Microsoft’s relationship with Linux has been somewhat vague over the years. However, in recent months the Redmond company has found a new love for Linux and is now allowing it to be installed as an app in Windows 10.
We are of course talking about the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), a compatibility layer for running Linux binary executables natively on Windows 10. The service provides a Linux compatible kernel for running different Linux distros, such as Ubuntu, openSUSE, Debian and Kali.
Why the dramatic change of heart? There are numerous explanations but essentially, Microsoft wants to create a wider level of interoperability with its core stack. Through Windows 10, and extended services and tools, utilising a Linux kernel within the OS opens many doors for the Microsoft Azure Cloud and other open source collaborations the company has firmly fixed its eye on for the near future.
The WSL became a stable feature in the Fall Creators Update, after being introduced in the Anniversary Update earlier. With the new Spring Update now fully available, WSL has seen some marked improvements and performance enhancements, which makes it the perfect time to play around with Linux within Windows.
It’s worth noting that there are some limitations. For one, not all the inherent Linux commands work, but most do; and you won’t be able to run a desktop environment from within the app, although you can. Allow us to explain. You can install the desktop environment, such as Xfce, then install a remote desktop service which allows you to connect to the Linux-driven desktop environment from within the app, and all from Windows. Interested? Then read on.
Linux On Windows
The first port of call is the Windows Store. Open it up, click on the Search option and enter Linux into the search box. Click on the Run Linux on Windows option and you’re presented with the Store’s Linux frontend displaying the currently available Linux distros that you can run from within the app.
In this case, we’re going to pick Kali Linux, as it’s an excellent distro to test as well as being one of the best distros for security. Click on Kali Linux to bring up the app’s details and scroll down to have a read through the app descriptions and so on. When you’re ready, click the Install button to begin the process.
When the installation is complete you get a notification and the option to Launch, which you should do. The rest of the Kali Linux installation then continues from within the app and eventually you are asked to create a new user account and password. When you’ve created your account, you are presented with the familiar Linux command line setup.
The first step is to ensure that the core Kali Linux system is up to date. To do so, go to the command line and enter: sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade. These two commands seek out any updates and upgrades to the existing system and apply them where needed. Enter your password, and answer yes to any updates needed.
At this point, you should have Kali Linux installed as an app within Windows 10. In itself it may not appear to be too impressive but it’s taken a long time for Linux to get to this point, so while a new user may find it a little uninteresting, take a moment to consider the battles fought and lost between the Microsoft and Linux communities.
Read the second part of our Kali guide to discover how to install a desktop environment in Kali Linux.