WSL2 is so last year: Linux compatibility layer backported to older Windows 10 versions

1903 and 1909 holdouts get their hands on 2004's newest toy


Microsoft has backported the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2 to last year's Windows 10 – 1903 and 1909.

Previously one had to bite the bullet and upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10, 2004, to enjoy the Linux-kernel-containing goodness. WSL2 is considerably more performant (unless one tries to hop outside of the VM's file system) and compatible than its translation layer-based predecessor.

Adoption of Windows 10 2004 can best be described as sluggish. Blocks afflicting even Microsoft's own devices and natural corporate caution have prevented the OS, and its new take on WSL, hitting more devices. The backport will also work on Windows 10 Home installations.

"In general it's serviced just like any other Windows component," program manager Craig Loewen told The Register, paying tribute to Tyler Citrin and Mitchell Minkoff for their role in making the magic happen.

WSL1 will continue to coexist beside its sibling, and is still needed by developers running up against some of the downsides of the otherwise speedier and more compatible WSL2.

Accessible through the usual update mechanisms for the older operating systems, WSL2 is x64 only for the time being. The precious few Windows-on-Arm users will still need a Windows 10 2004 update in order to get it.

Not all the WSL2 toys are present and correct either. GPU support under Linux was announced recently and GUI apps are in the pipeline for WSL2. Loewen tweeted that while the gang was "investigating" backporting the extra features, there was no definitive timeline.

Container-botherer Docker celebrated the emission, which widens the audience for its technology.

Rather than requiring Hyper-V, which is resolutely not part of Windows Home, Docker Desktop will happily perch atop WSL2. "This is the first time that Docker has been available on Windows Home versions 1903 and 1909!" whooped Ben De St Paer-Gotch, a principal project manager for the company.

Similarly, Hayden Barnes, a developer advocate at Canonical, noted the arrival of the technology on older versions of Windows.

Highlighting that Windows 10 1909 Enterprise would be supported for 30 months, Barnes was naturally chuffed that users of Windows 10 1903 and 1909 would get to enjoy some WSL2 Ubuntu fun on their systems. ®


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