jan 13 15:10 /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/
      # Actual access rights (on the Linux server)
      >ls -l /home/scratch01/jypeter/
      -rw-r--r-- 1 jypeter lsce 2755154 Jan 13 15:10 /home/scratch01/jypeter/
      # You can't change the access rights from WSL+Ubuntu, but you can remove a file, or create a new one
      $ chmod 600 /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/
      chmod: changing permissions of '/mnt/scratch01/jypeter/': Operation not permitted
      $ rm /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/
      $ ls -l /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/
      ls: cannot access '/mnt/scratch01/jypeter/': No such file or directory
      $ touch /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/new_file_from_wsl.txt
      jypeter@lsce5203:/mnt/scratch01/jypeter$ ls -l /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/new_file_from_wsl.txt
      -rwxrwxrwx 1 root root 0 Jan 21 11:37 /mnt/scratch01/jypeter/new_file_from_wsl.txt
      # The new file has the correct (default) access rights on the Linux server
      >ls -l /home/scratch01/jypeter/new_file_from_wsl.txt
      -rw-r--r-- 1 jypeter lsce 0 Jan 21 11:37 /home/scratch01/jypeter/new_file_from_wsl.txt

Enabling metadata

Some access rights handling can be slightly improved by automatically enabling the metadata mount option. This will allow you to use chmod/chown on local NTFS disks (disks directly connected to your computer, e.g. /mnt/c/Users/your_login).

  1. become root in a terminal with: sudo -s
  2. create a /etc/wsl.conf with the following content:
    options = "metadata"

You need to restart WSL+ubuntu to activate the new content of /etc/wsl.conf. See below an example of the mount -l output:

  • Before: C: on /mnt/c type drvfs (rw,noatime,uid=1000,gid=1000,case=off)
  • After enabling metadata: C: on /mnt/c type drvfs (rw,noatime,uid=1000,gid=1000,metadata,case=off)

Optional: more details about wsl.conf in WSL launch settings, How to use wsl.conf and metadata and access rights management

On-the-fly mount

You have to create a mount point in the existing /mnt directory and then use the mount command

# Must be root for most 'mount' related commands
$ sudo -s

# Create the mount point (once), e.g. for accessing /home/scratch01 on the local LSCE servers
# This works when the Windows 10 computer is on the LSCE network
$ mkdir /mnt/scratch01

# Mount the remote disk
$ mount -t drvfs '\\dfshost\dfs\scratch01' /mnt/scratch01

# List the mounted disks
$ mount -l
\\dfshost\dfs\scratch01 on /mnt/scratch01 type drvfs (rw,relatime,case=off)

# Unmount the disk, or just shutdown Windows or WSL when you are finished
$ umount /mnt/scratch01

If you connect a USB disk/stick and windows sees it as a new J:\ drive, you can also manually mount it

$ sudo -s

# Create the mount point (once)
$ mkdir /mnt/j

# Mount the USB disk
$ mount -t drvfs J: /mnt/j

# Unmount the disk, or just shutdown Windows or WSL when you are finished
$ umount /mnt/j

Automatic mount

The disks defined in /etc/fstab will be automatically mounted when you start WSL and if they are actually accessible from your Windows session (e.g. \\dfshost\dfs can only be accessed from the LSCE network)

You need to add 1 line per mount point to /etc/fstab, and create (once) the directories that will be used for mounting the disks

$ sudo -s

# Create the mount points (once)
# The example below is to access the LSCE /home/users and /home/scrath01 disks
$ mkdir /mnt/users /mnt/scratch01

# Make a backup copy of /etc/fstab before modifying it (for safety reasons!)
$ cp -p /etc/fstab /etc/fstab.bak

# Add lines to /etc/fstab associating mount points and directories
$ cat /etc/fstab
LABEL=cloudimg-rootfs   /        ext4   defaults        0 0
\\dfshost\dfs\users /mnt/users drvfs defaults 0 0
\\dfshost\dfs\scratch01 /mnt/scratch01 drvfs defaults 0 0

# Try to mount all the disks in /etc/fstab
$ mount -a

# Check the result
$ mount -l
\\dfshost\dfs\users on /mnt/users type drvfs (rw,relatime,case=off)
\\dfshost\dfs\scratch01 on /mnt/scratch01 type drvfs (rw,relatime,case=off)

Accessing remote file systems with sshfs


It seems this can be done with a combination of WinFsp and SSHFS-Win (see SSHFS remote directory mounting syntax for details

Extra resources

Useful mount options:

  • mount -a (must be root): mount everything specified in /etc/fstab
  • umont /mnt/scratch01 (must be root): unmount the disk accessible through /mnt/scratch01
  • mount -l: list all the mounted disks and the mount options (useful when you are using the default mount options and want to know which options were actually applied)

Useful links (used for writing this section):

Rebooting WSL

It is not possible to stop or reboot WSL like a regular Linux computer

  • shutdown -r now will generate an error message
  • WSL keeps on running even when all the Linux terminals are closed

Shutting down or rebooting the Windows computer will of course stop WSL but it's useful to be able to just stop/restart WSL in order to:

  • force WSL to recognize new disk drives and make them available as /mnt/<new_drive_letter
  • force WSL to recognize drives that were still encrypted when the first WSL terminal was opened

WSL can be stopped the following way. Warning: ​all the open terminals and running processes ​will be terminated!

  • from a Windows terminal (cmd, PowerShell, … no need to run as administrator):
    • Get the name of the installed (and running) Linux: wsl --list --verbose
    • Stop this instance of Linux (e.g. if it is named Ubuntu): wsl --terminate Ubuntu
    • or Stop all the currently running Linux distributions: wsl --shutdown

Advanced usage

WSL security WARNING!

A regular Linux installation (on a Linux-only computer) is fairly secure,
but a Linux installation on WSL is not secure at all, by design

WSL+Linux is designed to allow you to easily use Linux on Windows, including very easily using the Linux root account without knowing any password of the Linux installation!

PS C:\Users\your_login> wsl
wsl_default_user@your_machine:/mnt/c/Users/your_login$ whoami

PS C:\Users\your_login> wsl -u root
root@your_machine:/mnt/c/Users/your_login# whoami

This is a feature and not a security issue, because your installation is protected by your Windows account security

You should be aware (and act accordingly) that:

  • Somebody gaining access to your Windows account will also have full access to the Linux installation
    • Do not use an existing password for the WSL Linux account
      Somebody could easily extract your password information…
    • Storing data in the Linux part of your computer does not add any extra security
    • Always make sure that only you can access your Windows account
    • Your LSCE Windows laptop (not your desktop) is encrypted with BitLocker, which adds some extra security
  • Somebody gaining access to a backup of your Linux installation will easily have access to the Linux installation itself

Creating a backup

Backup of a FULL Linux installation

You can use wsl to save a full Linux installation to a tar file, that can be:

  • used later for restoring the full installation
  • used for relocating the full installation from C:\ to another disk

Detailed --export example:

  • Determine the name of the current Linux installation(s) used in WSL
    • > wsl --list --verbose
        NAME             STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu_custom    Running         2
    • > wsl --shutdown
      > wsl -l -v
        NAME             STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu_custom    Stopped         2
    • … or stop just the specific installation that you want to save:
      > wsl --terminate Ubuntu_custom
  • Export the specified Linux installation to a tar file:
    • You should export to a directory or external disk where you have enough space
      e.g. The tar file for a newly installed and updated Ubuntu 20.04.5 LTS is ~1.4 Gb (550 Mb after compression)
    • You should use a detailed enough file name for the tar file
      e.g. WSL_<Linux_Distribution>_<Distribution_Version>_<User>_<Date>.tar
    • Example: wsl --export Ubuntu C:\Scratch\your_login\WSL\WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-10-27.tar
  • You can (probably) save a lot of space by compressing the backup
    • It is not documented (yet), but the wsl --import command (if you need to use it later) can directly import tar.gz files!
    • $ ls -lh /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-10-27.tar
       3.3G Oct 27 18:01 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-10-27.tar
      $ gzip /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-10-27.tar
      $ ls -lh /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_*
       549M Aug 29 17:49 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-08-29.tar.gz
       548M Sep 14 16:18 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-09-14.tar.gz
       1.2G Sep 19 13:52 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-09-19.tar.gz
       1.3G Oct 27 18:01 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-10-27.tar.gz

Backup of specific directories

You can also just create backups of specific directories:

  • Your Linux home directory (/home/your_login/), or some specific sub-directories of the Ubuntu running in WSL (sub-directories of /): the best way to save them is probably to create a tar file from Linux, and put this tar file in a specific Windows WSL backup folder (we will use below the directory /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL or c:\Scratch\your_login\WSL)
    • $ cd /home
      $ du -sh $USER
      88K    your_login
      # We assume below that there is an existing /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/ directory
      # Same directory (seen from WINDOWS) C:\Scratch\your_login\WSL\
      $ tar cfz /mnt/c/Scratch/$USER/WSL/${USER}_home_`date +%y-%m-%d_%H%M`.tgz $USER
      # Check the size of the new (and existing old) backup(s)
      $ ls -ltrh /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/${USER}_*.tgz
       5.0K Oct 28 16:09 /mnt/c/Scratch/your_login/WSL/stdu_home_22-10-28_1609.tgz
  • Regular Windows folders where you store data used by WSL: you can use tar in a Linux terminal, as above, or use any usual way of backing up Windows files (drag and drop, some specific backup software)
    • WARNING: there should not be performance issues using tar (from Linux) to make a backup of Windows files with WSL 1, but WSL 2 is significantly slower than WSL 1 to access Windows files (Exceptions for using WSL 1 rather than WSL 2)

Restoring or relocating a Linux installation

When we have the tar file of a FULL backup, we can use --import to install or restore it to a specific location.


  • This is currently the only way of moving (relocating) a Linux installation to another disk than the default C:\ location
  • Importing will mostly put the ext4.vhdx file in the specified target location
    • You need enough disk space in the new disk location, knowing that the size of the restored vhdx file will start growing (as needed) as soon as you use your installation
  • Creating a backup and restoring it is an indirect way of reclaiming the unused space of a Linux installation vhdx file: the size of the ext4.vhdx file after importing can be smaller than the size of the originally exported ext4.vhdx file.

Detailed --import example:

  • We assume that we have an exported installation tar file available
  • Create the directory where the Linux installation (mostly its ext4.vhdx file) will be restored
    • Hint: choose an explicit directory path and name, using the name of the distribution that will be restored, because the name of the restored file itself will always be the same (ext4.vhdx)
      e.g. D:\WSL_Distributions\Ubuntu_custom
  • Import the distribution, giving it a unique name (that does not appear already in wsl -l -v)
    • > wsl -l -v
        NAME      STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu    Stopped         2
      > wsl --import Ubuntu_custom D:\WSL_Distributions\Ubuntu_custom C:\Scratch\<your_login>\WSL\WSL_Ubuntu_20.04.5_LTS_stdu_22-08-29.tar.gz
      > wsl -l -v
        NAME             STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu           Stopped         2
        Ubuntu_custom    Stopped         2
    • After importing, there should be a new ext4.vhdx file in the previously empty D:\WSL_Distributions\Ubuntu_custom directory
  • Start the imported Ubuntu_custom distribution
    • Select Ubuntu_custom in the Windows Terminal pull-down menu
    • Or specify Ubuntu_custom in a PowerShell, using:
      wsl --distribution Ubuntu_custom
      or wsl -d Ubuntu_custom
    • WARNING: even if the imported distribution had an existing default user (stdu in our example), the new default user will be root !
      • It is possible to explicitly specify the requested user each time we start a terminal, but it will be more convenient to specify a new default user
        wsl --distribution Ubuntu_custom --user stdu
      • You can easily open a root session with
        wsl -d Ubuntu_custom -u root
  • Select a new (non root) default user (note: Add WSL a default user also shows how to create a new user). We just have to use the root account to add a default user (user stdu in this example) to the /etc/wsl.conf file
    • # cat /etc/wsl.conf
      cat: /etc/wsl.conf: No such file or directory
      # echo -e "[user]\ndefault=stdu" >> /etc/wsl.conf
      # cat /etc/wsl.conf
    • Restart the Linux installation to take the new settings into account
      • wsl --terminate Ubuntu_custom
    • If you need the root account later, you will need to use the sudo command from the new default account (or use wsl -d Ubuntu_custom -u root in a PowerShell)
      • $ whoami
        stdu@sadira034:~$ sudo su -
        [sudo] password for stdu:
        root@sadira034:~# whoami
  • If the relocation goal was to free up some space on C:, it is possible to Remove the main installation, once the relocated installation has been successfully tested

Questions FIXME

  • Is it possible to restore to the default location (on C:\) ?

Uninstalling WSL or a distribution

Before uninstalling something, you probably want to create a backup, just to be safe…

Removing a specific Linux installation

This process is called unregistering (based on Unregister or uninstall a Linux distribution)

You just need to get the list of the currently installed Linux distributions, stop them and remove/unregister a specific distribution name

> wsl -l -v
  NAME             STATE           VERSION
* Ubuntu           Stopped         2
  Ubuntu_custom    Running         2

> wsl --terminate Ubuntu_custom

> wsl -l -v
  NAME             STATE           VERSION
* Ubuntu           Stopped         2
  Ubuntu_custom    Stopped         2

> wsl --unregister Ubuntu_custom

> wsl -l -v
  NAME             STATE           VERSION
* Ubuntu           Stopped         2

Removing the main Linux installation

If you remove the main installation (on C:\):

  • Another relocated installation will become the new default installation (if present)
    • PS C:\Users\your_login> wsl -l -v
        NAME             STATE           VERSION
        Ubuntu_custom    Running         2
      * Ubuntu           Running         2
      PS C:\Users\your_login> wsl --unregister Ubuntu
      PS C:\Users\your_login> wsl -l -v
        NAME             STATE           VERSION
      * Ubuntu_custom    Running         2
  • The initial installation directory will still be present on C:\, and should probably be left untouched:
    • C:\Users\your_login\AppData\Local\Packages\CanonicalGroupLimited.UbuntuonWindows_79rhkp1fndgsc\
    • …with a very low disk usage (the big ext4.vhdx is removed during the unregister step)
  • Ubuntu will still appear in the Microsoft store, and clicking on Launch will trigger a re-installation on C:\
    • If you end up with an installation error message and a new orphan ext4.vhdx file on C, click on Launch to restart and complete the installation
  • Ubuntu will still appear in the list of installed applications (Windows + IApplications) but with a smaller disk usage, probably just the size of the Linux kernel installed and updated independently of the Linux installations)

Removing WSL

wsl is a part of the Windows system and probably can't be removed.

Anyway, when all existing Linux distributions are uninstalled, there should not be any big .vhdx files remaining (i.e. no extra disk space used), and there will not be any Linux processes running (i.e. no extra CPU used).


Upgrading WSL 1 to WSL 2

You will be able to run existing WSL 1 installations with WSL 2, so upgrading should not be a problem!

Determining which version of WSL is installed

If you have never used WSL on a computer, WSL 2 will be installed directly when you follow the Base installation steps

You can determine if your installed Linux distributions are running on WSL 1 or WSL 2 by typing wsl -l -v in a PowerShell, but if you are not sure if you are currently using WSL 1 or WSL 2 for running Linux, you can check if Is there an easy (PowerShell?) way to get more information about WSL? has been answered, or make the following checks

  • wsl –update will give the same output (i.e. the installed Linux kernel version) for both WSL 1 and WSL 2
    • PS C:\Users\jypeter> wsl --update
      Recherche de mises à jour en cours... Veuillez patienter
      Aucune mise à jour n’est disponible.
      Version du noyau :
  • wsl –status will display again the kernel version if you already have WSL 2, but will display a link to the WSL installation page if you are running WSL 1:
    • PS C:\Users\jypeter> wsl --status
      Distribution par défaut : Ubuntu
      Version par défaut : 2
      Activez la fonctionnalité Windows de plateforme de machine virtuelle et assurez-vous que la virtualisation est activée dans le BIOS.
      Pour plus d’informations, rendez-vous sur


Upgrading WSL

Activate the Virtual Machine Platform (just the Step 3 instructions) and reboot the computer

After rebooting, go back to the Determining which version of WSL is installed section above, and check that you are now using WSL 2

Potentially useful stuff

  • Determining from inside the running Linux if you are using WSL (or another type of virtual machine)
    $ systemd-detect-virt
    $ env | grep -i wsl
other/win10wsl.txt · Last modified: 2023/12/06 13:24 by jypeter