Why should you learn Linux on Windows Subsystem for Linux

WSL allows you to use the Linux and Windows command line simultaneously. But is it better to learn Linux on WSL?


In the past, if you were a curious Windows user of Linux, the only way to experience a Linux distribution was to use a live CD or install a dual boot system. With Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), you can run Windows and Linux at the same time.

While the use cases of a fully installed Linux distribution are much better than the Windows Subsystem for Linux, WSL remains a better choice for Windows users who only want the Linux command line for their tasks. If you’re curious about Linux, here’s why you should check out Windows Subsystem for Linux.

1. Easy to install

Ubuntu WSL Neofetch

If this is your first time using Linux, WSL is quite appealing because it is easy to install compared to traditional Linux installation methods. You don’t need to repartition your hard drive or figure out how to burn ISO images to a CD or USB drive. And the best part, you can’t accidentally make your system unusable due to some misconfiguration.

Even though desktop Linux has improved over the years, hardware drivers are still a sticking point when testing Linux. There always seems to be a device that is not supported on Linux but works fine on Windows. This is because hardware manufacturers write drivers for Windows because they know that most people use this platform on their desktops, while Linux drivers are mostly written by volunteers.

The installation of WSL is done with a few clicks and a few PowerShell commands. Microsoft has more detailed instructions to install WSL on a Windows machine.

Related: Should You Run Linux in a Virtual Machine or WSL?

Open source software powers the modern computing environment, from the Apache web server to the MariaDB database and the Python scripting language. All were incubated on Unix and Linux systems.

While it has been possible to run these programs on Windows, it has been difficult to install and get them to work properly in the past, as open source developers tend to assume that their software will work on Linux. While this is mostly true on the server side, the vast majority of desktop systems still run Windows. This was the impetus behind Microsoft’s creation of the Windows Subsystem for Linux.

Many web developers work with open source projects and Microsoft wanted them to be able to develop and test their applications on Windows.

If you want to learn to code, it is best for these reasons to familiarize yourself with Linux and Unix concepts, and WSL is a good place to start.

3. Familiar environment

If you are planning to learn Linux, you might find the prospect of a new environment intimidating. Of course, there are desktop environments like GNOME, KDE, and Xfce that seem familiar to any Windows user, but you will still need to learn a new environment and new applications. Everything works differently and it may take a while to get familiar with the workflow.

With the Windows Subsystem for Linux, you’ll have your familiar Windows interface and programs as well as a powerful new Linux environment to explore. Linux concepts are quite different from Windows concepts, and this little familiarity will make the learning curve less steep.

4. Easy Windows integration

WSL running the Windows Tracert command

Since the Windows Subsystem for Linux allows Linux and Windows to run at the same time, it provides possibilities for integration between the two platforms.

You can launch Linux and Windows programs from each other’s command lines. You might want to run Windows trace command in Linux to troubleshoot your network while debugging a Python script that you wrote in Linux from PowerShell. You can do this by browsing the Linux file system in Windows Explorer.

These things are more difficult to do with a virtual machine and almost impossible to do with a dual-boot system. It is this flexibility that makes using WSL a given to new Linux users. These features might also attract people more experienced with Linux.

Related: Why You Should Use Linux Networking Tools On Windows With WSL

Learn Linux on your Windows System!

A good thing about Linux culture is that it’s been easy to try Linux without having to ditch your tried and true Windows apps or set up virtual and dual-boot machines.

WSL may seem like a major reversal from Microsoft, which under Steve Ballmer was hostile to Linux in the 2000s, but WSL is firmly rooted in this tradition of Windows and Linux interoperability. Did you know that you can improve your Windows Subsystem for Linux experience with just a few tweaks and configurations?

Desktop computer
7 tips to boost your Windows subsystem for Linux

Have the Windows Subsystem for Linux installed, but don’t know what else to do? Here are seven tips for having a great WSL experience.

Read more

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