Windows 10 will soon let you access Linux files from File Explorer

Microsoft continues to build support for Linux deeper into Windows 10, with plans to make it easier for Windows to access files stored by some Linux-based operating systems.

The next major feature update to Windows 10, version 1903 due around April this year, will allow Windows 10 File Explorer to access, move and copy files stored inside Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distros.

“In the past, creating and changing Linux files from Windows resulted in losing files or corrupting data,” says Microsoft program manager Craig Loewen in a blog post.

“Making this possible has been a highly requested and long anticipated feature. We’re proud to announce you can now easily access all the files in your Linux distros from Windows.”

The WSL allows Windows 10 to run various GNU/Linux distros inside Windows as Microsoft Store apps, providing access to Ubuntu, openSUSE, Debian, Fedora, Kali Linux, and others.

The WSL has disadvantages over a running a dedicated GNU/Linux system. For example, there’s no official support for desktop environments or graphical applications, and it suffers from I/O performance bottlenecks, but it is being improved over time.

To use File Explorer with WSL files, users need to open a WSL distro in Windows 10, change the directory to their Linux home folder, and type ‘explorer.exe .’.

This will open up the window below, which will allow users to manipulate WSL files in the same way as is possible using traditional File Explorer in Windows 10.


Image: Microsoft

These files can also be opened by Windows 10 applications by right clicking on them and using the context menu ‘Open with…’ option, with supported apps including Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code IDE and PowerShell.

However, if you dual-boot Windows with a Linux-based OS, the new feature will not allow File Explorer to access EXT4-formatted partitions used by that Linux-based OS, only the file systems used by the WSL distros.

The team behind WSL say they are working to make WSL files discoverable by File Explorer when the WSL distro isn’t running.

They are also improving the wsl.exe command line with the 1903 Windows release, adding support for new commands, including ‘—export’ to export a WSL distro as a tar file, and ‘—import’ to import a WSL distro stored in a tar file.

If you’re interested in what other changes are in store for Windows 10 with the upcoming 1903 update, check out TechRepublic’s guide to the major features.

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