Microsoft ports Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 back to Windows 10 1903 and 1909

Install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10
Install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10 (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft backported Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 to older Windows 10 versions.
  • Windows 10 versions 1909 and 1903 can now use WSL 2 distros.
  • The update is available to install now via Windows Update.

Windows 10 version 2004 is no longer a necessary upgrade if you want to take advantage of the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 (WSL 2). Microsoft announced this week (via ZDNet) that WSL 2 has been backported to older Windows 10 versions. Specifically, Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909 can now take advantage of WSL 2.

"We heard how much you liked WSL 2 and wanted to expand its accessibility, and over the last few months we worked on bringing it back to 1903 and 1909," Microsoft said in its announcement. As pointed out by Microsoft, WSL 2 has several improvements over WSL 1:

  • File system performance now on par with Mac and Linux speeds
  • Improved System Call Support for all Linux applications notably: Docker, FUSE, rsync, etc.
  • Full Linux kernel built into WSL 2
  • Docker Desktop has added support to use WSL 2 as its engine, giving faster startup speeds and improved resource usage.

For now, WSL 2 on versions 1909 and 1903 is only available for x64 systems. ARM64 users will have to upgrade to Windows 10 version 2004 for full access.

The backport should be available via Windows Update. You can check whether you have WSL 2 by viewing your Windows 10 build number. Look for minor version 1049 as the last four digits in your build number to verify.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl