Windows Subsystem for Linux

The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is nifty feature in Windows 10 that let’s us run Linux binaries inside of our Windows environment. WSL was first released as stable with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update so you’ll want to make sure you’re running at least that version of Windows 10 or newer to take full advantage of it.

WSL currently supports Ubuntu, openSUSE, and SLES distributions with support for more in the pipeline. These distributions are currently available in the Windows Store app. If you’re already signed in with your Microsoft account, then it’s just a quick and easy install. But what if you can’t or don’t want to use the Windows Store?

If you’re like me and prefer using Windows 10 with a local account only, the good news is that we’re not out of luck. There exists a method for installing a WSL distro without having to go through the Windows Store. WSL is an especially useful feature for sysadmins that work with Windows Server and since Windows Server 2012 doesn’t include the Windows Store (as it shouldn’t), Microsoft has provided the ability to side load a WSL distro in for server environments. As it turns out, the WSL server install method also works for regular Windows 10 systems as well. Let’s walk through the process of installing Ubuntu 16.04 with WSL.

Installation Procedures

1. Enable WSL

Before we can install Ubuntu, we first need to enable WSL within Windows 10.

  • Open the Start Menu and type Turn Windows features on or off then press Enter.
  • In the Windows Features list, find and check the box next to Windows Subsystem for Linux then click OK. Screenshot of Windows Features List.

  • You’ll be asked to restart you computer, click Restart now.

2. Download Ubuntu

We’ll need to grab the Ubuntu WSL distro from Microsoft. The distro will be a .appx package.

  • The link to the download page can be found here. If you prefer, you can use the same link to download OpenSUSE or SLES instead.
  • Note: Only Ubuntu 16.04 is currently available for download. Ubuntu 18.04 will need to be installed from the Windows Store as Microsoft has not yet prepared Ubuntu 18.04 for a standalone server install.

3. Extract Files

The easiest way to unpack Ubuntu.1604.appx is to use file archive tool like 7zip.

  • Open the file explorer and navigate to the directory where you downloaded the Ubuntu .appx.
  • Using 7zip, extract the contents of the .appx into the current directory. You should now have a folder named Ubuntu.1604.2017.711.0_v1 containing the contents of the installer. Screenshot of Ubuntu folder contents.

  • Ubuntu.1604.2017.711.0_v1 is a rather messy name so we’ll go ahead and rename the folder to simply Ubuntu.

  • Now move the Ubuntu folder into your Windows home user directory C:\Users\<your_user_name>\. Screenshot of Windows user directory.

4. Installing Ubuntu

  • Inside the Ubuntu folder, double-click ubuntu.exe to begin the installation. Screenshot of Ubuntu.exe installing.

  • When the installation finishes, you will be asked to set your UNIX username and password. Enter in a name and password. The password entry will not be visible on screen. Screenshot of successful installation.

5. Success

We have successfully installed Ubuntu. The next step is to make sure we grab all the security updates for our distro.

  • Run the following commands inside the Bash shell to update Ubuntu:
sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Additional Notes

If you want to uninstall Ubuntu, you can do so using the wslconfig.exe command line tool. This will completely remove the Ubuntu distribution.

  • To uninstall, open the Windows Command Prompt and run:
wslconfig /unregister Ubuntu

From here, we can reinstall Ubuntu in a clean state if desired.