Windows Server

How to install WSL on Windows Server

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is a complete operating system that you can enable on Windows Server and also on Windows 10 devices. Previously, “WSL” was originally known as the “Bash on Windows” feature and it allowed users to use Ubuntu bash commands in Windows PowerShell. For more on WSL, see the following link. WSL has been available for Windows 10 since 2017, and starting from Server 2016 version 1803 (released April 30, 2018), WSL can now be installed on WSL. Also, see how to set up Windows Server 2019, How to install Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 11 via the Command line, and Microsoft Store, and how to perform Post OS Installation: Configure Windows Server 2019 Properties.

How does Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) work?
WSL translates the Linux system calls returned by the process to the Windows kernel calls while a Linux Distro sits on top. It is thus eliminating the need for the Linux kernel in the process. So basically, it is Linux inside Windows. Furthermore, there is no emulation involved whatsoever.

To see how this is done on Windows 10, see the following link. In this Windows Server, below are the following ways to install the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Server Manager (Windows Features).
Via PowerShell.

Via Server Manager

We can install WSL using the Server Manager. To do this, bring up the Server Manager as shown below and Click on Manage

Server Manager

Next, select Add roles or features,

Add Roles and Features

– Select Role-based or feature-based installation as shown below
– Click on Next

Select Role-based or Feature-based installation

– Select your local server
Note: If you have many servers in the pool, ensure the right server is selected, and then click on next.
– Click Next, this will open the “Select Server roles” page.
Note: WSL is not a role, therefore we have no business with this page, skip it by click on Next :)
– On the Select features page, select Windows Subsystem for Linux as shown below and, then click on Next.

Select Windows Subsystem for Linux

– Finally, on the confirmation page, click on Install.
Note: You will have to restart. In order to ensure Windows does this automatically, select “Restart the destination server automatically if required”.

Select restart and proceed to click on install

The installation will run and you can now close the window if you wish.

Installation in progress

After installation is complete, the server will restart automatically and WSL will be available. This reboot ensures that WSL can initiate a trusted execution environment.

Download a Linux Distro

– Next, open a command prompt and enter on the terminal “WSL”. You will get the following information, “WSL was working but no Linux distributions were installed”. It instructed me to go to as shown below. This message seems to be an error as this URL does not work.

No Linux Distro was installed

To get this work, I was able to enter on my Web browser and download Ubuntu for WSL as shown below.

Download Ubuntu for WSL

For other distros, see the links below. You do not need administrative privileges to install the distribution because this takes place in the user's profile. The download links are:

Next, Extract the downloaded distro as shown below

Extract the downloaded distro

Open up the extracted folder and double click ubuntu as shown below.

Double Click on Ubuntu

This will install Ubuntu on your device as shown below

Ubuntu is currently installing

This will take few minutes to install and you will get prompted to enter a user and set the user’s password as shown below.

set user name and password

Now that the installation and configuration is complete, you can now start by entering "WSL" on the command prompt (terminal) and use the WSL bash shell to perform various functions

enter the wsl command

That is all you needs to have WSL running on your server.

Via PowerShell

With this, the above steps can be ignored. Before you can run Linux distros on Windows, you must enable the “Windows Subsystem for Linux” optional feature and reboot. Open PowerShell as Administrator and run the syntax (commands) below.

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux
open Powershell and run the syntax command

Restart your server when prompted. This reboot is required in order to ensure that WSL can initiate a trusted execution environment.

Click on Yes

Install the Linux Distro of your choice

You will have to download a Linux distro. This steps has been discussed in the steps above. Download the Linux distro as discussed above.
– To extract the distro package, you can use PowerShell as shown below you do not have 7Zip or others installed on your Server.

Rename-Item .\Ubuntu.appx .\
Expand-Archive .\ .\Ubuntu

Because I have demonstrated this above, I will have to stop here. for more steps on how this can be done, see the following link.

I hope this blog post on how to install WSL on Windows was helpful. If you need additional information on the following steps explained above, kindly leave a comment below.

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