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Linux Subsystem Files Accessible via Explorer in Future Windows 10 Releases

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Linux Subsystem Files Accessible via Explorer in Future Windows 10 Releases

Source: BC | By Sergiu Gatlan

The just-released Windows 10 20H1 Build to the Skip Ahead ring comes with a new feature designed to allow Insiders to access the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) filesystem using the Windows Explorer.

WSL is designed by Microsoft as a compatibility layer that makes it possible for Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019 to run Linux binaries in ELF format natively on their Windows computers.

As announced by Microsoft on Friday, Insiders will no longer have to fear data corruption and losing their Linux documents when creating and editing them from Windows.

To start managing their Linux files using the Windows Explorer, users have to open their Linux distro, go to the Linux home folder and then type in:

explorer.exe .

Once the Windows Explorer window pops-up, users can go about their business, just like they would while browsing the Windows filesystem, “dragging files back and forth to other locations, copy and paste, and even interesting scenarios like using the context menu to open VSCode in a WSL directory.”

As detailed by Microsoft’s Craig Loewen:

When using this feature you’ll notice the distro files are exposed through the path: \\wsl$\\. This is due to the way Windows accesses the files inside of each distro (which you can learn the details of in the following section!) The WSL team is actively investigating ways to improve the discoverability of your Linux files inside of File Explorer.

The feature can also be used via the command line by going to \\wsl$\{distro name}\ where {distro name} is the name of a running distro.

The WSL filesystem Windows Explorer support has been added by including a 9P server that comes with built-in protocols that support Linux metadata and permissions in the WSL init daemon. A Windows service and driver combo is used as the client that talks to the 9P server from within the WSL instance.

Next, the “Client and server communicate over AF_UNIX sockets, since WSL allows interop between a Windows application and a Linux application using AF_UNIX,” as explained in detail by Craig Wilhite in his Windows/WSL Interop with AF_UNIX post.

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