Graphical Linux apps are coming to Windows Subsystem for Linux

 Graphical Linux apps are coming to Windows Subsystem for Linux

This week, Microsoft launched support for graphical and audio Linux apps under the Windows Subsystem for Linux—although the new feature is only available in the Dev channel of Insider builds, for now. The new feature is nicknamed WSLg, and it includes both X and PulseAudio servers. We gave WSLg some limited testing today, and it performed rather well.

After running apt install firefox in the WSL2/Ubuntu terminal, we ran an Ubuntu-flavored web browser and played several videos on YouTube. We don’t necessarily recommend you base your next HTPC on WSLg—but the videos were watchable, with decent frame rate and non-skipping audio. (We tested WSLg with a Ryzen 5 Pro 2500U-powered Minisforum UM250 Mini-PC.)

More importantly, virt-manager worked very well on the little Minisforum—in very short order, we set up a “virt-ception” by using virt-manager beneath WSL2/Ubuntu running on Windows 10 to access a Windows VM running under Ubuntu on a machine across the office. (You can also see a Hackintosh VM in the background.)

Microsoft’s Craig Loewen demonstrates GUI apps running on WSLg.

We’re very much looking forward to WSLg making it into production; running virt-manager locally under WSLg is already an enormous improvement over installing a third-party X server for Windows—usually of dubious quality and support status—and running X11 forwarding over SSH to accomplish roughly the same thing.

Getting Windows 10 Insider Build 21364

If you’re not already a Windows Insider, you’ll need to become one in order to preview WSLg. The first step is signing up (for free) at insider.windows.com.

Once you’ve become a Windows Insider, you can convert any existing Windows 10 install into an Insider test flight. First, you’ll need to head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program and click Get Started. From there, you’ll need to select the Dev channel, after which you’ll be prompted to restart. After the restart, you can head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and Check for updates.

From here, your system will automatically download and update itself to the most recent Windows 10 Insider build in the Dev channel, after which you’ll need another reboot. After that reboot, an Ubuntu console window will open and prompt you to enter a Linux username and password, and you’re good to go. No further steps are necessary for WSLg support—it all “just works” from here.

Listing image by Jim Salter