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Windows 10’s Linux Kernel Is Now Available

Linux's Tux mascot on a Windows 10 wallpaper
Larry Ewing

Microsoft just released a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build featuring the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. WSL 2 includes a real Linux kernel that lets you run more Linux software on Windows and with better performance than WSL 1.

This is part of Windows 10 Insider Preview build 18917, released on June 12, 2019. It’s part of the fast ring of updates. You can experiment with it today, although you’ll have to join the Windows Insider program and get unstable builds of Windows 10 on your PC.

Microsoft’s Windows Command Line blog offers more information about WSL 2, complete with an install guide, list of user experience changes, and more documentation. To install WSL 2 on the latest insider build, run the following command in a PowerShell window launched with Administrator permissions:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName VirtualMachinePlatform

This new version of WSL 2 uses Hyper-V features to create a lightweight virtual machine with a minimal Linux kernel. It will still be available on Windows 10 Home, however, even though Hyper-V isn’t normally available on Windows 10 Home. Expect better compatibility with Linux software, including support for Docker, and “dramatic file system performance increases.”

The virtual machine will automatically launch at startup and use a bit of memory in the background, but Microsoft promises it “has a small memory footprint.” You can run the wsl --shutdown  command if you ever want to shut down the background VM.

WSL 2 is part of the development builds for Windows 10 20H1, which is expected for release around April 2020. WSL may be part of Windows 10 19H2, expected for release around October 2019, but Microsoft isn’t testing 19H2 yet.

The latest Windows 10 Insider build includes some other useful features, too. You can now head to Settings > Update & Security > Delivery Optimization > Advanced Options to throttle Windows Update. For example, you can set Windows Update to only use 1 Mbps or a specific percentage of your available bandwidth while downloading updates in the background.

RELATED: Windows 10 Is Getting a Built-in Linux Kernel

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