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How to install Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 11

Windows has had some level of support for running Linux since 2016 when the Windows 10 Anniversary Update came out.

It was a pain in the butt to get working at that time though, but with the second version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux in 2019, things became much more user-friendly. Now that Windows 11 is out, and it’s even easier to get Linux running on your Windows desktop.

We’ll show you how, and also how to install a different flavor of Linux if you don’t want the default, which is Ubuntu. All you need is a computer running Windows 11, and a few minutes.

Want the Windows Subsystem for Linux? Start here

Image: KnowTechie

With Windows 11, you don’t have to manually enable anything, or hunt for settings, or even download anything to extract. All you need is some inbuilt tools, and the ability to type.

  1. Launch PowerShell or Command Prompt as an administrator. The easiest way is to search for “Powershell” or “command prompt” then choose the Run as Administrator option from the search termswindows powershell on start menu

  2. Type wsl –install and hit Enter

    powershell window showing the command to install windows subsystem for linux

  3. That will install any services WSL needs, the utility itself, and also download and install Ubuntu, which is the default Linux distribution, or distro, that Windows uses. You can change the Linux version later on if you prefer another distro.

    None of this will be usable until you reboot your PC, so…

  4. Restart your PC. Wait until the notification that says WSL is installed, then restart.

  5. When you’re back on the desktop, you’ll get a window that pops up saying it’s installing WSL and Ubuntu. Once it’s finished, you’ll get a prompt to create a username and password for WSL use. We suggest not to use your Windows credentials here, as they will only be used when in the WSL.

  6. To install a different Linux distro

    Open a command window as an administrator (as in step 1) then type wsl –list –onlinescreenshot showing the various linux distributions that you can install inside wsl

  7. You’ll get a list of options that can be downloaded and installed for you. At the time of writing, this includes Ubuntu, Debian, kali-linux, openSUSE, and SUSE.

  8. To install one, type wsl –install -d <distro> where distro is the FRIENDLY NAME from the list. We’re installing hacker favorite kali-linux herewsl installing kali-linux

  9. You can also install Linux from the Microsoft Store

    Open the Microsoft Store and search for Linux. microsoft store showing linux options

  10. Click on the distro you want, and then click Install

Now you’ve got a Linux distro installed in the Subsystem for Linux. Have fun learning the command line!

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