Linux on Windows 10: Microsoft releases new tool to get more distros on Windows

Microsoft's open-source tool should make it easier to run distros on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has released a tool to help Linux distribution maintainers bring their distros to the Windows Store to run on Windows 10's Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Microsoft describes the tool as a "reference implementation for a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distribution installer application", which is aimed at both distribution maintainers and developers who want to create custom Linux distributions for running on WSL.

"We know that many Linux distros rely entirely on open-source software, so we would like to bring WSL closer to the OSS community," said Tara Raj of Microsoft's WSL team.

"We hope open-sourcing this project will help increase community engagement and bring more of your favorite distros to the Microsoft Store."

WSL helps programmers build a full Linux development environment for testing production code on a Windows machine. It allows them to run Linux shell tools and popular open-source programming languages, as well as Apache web server and Oracle MySQL.

As of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, anyone can use WSL to install and run several Linux distributions' command-line interface tools.

Download now: Linux distribution comparison chart

WSL doesn't support Linux graphical user interfaces because the tool is only meant to offer developers alternative command-line interfaces to Windows ones.

Linux distribution maintainers can use the new installer application to create a Linux distribution app that can be submitted to the Microsoft Store.

Developers can't distribute custom Linux distributions on the Windows Store but they can use the tool to create custom Linux distribution packages that can be sideloaded onto a machine running Windows 10 in developer mode.

Microsoft hopes developers will use the tool to bring more Linux distributions to the Windows Store, alongside Canonical, SUSE, Fedora, Kali Linux, and, as of March, Debian.

Among the advantages of distribution through the Windows Store is that WSL then enables multiple Linux distributions to be installed and run side by side.

Linux distribution maintainers will need to work with Microsoft's WSL team to publish on the Microsoft Store. Custom Linux distro packages can only be published on the Microsoft Store if they're submitted by a distribution maintainer.

Previous and related coverage

Windows Subsystem for Linux graduates in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Sysadmins and developers rejoice! WSL is now a fully fledged part of Windows 10, starting with the latest Fall Creators Update.

Windows 10's Subsystem for Linux exits beta ready for Fall Creators Update

Microsoft's Windows Subsystem for Linux is becoming an official feature of Windows 10.

Windows vs Linux: Open source beats Microsoft to win Barcelona's backing

No more Microsoft, says Barcelona City Council, in pursuit of "full technological sovereignty".

Microsoft delivers PowerShell Core for Windows, Linux, macOS

Microsoft is making generally available PowerShell Core 6.0, a version of PowerShell built on .NET Core that runs not just on Windows, but also macOS and Linux. But beware breaking changes.

What Microsoft understands about open source that your company does not (TechRepublic)

Microsoft understands that its future depends upon contributing to open source, not just using it. Here's why your company needs the same strategy.

Editorial standards