Microsoft Adds Automatic Updates To Custom Linux Kernel

Microsoft has said it plans to add automatic installation and updating features to its custom-built Linux kernel, which is could be made generally available to Windows 10 users as soon as next month.

The kernel is included in version 2 of Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), a compatibility layer that allows Windows 10 to natively run Linux binary executables.

WSL was first introduced in August 2016, but the company announced a major update last year in the form of WSL2, with a real, custom-built Linux kernel being one of the most significant additions.

WSL2 has been available to testers since June 2019, and is expected to reach general availability with Windows 10, version 2004, the Windows 10 feature update for the first half of 2020, which is planned for release in April.

Windows Update

Microsoft said it is planning to offer automatic installation and updates for the Linux kernel, although this won’t be possible right away.

Users will temporarily need to manually install the Linux kernel, and the automatic installation and update features will be added in a Windows 10 2004 update that is planned to arrive “in a few months”, Microsoft programme manager Craig Loewen said in a blog post.

“Our end goal is for this change to be seamless, where your Linux kernel is kept up to date without you needing to think about it,” Loewen wrote.

The change means that Microsoft’s Linux kernel has been removed from the Windows OS image and instead will delivered via Windows Update, similar to the way third-party drivers are delivered and updated.

‘Streamlined’ installation

The change means users will “get the latest kernel version independently of consuming an update to your Windows image”, Loewen wrote.

Users will be able to manually check for updates or allow the kernel updates to take place automatically, he said.

Loewen said the change was made because users had said that the install experience “could be streamlined”.

Microsoft has said it sees WSL as primarily aimed at developers, especially web developers and those who work on or with open source projects.

The environment is aimed at making it unecessary to run Linux on Windows via a full virtual machine, while alowing users to run Windows applications and Linux tools on the same system and the same set of files.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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