Microsoft has announced that it’s now possible to run Linux distributions based on WSL2 in Windows Server 2022. The change was rolled out with the latest cumulative, which brought the OS to build number 20348.740, though the change wasn’t mentioned in the official changelog. Microsoft’s Craig Loewen confirmed that support for WSL2 was added in a GitHub comment, which came in response to ongoing concerns about the lack of support for it in Windows Server 2022.
WSL2 (short for Windows Subsystem for Linux 2) was first announced in May 2019, and it first shipped in Windows 10 with version 2004, released in the first half of 2020. At that time, Microsoft was also supporting Windows Server through semi-annual updates, just like Windows 10, and only users running the semi-annual channel of Windows Server got support for WSL2. If you were using Windows Server 2019, you were out of luck.
Last year, Microsoft discontinued the semi-annual channel for Windows Server and went back to major releases, like Windows Server 2022. However, just like Windows Server 2019, this new version still didn’t include support for WSL2. Now, almost a year later, it’s finally here.
If you’re wondering why that might be a big deal, there’s actually quite a bit. With WSL2, Microsoft started shipping a full Linux kernel with Windows, and that allowed for full system call compatibility. Additionally, Linux distros have significantly better performance than those based on the original version of WSL. Linux now runs in a kind of virtual machine (VM), but it’s been designed to be a much more lightweight and native-feeling experience than a traditional VM.
If you’re running Windows Server 2022 and you want to use WSL2 Linux distros, you can grab the latest update from Windows Update (you’ll need to look for it manually), or you can download it here. If you’re not in a rush, this change will be included in the next Patch Tuesday update, which is coming on June 14th.