The Windows Subsystem for Linux or Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) allows you to run Linux software on a Windows 11 PC. With WSL enabled, Windows can run a Linux distribution at the same time.

Microsoft allows WSL to be enabled in all major versions of Windows 11, which means it is not required upgrade from Windows 11 Home to Pro to use it. Windows 11 uses WSL 2.0, an enhanced version of WSL designed to run a full Linux kernel on a Hyper-V environment.

Once you have WSL up and running, you will have access to the Linux shell from the new Windows terminal. From there, you can use commands to install and run Linux applications alongside Windows software. Windows 11 includes support for running Linux applications with access to the GPU, making it a versatile tool for different types of users.

Next, we explain how to get Windows Subsystem for Linux to run on your Windows 11 PC.

How to install Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on Windows 11

The fastest way to install WSL in Windows 11 is through the command prompt or PowerShell. You can use either tool to do this, choose the environment in which you feel most comfortable.

To do this, open the menu Beginning (or press the key Windows) and writes cmd to find Command Prompt or powershell to open a new window PowerShell. Hover over the best match result and select Execute as an administrator on the right.

If the UAC noticeMake sure to allow the chosen application to run.

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In your PowerShell window or command prompt at the administrator level, you can install and activate WSL with a single command. To do this, type the following command and press Enter:

wsl --install

You’ll have to wait while Windows 11 enables WSL, enables GUI application support, and installs the default Linux distribution (Ubuntu) on your PC. You can monitor the installation progress in the window.

When completed, you will see a message asking you restart your Windows 11 PC to complete the installation.

After your PC restarts, log into Windows, and you should see that you can use your Linux system.

To launch WSL, open the Start menu – you should discover Ubuntu in the section “Recently installed“. You can also find it manually under its first letter in the application list.

How to install alternative Linux WSL distributions

It’s also worth noting that you don’t have to use Ubuntu with WSL, you can install other versions of Linux. To find the Linux distributions available on your PC, enter the following in your Command Prompt, PowerShell, or Windows Terminal window:

wsl -l -o

Then type the following, substituting distro by the name of the Linux distribution you want to install:

wsl --install -d distro

For example, if you want to install openSUSE, you would type the following:

wsl --install -d openSUSE

As with Ubuntu, allow time for the command wsl install your preferred distribution.

How to install Linux distributions from the Microsoft Store

If you are not comfortable using a command line tool, you can install Linux through the Microsoft Store. Installing Linux from the Store is like installing any other application from the Store. First of all, you will want to verify that WSL is enabled.

To do this, press Start (or the Windows key) and type optionalfeatures.exe. Select the result of Best match on top.

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In the box “Windows features“, Select the checkbox Windows Subsystem for Linux and click To accept.

Allow some time for the changes to complete and restart your PC.

Once you restart your PC, open the Microsoft Store application from the taskbar or Start menu and search for “Linux“.

You should see various distributions available, such as Kali Linux, Debian, Ubuntu, etc. Choose the Linux distribution you want to use and click Get to start installing it.

The Microsoft Store will download and install your Linux distribution at this point; allow some time for this to complete. As with the command line method above, you will find it in the Start menu after the installation is complete.

How to access the Linux shell in Windows 11

Windows 11 includes a new terminal application (called Windows terminal) that allows you to switch between PowerShell, Command Prompt, and other types of administrative windows. If you install and enable the Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 11, you can use the new Windows Terminal to control your Linux shell.

To do this, right-click on the Start menu and select Windows Terminal (Admin). Then select the icon + (plus) in the tab bar at the top, and then choose your Linux distribution (for example, Ubuntu) of the list.

If you don’t see it, start Ubuntu from the Start menu first and then open the terminal; then it will appear in the drop-down menu.

You now have access to the Linux shell, as if you were using a Linux PC. You can start learning and practicing the Linux commands to handle it here, or you can use it to modify your Ubuntu configuration.

How to test the Windows subsystem for Linux in Windows 11

If you are not sure how to test if WSL is working, you can use the Windows Terminal to do it.

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First, open a new terminal by right-clicking the Start menu and selecting Windows Terminal (Administrator). In the terminal window, press + (plus) and select Ubuntu. You can also start Ubuntu from the Start menu.

Once you are ready to use WSL, you can use a Linux game called Tux Racer to see if WSL works properly. These steps will only work if you are using WSL with Ubuntu, Debian, or related distributions.

To do this, type the following commands in your Linux WSL terminal, one after the other:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

You can also run them together (sudo apt update && sudo apt upgrade). After these commands finish checking for updates, type the following command to install the game:

sudo apt install extremetuxracer

When the prompt asks if you want to continue, type AND and press Enter.

Tux Racer takes a few seconds to install. Once it does, you will find the Linux application in the Start menu; click on it to run it as you would with any other Windows application.

It is done. You are already running your first Linux application on Windows 11. Have fun!

Using the Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 11

Using the Windows Subsystem for Linux in Windows 11 gives you full access to Linux applications and services without the need to reinstall or dual-boot your system. WSL is the best way to access Linux applications on a Windows PC; If you don’t like the distribution you are using, you can always switch to another via the Microsoft Store or the new Windows Terminal app.

If you are new to Windows 11, take a look at other optional features, such as enabling older .NET Frameworks to run retro games and applications.

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