Update WSL2 kernel to a newer version

Microsoft maintains a custom linux kernel for WSL2. Keeping with the offical version has many benefits. For instance, the linux kernel in WSL2 can be updated when the Windows itself updates since Windows 10 version 20041. And also the automatic updates will service capabilities.

But the WSL2 kernel drops behind the mainline kernel version unless you are in Windows Insiders. You may want to follow the mainline kernel version or a newer version at least. WSL2 is based on Hyper-V, in the other words, it is actually a virtual machine. So it is possible to boot WSL2 with a custom kernel.

Download the newer WSL2 linux kernel from here. And place the kernel somewhere in Windows, such as the user folder. Then create a new file named .wslconfig in your Windows user's home directory(e.g. C:\Users\yourname\.wslconfig) and type following:

[wsl2]
kernel = C:\\Users\\yourname\\bzImage

The path behind kernel = is the full path to the kernel image with all of the slash replaced with double slashes. It points to the kernel image downloaded before.

Restart WSL2 and use uname -r to see whether new kernel is booted. If you like neofetch screenshot, you can also use neofetch to see the current version of kernel.


  1. https://devblogs.microsoft.com/commandline/wsl2-will-be-generally-available-in-windows-10-version-2004/ ↩︎

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