Take Five With Tom Fenton

Why You Should Use Windows Subsystem for Linux

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) allows you to run Linux distributions on recent versions of Windows 10 and Windows 2016 systems. Just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should -- but in this case, you definitely should. Here are five reasons why.

Great tools. Linux has been around for 26 years, and Unix, which Linux is based on, has been around for 50 years. During that long span of time, a lot of great tools have been developed for Linux. Whether you're doing simple text manipulation of text files, or doing hard-core programming, Linux has a lot of tools that can be helpful, if not indispensable. Linux also offers data-driven scripting languages, like AWK and sed, and command-line utilities like wc and grep that can greatly simplify your day-to-day activities.

Support for many different Linux distributions. The first iteration of WSL only supported one Linux distribution (Ubuntu), but now it officially supports five. Moreover, people have also shown how other Linux distributions can unofficially be installed on WSL.

Ease of installation. When WSL first came out, you had to do a few tweaks to get WSL to work. Now, with the latest release of Windows, you simply enable the feature and then go to the Microsoft Store and install the Linux distribution of your choosing. Even the most casual of users can install and be using WSL in less than five minutes.

Communication with Windows. Microsoft allows Linux distributions running under WSL to interact with Windows. You can access your local machine's filesystem from WSL, edit Windows files and, with the latest Windows release, even have WSL socket communicate with Windows socket.

Cost efficiency (it's free). I'm not burying the lede here -- I consider the fact that it's free to be the least important reason you should use WSL. Having installed and used other Linux on Windows tools, such as Cygwin, MSYS and MSYS2, I find WSL to be by far the easiest to install, and it offers the most interoperability.

Final Thoughts
WSL has been around since August 2016 and has proven to be relatively stable. By looking through the normal sources, I haven't really seen a lot of issues with it, and, through my own casual searching, I've yet to see it blue screen anyone's system.

Seeing how WSL supports a wide variety of Linux distributions, communicates with Windows, gives you a plethora of tools that are simply not available on Windows, and is free and easy to install, why would you not give WSL a try?

About the Author

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 30 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 20 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He previously worked as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He also previously worked at VMware in Staff and Senior level positions. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on X @vDoppler.


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