Windows 11 includes the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), just like Windows 10 did before. But that’s the problem: whenever Microsoft WSL adds new features, they have to wait for a major Windows operating system update to reach users. Microsoft has a preview function to speed this up.
What will change for WSL?
Windows 11 still has WSL software that you can install the traditional way. It is built into Windows 11 as an optional component of the Windows operating system. New WSL functionality cannot be made available to WSL users once they are ready – they will have to wait for a major update to Windows. To the example, GPU Compute has been done for a while, but will not arrive on stable versions of Windows 10 until the 21H2 update is released in autumn 2021.
On October 11, 2021, Microsoft announced a big change: WSL will now be distributed on Windows 11 via the Windows Store. You can install a preview of WSL from the store on Windows 11. Most importantly, WSL can then be updated through the store to ensure users get the latest features as soon as they’re ready without having to wait for major Windows updates.
It can now be updated faster, just like Microsoft Edge can now receive more frequent feature updates because its browser updates are not tied to Windows operating system updates.
Craig Loewen, Program Manager for the Windows Developer Platform at Microsoft, announced the change and explained the philosophy on the Microsoft blog:
This change moves these binaries from part of the Windows image to part of an application that you install from the store. This decouples WSL from your version of Windows so that you can update from the Microsoft Store instead. So once new features like GUI app support, GPU computing, and Linux file system drive mounting are developed, tested, and ready to be published, you can get instant access to them on your computer without upgrading your entire Windows operating system or leaving having to preview builds on Windows Insider.
The preview version of WSL in the store has some new features and commands, so Check out Microsoft’s blog post or the following video for more information.
How to Get the WSL Store Preview
If you want to try it, you can Install a preview of WSL from the store under Windows 11. Loewen says that the store version is always preferred if you have installed both the integrated WSL version and the store version of WSL. If you run into a problem and you want to use the built-in version of WSL, just uninstall the store version.
Microsoft will continue to support the built-in version of WSL on Windows 11, but the Store version will likely get new features faster. Loewen wrote that Microsoft will be “data-driven” in decisions to potentially remove WSL from a future version of Windows in the future.
In other words, WSL may not be built into Windows 12. If so, it will be right in the store and it will get better.