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Windows Subsystem for Linux now supports GPU compute

WSL now supports GPU compute. (Image via Microsoft)
WSL now supports GPU compute. (Image via Microsoft)
The latest Insider Preview Build of Windows adds GPU compute for the Windows Subsystem for Linux. One of the most often requested features, GPU compute allows users to run heavy computing tasks through their DirectX 12-supported GPU.

Microsoft has steadily updated the Windows Subsystem for Linux, or WSL, over the past several years. In the latest developer update, WSL is finally getting one of the most requested features: GPU compute support.

As a quick primer, WSL allows Windows users to install a Linux distribution and run certain Linux applications via the Windows command line. It’s a useful tool for developers, scientists, and others that rely on both Windows and Linux tools for their work. While WSL is somewhat limited (e.g., it does not yet support GUI applications or desktop environments), it still offers quite a few features, and Microsoft has faithfully contributed more.

The latest Windows Insider Preview Build (20150) brings three new features to WSL. Chief among these is GPU compute, which will allow users to utilize their GPUs in WSL for heavy computing tasks. Microsoft specifically points out that this feature is a boon for machine learning/AI developers and data scientists.

According to Microsoft, GPU compute in WSL is compatible with any DirectX 12-based GPU, including those from Nvidia, AMD, and Intel. This means that WSL now supports CUDA acceleration for Nvidia GPUs.

Microsoft has also made the WSL install and update process significantly easier. The new Insider Preview Build adds “wsl --install” and “wsl --update” commands to the Windows command line. The former is a one-step command to install WSL, and the latter allows users to manage and update the Linux kernel version used by distros within WSL.

Keep in mind that these features are currently only available to Insiders via the new Insider Preview Build, but they should eventually make their way to mainstream Windows.

What are your thoughts on the new WSL features? Do you use WSL? Let us know in the comments.


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Sam Medley, 2020-06-18 (Update: 2020-06-18)