Linux GUI app support now shipping as part of the Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows 10 build 21364 features
Windows 10 build 21364 features (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Linux GUI app support is now shipping.
  • It's available as part of the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2.
  • Enables the ability to run graphical Linux apps on Windows.

Update: Microsoft has since clarified that Linux GUI support for WSL2 is still in preview and not yet generally available.

At Build 2021, Microsoft has today announced the general availability of Linux GUI application support in the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2. The feature was announced and shipped in preview in the last handful of months, but the today it's now generally available for all Windows Developers to download, install, and utilize.

Linux GUI app support allows developers to run graphical applications built for Linux using the Windows Subsystem for Linux container technology. Linux apps will install to the Windows Start Menu and can be launched with the click of a button. It's a feature built specifically for developers who may be building cross-platform apps or IT pros managing content on Linux-based platforms.

A Microsoft blog post detailed the following:

To support our developers who build on Windows, we are excited to announce new features in our developer tool offerings that provide increased satisfaction and productivity. You can now use GUI app support on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) so that all the tools and workflows of Linux run on your developer machine. Windows allows you to work with seamless integrations with any workflow with GUI apps, Linux and GPU-accelerated ML training.

With the Windows Subsystem for Linux, developers no longer need to dual-boot a Windows and Linux system, as you can now install all the Linux stuff a developer would need right on top of Windows instead.

Catch up on all the announcements from Build 2021

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • Thanks Zac! Was there any indication from Microsoft about how to install it without installing a developer build? The instructions for WSLg online still say you need an insider build, as of 2021-05-25: -
    - I'm not on a developer preview build, so I imagine I need to grab a new update of Windows to enable WSLg. I was able to get Windows Terminal Preview 1.9 through the Microsoft Store. Just waiting for WSLg now. I'm really quite excited about this!
  • Ah, Mary Jo Foley wrote in the article below that Microsoft's definition of "generally available" is very liberal. She wrote: > "Microsoft officials said these Linux GUI apps on WSL capability are now "generally available," but this seems to be a very liberal use of the term "GA," as it's still only for Insider testers with preview builds 21362 or higher (according to the team's GitHub). As far as we know, this capability will come to Windows 10 mainstream users as of the next Windows 10 release later this year. I've asked for official clarification; no word back so far." Her article on ZDNet: -
  • Good to know, this is what I was wondering too.
  • I wouldn’t go to the channel that has it available at this time. Once you are on it there is no getting off. I would wait until 21H1 is fully out and then go to the Beta channel as that will become 21H2. Stuff in the dev may never make it into shipping windows .
  • I tend to wait for my main desktop which is where I'd want this. I won't be hopping in the preview streams till it hits production.
  • 2021 - the year of Linux on the desktop. Thanks, Microsoft!
  • So it became true. But ironically from Microsoft themselves, through Windows. Definitely an odd decade to be sure.
  • "With the Windows Subsystem for Linux, developers no longer need to dual-boot a Windows and Linux system, as you can now install all the Linux stuff a developer would need right on top of Windows instead." Does that include reliability? Is there a reliability plugin for WSL 2.0 now? Because that's why I dual-boot into Linux... I opened up Windows Terminal yesterday to do a little dev work in my Ubuntu environment, but it complained it couldn't find the UUID for my Ubuntu install. Which is weird, since I was using it the night before w/o issue, and hadn't applied any updates to either Windows or Linux. Rebooted a couple times, same issue. Launched Ubuntu via its dedicated shortcut (which worked), rebooted, then opened Windows Terminal again and suddenly everything was fine. I really like WSL 2.0 and am impressed by how functional it is, but I need reliability in my development environment.
  • I've never had anything like that ever happen with my desktop or laptop using WSL2. Had you recently converted an Ubuntu container from v1 to v2 perhaps? That would briefly keep the instance from being available via Terminal, but that's definitely an edge case lasting 30 seconds at most and would only happen once (and as far as I recall, it's a manual process). Not sure what your workflow looks like, but for me it's been completely rock solid to the point where I easily retired a cloud VM environment for linux builds of tooling software a project I work on maintains. I keep my containers and Windows proper updated weekly at least unless someone on the team has sent notification for an early update to our internal PPAs. A lot of Microsoft's WSL2 guys are on Twitter and are quite friendly, you might ask if they've ever seen anything like that before submitting it to Feedback.