Native Linux GUI apps on your Windows Desktop?

productivity Sep 20, 2021

Microsoft announced Windows 11 on June 24 and will release it publicly on October 5th – that’s only a couple of weeks away.  If you want, you can get it early by joining the Windows Insider programme.

One of the best features of Windows 11 is an improved Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL2), which now handles graphics (including GPU ML training) and audio natively.

If you haven’t been paying attention, Microsoft loves Linux these days.  WSL2 is so easy to use, you can install a full copy of many popular Linux distributions including Ubuntu, SUSE, Kali, Debian straight into Windows from the Windows App store without exiting your existing Windows desktop.  You can start Linux apps from the Windows start menu, pin Linux apps to the Windows task bar, use ALT-TAB to switch between Windows and Linux apps, and Cut + Paste across both, all without dual booting.

If you’ve found yourself needing to run Linux to support your hobby interests, participate in open-source projects, or just learn about and use Linux more on a daily basis, but dual-booting or managing separate Linux VMs seems like too much of a hassle this really could be a gamechanger.

WSL2 started with Windows 10 1903, but it’s Windows 11 that includes native GUI and real-time audio support.  Under the covers it runs a native Linux kernel on Hyper-V – so it is actually is a VM, but it’s highly integrated with Windows you don’t need to manage it as such.

You will need to be running Windows 11 Build 22000 or higher and Microsoft has written a tutorial describing the prerequisites and getting started instructions here.  If you’re not quite keen enough to run Windows 11 before it’s released on your production machine I don’t blame you – but you only have a couple of weeks to wait!

Peter Brook

Peter is our vBridge Operations and Information Security Manager. He has over 20 years experience in many NZ organisations including PGG Wrightson, CDHB, Lyttelton Port Company and Spark Digital.