How to Enable WSL in Windows 11: A Step-by-Step Guide for Developers

Enabling Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 11

If you’re looking to run a Linux environment directly on your Windows 11 machine, enabling Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is the way to go. This quick guide will show you how to get WSL up and running. By the end, you’ll be able to run Linux commands and applications natively on your Windows computer. Let’s get started!

How to Enable WSL in Windows 11

Enabling WSL in Windows 11 involves enabling a few features and installing the necessary components. It’s a straightforward process and perfect for those who need Linux capabilities without leaving the comfort of their Windows environment. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Open PowerShell as Administrator

Press the Windows key, type "PowerShell," right-click on Windows PowerShell, and select "Run as administrator."

Running PowerShell as an administrator is crucial because you’ll need elevated privileges to enable system features and install packages.

Step 2: Enable WSL

Type wsl --install and press Enter.

This command will enable the required WSL feature, download and install a Linux distribution, and set everything up for you. It’s a one-stop command for getting WSL on your machine.

Step 3: Restart Your Computer

A prompt will inform you that a restart is needed. Restart your computer to apply the changes.

Restarting ensures that all the new settings and features are properly configured and ready to use.

Step 4: Launch the Linux Distribution

Once your computer restarts, type "wsl" in the search bar and select the Linux distribution you installed.

Launching the distribution will bring up a Linux terminal where you can start using Linux commands. The first time you run it, it might take a few minutes to set up.

Step 5: Update Your Package Lists

In the Linux terminal, type sudo apt update and press Enter.

Updating your package lists ensures you have the latest version of software available. This step is essential for smooth operations and security.

Step 6: Install Additional Packages (Optional)

To install additional packages, use the command sudo apt install package-name.

This step is optional but recommended if you need specific tools or software. Just replace "package-name" with the software you want to install.

After you complete these steps, you will have a fully operational Linux environment within Windows 11. You can run Linux commands, install software, and even develop applications just as you would on a native Linux machine.

Tips for Enabling WSL in Windows 11

  • Make sure your Windows 11 is up-to-date before enabling WSL to avoid compatibility issues.
  • Use wsl --list --online to see a list of available Linux distributions you can install.
  • Customize your WSL installation by editing the .wslconfig file for better performance and integration.
  • Remember to regularly update your Linux distribution with sudo apt update and sudo apt upgrade.
  • You can install multiple distributions and switch between them using the wsl -s command.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is WSL?

WSL stands for Windows Subsystem for Linux. It allows you to run a Linux environment directly on Windows without using a virtual machine.

Can I run graphical Linux applications on WSL?

Yes, with WSL 2 and the latest updates, you can run graphical Linux applications on Windows.

How do I uninstall WSL?

To uninstall WSL, type wsl --uninstall in an elevated PowerShell window.

Is WSL 1 different from WSL 2?

Yes, WSL 1 is the original version and uses a different architecture compared to WSL 2, which provides better performance and compatibility.

Can I install any Linux distribution?

You can install any of the distributions listed when you run wsl --list --online.


  1. Open PowerShell as Administrator.
  2. Enable WSL with wsl --install.
  3. Restart your computer.
  4. Launch the Linux distribution.
  5. Update your package lists.
  6. Install additional packages (optional).


By now, you should have a good understanding of how to enable WSL in Windows 11. This feature bridges the gap between Windows and Linux, providing a versatile platform for development and testing. With WSL, you can enjoy the best of both worlds without the hassle of dual-booting or managing virtual machines.

For further reading, explore the official Microsoft documentation on WSL, which offers more detailed insights and advanced configurations.

Ready to dive deeper? Enable WSL today and start experiencing the seamless integration of Linux within your Windows 11 environment. Whether you’re a developer, an IT professional, or just curious, WSL opens up a new realm of possibilities. So, what are you waiting for? Get started now and elevate your computing experience!

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