Windows OS

How to Manually Install Older Versions of WSL

Windows Subsystem for Linux” or “WSL” enables the users to download, install, and use the supported Linux distributions on Windows OS without creating virtual machine environments. It was first introduced in the Windows Creators update (fall) with the build version 1709. “WSL” is a kernel-compatible layer that enables running the Linux libraries on Microsoft Windows. Currently, two versions of “WSL” have been released, named “WSL 1” and “WSL 2”.

This writing is about the manual installation of older versions of WSL and covers the following content:

“WSL 1” vs “WSL 2”

As a result of the limitations spotted in “WSL 1”, Microsoft launched the all-new and better version called “WSL 2” which had a couple of new features to overcome the limitations in the previous version. Here’s how the “WSL 1” version can be compared with the “WSL 2” version in terms of features:

Features WSL 1 WSL 2
Performance across OS file systems Yes No
Fast boot Yes Yes
Compatible with current versions of VMware and VirtualBox Yes Yes
Integration between Windows and Linux Yes Yes
Small resource footprint compared to traditional Virtual Machines Yes Yes
Managed VM No Yes
Full system Call compatibility No Yes
Full Linux Kernel No Yes

Looking at the above comparison table, it is evident that “WSL 2” is better than “WSL 1” in terms of features. “WSL” is only available for specific Windows builds, let’s discuss them.

OS Requirements to Install “WSL”

To install/enable and use “WSL” on your system, ensure that you have at least the following:

  • Windows 10 with version 1709/Windows Build 16215 and later for “WSL 1”.
  • Windows 10 with version 2004/Windows Builds 18917 and later for “WSL 2”.

To check the version and build numbers, press the “Window” key and enter “About your PC” in the search field:

From the new window, check the “Version” and “OS build”:

Suppose the current version and OS build do not meet the minimum requirements. In that case, you must update your Windows by entering “Check for updates” in the start menu’s search bar and navigating to it:

Now click the “Check for updates” button to download and install the latest Windows updates:

How to Install Older Versions of “WSL”?

First, confirm if “WSL” is installed on your system following this article; if not, install it following this guide.

After the requirements mentioned above are met, you can install/enable the older version “WSL 1” on Microsoft Windows by opening the “Windows PowerShell” with administrative privileges by entering “PowerShell” in the start menu’s search bar.

Now in the “PowerShell” enter the following command to enable “WSL 1”:

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart

You can do the same by switching to “Turn Windows features on or off” settings from the start menu:

From the new window, scroll down and find “Windows Subsystem for Linux” and by marking it, you can enable “WSL” on your system:

Now, apply this command to set the default version of “WSL” to “1”:

wsl --set-default-version 1

It will result in installing/enabling “WSL 1” on your system.

How to Switch/Change Between “WSL 1” and “WSL 2”?

WSL 2” is enabled by default on all the latest versions and if you want to switch it with “WSL 1”, use the following command:

wsl --set-default-version 2


The older versions of “WSL” cannot be manually installed as currently both (WSL 1 and WSL 2) are pre-installed, but you need to enable them as it is an optional feature that is disabled by default. Once enabled, you can switch between “WSL 1” and “WSL 2”, as per the requirements. This guide explained the manual installation of older versions of WSL.

About the author

Talha Saif Malik

Talha is a contributor at Linux Hint with a vision to bring value and do useful things for the world. He loves to read, write and speak about Linux, Data, Computers and Technology.