Windows 10 Will Soon Be Able to Access Linux WSL Files

Are you using WSL on your Windows 10 machine? Do you want to transfer files between your distro and Windows 10? If this is you, you’ll be pleased to hear that Microsoft is planning to add compatibility between the two!

Previously, accessing Linux distro files and copying them into the Windows operating system wasn’t smooth. Trying to do so caused some nasty problems such as data corruption. Microsoft has taken steps to reduce the complexity of moving files between the two operating systems, and you should be able to find this addition in the next Windows update, version 1903.

What Does this Mean?

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Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t quite span across dual-boots just yet. This feature is implemented within Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), which is an official way to run Linux distros within Windows 10. If you’re looking for an easy way to get files across partitions, you may be a little disappointed with this update!

If you do use WSL, this will be a handy update to have. All you need to do is boot up the distro, make sure you’re in the Linux home directory, and then type explorer.exe. Once done, a Windows Explorer window will pop up within the distro. This works identically to Windows 10’s Explorer, so you’ll feel right at home.

From here you can move, cut, copy, and paste files between each operating system, just as you would on regular Windows 10. This means you can finally get to your files without any risk of corruption!

How Does It Work?

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If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty on how this update works, Microsoft wrote about it on their blog:

A 9P protocol file server facilitates file-related requests, with Windows acting as the client. We’ve modified the WSL init daemon to include a 9P server. This server contains protocols that support Linux metadata, including permissions. There is a Windows service and driver that acts as the client and talks to the 9P server (which is running inside of a WSL instance). Client and server communicate over AF_UNIX sockets, since WSL allows interop between a Windows application and a Linux application using AF_UNIX as described in this post.

Not Perfect Quite Yet

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This new feature is still in its early stages, so it’s still missing some of its main features. For one, you can’t access the files on a distro that isn’t currently running. If you want to access the files on a distro, you have to boot it up first before you perform the commands. Microsoft realises how annoying this is, however, and is working on a way to get at your files through Explorer while the distro is dormant.

Is this a Sign that Microsoft Wants to Support Linux?

Probably not! It’s easy to see this update as Microsoft opening the doors to Linux and allowing the two operating systems to mingle better. Given that this is only affecting WSL, however, it may be a move to get people to stick with Windows 10 as their main OS and run Linux inside WSL instead of dual-booting.

Despite what Microsoft wants, Linux fans definitely won’t flock to Windows 10 over such a small update. It will only really improve the workflow of Windows 10 users who happen to use WSL, instead of converting Linux fans into Windows users. As such, don’t expect the two camps to settle with one another when this update drops!

One Small Step

While it may not be the all-powerful cross-partition bridge between Windows and Linux, this small addition does help people who enjoy using both operating systems and who get a lot of use out of WSL. Now you know what this update consists of and what you can do with it.

Does this update make you hopeful that Windows will support Linux more in the future? Or are they only out to fill their own pockets? Let us know below!

Image Credit: Okubax on Flickr

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