All Ways to Run WSL Linux Distro in Windows 10

There are different ways to run a Linux distro installed in Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 10. In this article, we will review them.


The ability to run Linux natively in Windows 10 is provided by the WSL feature. WSL stands for Windows Subsystem for Linux, which initially, was limited to Ubuntu only. Modern versions of WSL allow installing and running multiple Linux distros from Microsoft Store.

Linux Distros Microsoft Store Windows 10

After enabling WSL, you can install various Linux versions from the Store. You can use the following links:

  1. Ubuntu
  2. openSUSE Leap
  3. SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
  4. Kali Linux for WSL
  5. Debian GNU/Linux

and more.

Windows 10 offers two methods to start a WSL distro. For distros installed from the Store, you can use either the console wsl.exe tool, or a Start menu shortcut. For imported WSL distros, Windows 10 does not create Start menu shortcuts as of this writing, so you are limited to wsl.exe only.

To Run a WSL Linux Distro in Windows 10,

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Navigate to the desired distro, e.g. Ubuntu.Windows 10 Run From Start 1
  3. Click on the WSL Linux distro shortcut to start it.
  4. Alternatively, you can right-click it and select More > Run as Administrator to start it elevated.Windows 10 Run From Start 2

This method doesn't work for distros imported from a TAR file. For such distros you should use wsl.exe instead. Here's how it can be done.

Run a WSL Linux Distro with wsl.exe

  1. Open a new command prompt or PowerShell instance.
  2. To run your default WSL distro, simply type wsland hit the Enter key.
  3. Find available WSL distros by executing the following command: wsl --list --all, or simply wsl -l --all.Windows 10 List WSL Distros
  4. To start a specific distro, type the command wsl --distribution <DistributionName> or wsl -d <DistributionName>. Replace the <DistributionName> portion with the actual name of the installed distro you want to run, e.g. kali-linux.Windows 10 Run Imported WSL Distro

Tip: To run a WSL distro as Administrator with wsl.exe, you can open an elevated command prompt or PowerShell.

That's it

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Author: Sergey Tkachenko

Sergey Tkachenko is a software developer who started Winaero back in 2011. On this blog, Sergey is writing about everything connected to Microsoft, Windows and popular software. Follow him on Telegram, Twitter, and YouTube.

5 thoughts on “All Ways to Run WSL Linux Distro in Windows 10”

  1. Winaero is the best and Sergey is also the best person in my whole entire world! (I would’ve commented that on a different post but I can’t because of that commenting stuff is disabled)

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