Windows 10 tip: Run Ubuntu Linux in an enhanced Hyper-V session

Microsoft now makes Ubuntu Linux available as a preconfigured Hyper-V virtual machine. Here's how to set up your VM and avoid a few gotchas.

If you have a PC running Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise, Microsoft recently made it much easier to run Ubuntu Linux. In September, they added a customized Hyper-V image for Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS, the Long Term Support version of the open-source operating system, to Hyper-V's one-click Quick Create gallery.

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This preconfigured Hyper-V image has support for remote sessions built in.

Click to enlarge

What's especially interesting about this ready-made virtual machine is that it supports the open-source xrdp package. That support allows the use of Remote Desktop Protocol, which makes it possible to run Ubuntu in a so-called enhanced session, in full screen mode, with a shared Clipboard and shared drives.

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Setting up the Ubuntu VM is easy, but there are a few tricks that will help you avoid frustration. Follow along with me (and remember, this only works on Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise; if you're running Windows 10 Home, you need to upgrade).

  1. Make sure Hyper-V is enabled. You'll find the instructions here: "How to enable Hyper-V and create virtual machines."
  2. Open the Hyper-V Manager and, in the Actions pane on the right, click Quick Create.
  3. From the list of ready-made OS packages on the left, select Ubuntu 18.04.1 LTS, as shown in the screenshot above.
  4. Click Create Virtual Machine. That downloads the Ubuntu image and creates the virtual machine, complete with support for xrdp.
  5. When you see the Virtual Machine Created Successfully dialog box, click Edit Settings to make any adjustments, or just click Connect to begin setting up Ubuntu for the first time.

Most of the initial setup is straightforward, but one step is crucial: When you create your user account, do not select the Log In Automatically option. Doing so will cause xrdp to fail, and will cause you hours of frustration. Trust me on this one.

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Don't choose the Automatic Login option here. It prevents enhanced sessions from working.

After setup is complete, you can sign in to Ubuntu for the first time and complete whatever configuration you need to complete.

When you're ready to sign in to an enhanced session so that you can run your Ubuntu VM in a full-screen window, be sure to sign out of the basic session first. Unlike in a Windows 10 VM, you can't switch between basic and enhanced sessions.


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When you sign in to an enhanced session, you'll see an Xorg dialog box, where you enter the credentials for your Ubuntu account. Enter the username and password exactly as you created them, and you should find yourself working in a full-screen session, exactly as if you had booted into Ubuntu Linux.

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