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The Linux Tux mascot in Windows 10
Larry Ewing

Microsoft today announced the Windows Subsystem for Linux version 2, which is WSL 2. It will have "dramatic increases in file system performance" and support for Docker. To make all this possible, Windows 10 will have a Linux kernel.

No, Microsoft is not converting Windows 10 into a Linux distribution. It will still be based on the Windows kernel. But Microsoft "will send a real Linux kernel with Windows that will allow full compatibility with system calls." Microsoft will compile the kernel based on the last stable branch of kernel.org source code. Initially it will be based on version 4.19 of the Linux kernel.

The Microsoft Linux kernel will be optimized for WSL 2 and "optimized for size and performance to deliver an amazing Linux experience on Windows." The Linux kernel will be updated through Windows Update. Yes, you will get security updates from the Linux kernel through Windows Update. The complete kernel source code will be available online at Github.

This Linux kernel is optimized for small sizes, improved start times and low memory usage. It will replace "the emulation architecture presented in the WSL1 design".

This drastic change means that WSL now offers improved file system performance. It has total compatibility of calls to the system. That means you can run Docker and other Linux applications on Windows using WSL 2. However, this is not slow as a virtual machine, it is as fast as WSL 1 or even faster. This is what Microsoft says about it:

Intensive file operations such as git clone, npm install, apt update, apt update, and more will be noticeably faster. The actual increase in speed will depend on the application you are running and how it interacts with the file system. The initial tests that we have run have WSL 2 running up to 20 times faster compared to WSL 1 when unpacking a compressed compressed file, and approximately 2 to 5 times faster when using git clone, npm install and cmake in several projects. We are looking forward to seeing comparisons of community speed when we launch!

The initial version of WSL 2 will arrive at the end of June 2019 in the Windows 10 Insider versions. Read the Microsoft blog for more details about the Linux kernel plans.

Microsoft is launching a new Windows Terminal application that will make this next version of WSL work even better.

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