Windows 10’s File Explorer Will Soon Let You Access Your Linux Subsystem Files

Posted on February 16, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Windows, Windows 10 with 14 Comments

Microsoft has started testing a major new feature for the Windows Subsystem for Linux in the latest builds of Windows 10. The company is testing a new feature that will let users access their Linux files from within the native File Explorer in Windows 10 with the latest 20H1 build.

This means you will now be able to access your Linux files right from the File Explorer and interact with them just like any other file on your system. You can copy/paste files, delete them, drag to move them around, etc., like any other ordinary file. You can also trigger commands like “explorer.exe .” from within your Linux system to open a folder on the Windows 10 File Explorer.

What’s more is that the feature is accessible on other apps, too, so you can open a folder from your Linux subsystem on apps like Visual Studio Code, for example.

The files are located within the \\wsl$\<running_distro_name>\ directory, which means you can also access the directory through the command line in Windows 10. Microsoft says the company is actively working to improve the “discoverability of your Linux files” inside the File Explorer, so this experience is likely to improve going forward.

Either way, this is a major step forward for the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Microsoft has been constantly making great improvements to this feature ever since it launched a few years ago, and this new feature is a perfect example of that.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Windows 10’s File Explorer Will Soon Let You Access Your Linux Subsystem Files”

  1. karlinhigh

    Looking good! I hope Microsoft adds support for containers of some sort within WSL. Either that, or allow setting up multiple instances of a WSL distro.

  2. IanYates82

    Neat use of the file system redirector - sits neatly alongside \tsclient :)

  3. dcdevito

    This is a welcomed feature. I hope performance is on their list as well.

  4. Bill Strong


    Looking good! I hope Microsoft adds support for containers of some sort within WSL. Either that, or allow setting up multiple instances of a WSL distro."

    WSL will now let you export and import your distro. It gives you control over the name and location on import, so you should have your wish.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Bill_Strong:

      WSL doesn't load a Linux kernel. Kernel services are provided by WSL. What's the point of running multiple WSL distributions at the same time? Different shared library versions?

  5. chaoticbastian

    If Microsoft started providing the ability to run other systems within windows like Mac OS does for windows then windows could def keep the lead in desktop os all without virtualization

    • bluvg

      In reply to Chaoticbastian:

      What functionality are you referring to in MacOS? Boot Camp is just dual boot, and Parallels etc. are VM host software.

    • hrlngrv

      In reply to Chaoticbastian:

      IIRC, Lindows ran under Windows, but it differed from WSL by using a single very large file as its full file system. Which means, this has been done before under Windows, just not by MSFT.

      Which leads to these questions. 1) Does Windows need to support full Linux, meaning an X server and full Linux GUI capabilities, or is text mode Linux sufficient? 2) If Windows does need to support X, what benefits would there be using incomplete virtualization as opposed to true VMs?

      Most of the time at home I run Windows VMs under Linux. I've tried WSL under Windows running as the host OS. It's fine, but I can do the same things using cygwin or even MinGW plus a Windows port of bash, missing only X/GUI. However, VMs would be safer, and with VMs I can ensure guest OS processes can't use up total system RAM or storage. I just can't see compelling benefits to WSL over Linux running in a VM.

  6. hrlngrv

    Gosh. 2+ decades after Linux provided kernel modules to provide access to Windows and Mac file systems, MSFT is making access to WSL file systems seem like a big deal. Or the author is once again showing how little he knows about Linux.

    To be completely accurate, it's been possible since the beginning to access WSL files under %LOCALAPPDATA%lxss. It's been problematic to do much with WSL files outside WSL. Now it looks like Windows will handle updating the database WSL maintains for Linux filesystem attributes. A good start, but great improvements? Not compared to mounting and using NTFS partitions under Linux.

  7. robinwilson16

    This will be a useful feature as makes it much easier to find the files but unfortunately it doesn't work and \ \wsl$ cannot be found.

    Also clicking on the Linux option on the Explorer side panel shows a shortcut to Distros but as this also points to \ \wsl$ it says the path is not accessible.

    Do we need to uninstall and reinstall or is it because I installed multiple flavours of Linux and maybe confused it?

    (had to add a space between \ and \ otherwise this comment system removes one)

  8. Hoomgar

    I understand the difference between native support vs having to set it up yourself but Mehedi, how is it that you always seem to caption and write articles touting "new" MS features and such as a breakthrough when in almost every case it is something that most IT people have been doing for decades.  Heck even as far back as Win2000 you could branch load your Linux FS into Explorer/File manager versions.  What am I missing?

  9. stmorr82zw5zml

    This has been possible for ages, albeit not as easily discoverable:


  10. barrett808

    Brilliant. Ubuntu is the only console I use now on Windows.