Why it matters: The tiny Linux kernel hidden within Windows has grown, and is now a proper, stable part of the operating system thanks to the Microsoft Store integration. Updates will be easier and faster this way.

Four years after the initial release, the compatibility layer known as Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) has become an integral part of Windows. As announced by Microsoft Program Manager Craig Loewen, the Microsoft Store version of WSL is dropping its "Preview" label and becoming generally available to the public.

Users of Windows 10 and Windows 11 will both have access to the latest WSL release in the Store, which is now the default version of the software. This way, WSL will stop being an optional component of Windows, and Microsoft will be able to provide updates and service faster and more efficiently without waiting for a Windows OS update.

Windows Subsystem for Linux lets developers and power users run a GNU/Linux environment directly on Windows. The software offers most Linux command-line tools, utilities, and applications, without needing to install third-party software or modify anything. Users can improve productivity by avoiding the overhead of a traditional virtual machine or a dual-boot setup.

Thanks to the latest WSL release, Windows users can choose their favorite Linux distribution to install from the Microsoft Store to run command-line tools such as grep, sed, awk, or other ELF-64 (Linux) binaries. They can also execute Bash scripts and more.

The latest development of the project, WSL 2, significantly improves file system performance, compatibility, and integration thanks to the ability to run Linux kernels in a lightweight virtual machine. The user experience is the same for both versions.

Windows Subsystem for Linux version 1.0.0 includes hundreds of bug fixes and improvements. The generally available version of WSL in the Microsoft Store brings the same Linux GUI app support to Windows 10 as Windows 11. However, only Windows 10 21H1 or later and Windows 11 21H2 or later will be offered the update for now.