Microsoft enables Linux GUI apps on Windows 10 for developers

Microsoft is starting to allow Windows 10 testers to access Linux GUI apps. The first preview of support for GUI applications is available today for Windows Insiders, allowing developers to run GUI editors, tools, and applications to build and test Linux apps. It’s a significant extension for Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), after the company added a full Linux kernel to Windows 10 last year.

While it has been possible to run Linux GUI apps within Windows previously using a third-party X server, official support from Microsoft means there’s also GPU hardware acceleration so apps and tools run smoothly. Audio and microphone support is also included out of the box, so Linux devs can easily test or run video players and communications apps.


Linux GUI apps running on Windows.
Image: Microsoft

This is all enabled without Windows users having to use X11 forwarding and without users having to manually start an X server. Microsoft automatically starts a companion system distro when you attempt to run a Linux GUI app, and it contains a Wayland, X server, pulse audio server, and everything else needed to make this work inside Windows. Once you terminate an app and WSL, then this special distro ends, too. All of these components combine to make it super easy to run Linux GUI apps alongside regular Windows apps.

Microsoft is also testing a new eco mode for the Windows Task Manager in this latest test build. It’s an experimental feature that lets you throttle process resources inside Task Manager. It’s really designed to rein in apps that suddenly start taking up lots of system resources, and it could be useful if you want to temporarily throttle back an app.

New Eco Mode for Task Manager.
Image: Microsoft

If you’re interested in testing Linux GUI apps on Windows 10 or this new Task Manager feature, you’ll need to install the latest Windows Insider build 21364 from the Dev Channel. Be warned: these are designed as developer builds and not for machines you rely on daily.

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