The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) has been one of Microsoft's resounding successes in recent years. Opening up Windows to allow a proper GNU/Linux environment to run without the need for a virtual machine has made a world of difference to developers and occasional Linux dabblers worldwide.
WSL was a popular addition to Windows 10 when the stable release arrived in 2019. Now, with Windows 11, Microsoft is taking things one step further and integrating WSL into the Microsoft Store as a regular store application for Windows 11 devices.
So, why has Microsoft added WSL to the Microsoft Store?
Microsoft Add Windows Subsystem for Linux to Microsoft Store
There is something very official about being added to the Microsoft Store. Although the Windows Subsystem for Linux has been around for over five years at this point, it has never had a simple Microsoft Store app that updates and upgrades like any other Store app.
Up until now, it was an additional Windows feature that, while easy enough to install, could break just as easily depending on your Windows version.
In short, it could be a temperamental and sensitive bit of kit. Now, you won't have to worry about those niggling issues as Microsoft turns the Windows Subsystem for Linux into a Microsoft Store app.
Traditionally, WSL has been installed as an optional component inside of Windows. This means that you would go to the “Turn Windows Features on or off” dialogue to enable it, requiring you to restart your machine. The actual binaries that make up WSL’s logic in that optional component are part of the Windows image, and are serviced and updated as part of Windows itself.
How to Install Windows Subsystem for Linux From the Microsoft Store
Before heading on down to the Microsoft Store to install WSL, make sure:
- You're running Windows 11 (Windows build 22000 or higher), and
- You have the Virtual Machine Platform optional component enabled.
If the latter trips you up, as it will for some, you can enable the feature in PowerShell.
- Input powershell in the Start menu search bar, right-click and select Run as Administrator.
- Input the following command: dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all.
When ready, head to the Windows Subsystem for Linux Microsoft Store page and select Install.
What's New in WSL?
Aside from being able to update WSL without fear of breaking everything or losing your configuration, the new Windows 11 Microsoft Store version of the app comes with a few upgrades, too.
- The WSLg, or Windows Subsystem for Linux GUI is now integrated with the app
- There are several new –mount features
- WSL's Linux kernel is updated to version 188.8.131.52
- A new progress indicator
- New –version command shows version information
The Microsoft Docs for WSL details the full update list.
WSL Microsoft Store App Only Available on Windows 11
The only downside is for those users stuck on Windows 10 for whatever reason. For now, at least, the new WSL Microsoft Store app isn't coming to Windows 10 any time soon. It's a Windows 11 only affair. Whether that situation will change in the future isn't made clear in the official Microsoft blog announcing the new WSL app, but Windows 10 isn't even mentioned, so don't expect a sudden change.
For now, if you can upgrade to Windows 11 for free, you can give the Windows Subsystem for Linux Microsoft Store app a try. Otherwise, you'll have to sit tight and wait for Microsoft's Windows 11 minimum requirements to change or for your free update to become available.