Software

Windows 10 will let everyone run Linux inside Windows following Fall Creators Update

Microsoft hails the change as good news for developers who had held off using the Windows Subsystem for Linux feature in their daily work.

A feature that lets users run a wide range of Linux software inside Windows 10 will be launched in Fall this year.

The Windows Subsystem for Linux, already available to those testing early builds of the OS under the Windows Insider Program, lets users run the Bash command line on top of various Linux-based operating systems.

These OSes include Ubuntu and openSUSE, with Fedora due soon, and other distros due to be added over time.

Each of these Linux distros is available as an app in the Windows Store. Running each app takes the user to a Bash command-line terminal, from which they can run an assortment of commands and tools.

By allowing users to run Linux software inside Windows, Microsoft appears to be attempting to offer developers the best of both worlds, to let them use their tools of choice, whether they run on Windows or Linux.

The service will be available to all Windows 10 users following the Fall Creators Update, expected in October, according to Rich Turner, senior program manager at Microsoft.

"Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) will no longer be a beta feature and will become a fully supported Windows feature," he said, in a blogpost detailing WSL's move out of beta.

Turner hails the change as good news for developers who had held off using WSL in their daily work.

"You'll now be able to leverage WSL as a day-to-day developer toolset, and become ever more productive when building, testing, deploying, and managing your apps and systems on Windows 10," he wrote.

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WSL enables native Linux ELF64 binaries to run on Windows, translating Linux system calls into calls that can be handled by the Windows kernel.

As well as WSL allowing users to run Bash tools and commands inside Windows, it also allows Windows software and files to be called from inside of Bash.

However, the commands and software supported by the WSL apps are still limited compared to running a full Linux install. Most notably, Microsoft doesn't support the use of desktop environments or graphical applications with the Linux apps. It also says the Linux environments are not suitable for being used to run production workloads, for example an Apache server supporting a website.

No longer being in beta will also mean there are new support options for WSL, with Turner saying "you will gain the added advantage of being able to file issues on WSL and its Windows tooling via our normal support mechanisms", alongside reporting issues via the Windows 10 Feedback Hub app.

There have long been alternatives for running Linux software inside of Windows, for example running a Linux distro inside a VM or running software from Cygwin. Each has their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, VMs come with a performance overhead, as well as requiring storage space to be set aside, while binaries have to be modified and recompiled to run on Cygwin.

The availability of WSL goes hand in hand with a change in Microsoft's rhetoric towards open-source software. While Microsoft's then CEO Steve Ballmer described open-source software as a cancer in 2001, in 2014 Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella proclaimed that "Microsoft loves Linux".

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Image: Microsoft

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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