Skip to content


Switch branches/tags

Latest commit


Git stats


Failed to load latest commit information.
Latest commit message
Commit time

WSL2 Docker on Windows

Back in July, Docker announnced that with WSL2, they could create a more native Linux experience for Docker on Windows, and in so doing, opened up the door for that experience to work on Windows 10 Home.

Docker does have a wsl2 tech preview, but as of the time of this writing, you can't install it on Windows 10 Home.

Well, I got impatient, and started tinkering, and wouldn't you know, I got it working.

This repository will start as a document of the steps I took, and hopefully evolve into a simple script to allow automation of this setup.



So here's the thing. Once I got everything up and runing, I found I had absolutely no need to install the native windows docker client! I wound up mapping \\wsl$\Ubuntu1 to my U: drive, and automounting root = / in /etc/wsl.conf on Ubuntu (Installation step 1).

As a result, I can now navigate to U: in windows explorer or my editor of choice to open and edit files in the Ubuntu filesystem, including files on any mapped Windows drive.

For example, I have a 240G SSD mounted as Y drive, and that is exclusively where I have my source code.

Now, I can open VSCode on Windows, and create a new project at Y:/example_project, and those files will be accessible inside Ubuntu at /y/example_project.

In VSCode I set my default terminal as the Ubuntu bash terminal, (require the new Windows Terminal), and cd /y/example_project.

I can now edit files on windows or on Linux, and use docker run -v $PWD:/app and it will mount the files I'm editing in windows, into the docker container that is running on Linux. The same concept works with any Windows drive. I could have created my project at C:\Users\username\example_project and cd /c/Users/username/example_project in my terminal.

This is the same experience you get with docker on its native platform (Linux), without having to use some tiny VM emulation layer, and having to deal with samba mounts and passwords to share your C drive for the windows docker client. WSL gives you seamless integration with Ubuntu, including exposing ports on localhost between the two kernels.

Therefore, installing the docker client on Windows is completely optional! (I included the steps below anyways, since you might have your own reasons for wanting low-level powershell docker integration)


  1. Add wsl.conf to Ubuntu
  2. Install Docker on Ubuntu
  3. Configure Docker on Ubuntu
  4. (Optional) Set docker env vars on Windows
  5. (Optional) Install docker client on Windows
  6. (Optional) Install docker-compose on Windows

Add wsl.conf to Ubuntu

Save the following file as /etc/wsl.conf on your Ubuntu host:

root = /
options = "metadata"

This will mount all of your mapped drives to a corresponding letter in the root of your Ubuntu filesystem. This is what will allow you the "native" experience of editing file on Windows and running them from your windows or ubuntu terminals.

Install Docker on Ubuntu

This step is mostly going to follow the Docker Installing on Ubuntu docs, with one major exception. The current Ubuntu distro from Microsoft doesn't use systemd, so you'll have to start/stop docker with sudo service docker {start|stop|restart|status}.

$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install apt-transport-https ca-certificates curl \
    gnupg-agent software-properties-common

Then add dockers gpg key and verify it matches shown fingerprint

$ curl -fsSL | sudo apt-key add
$ sudo apt-key fingerprint 0EBFCD88
pub   rsa4096 2017-02-22 [SCEA]
      9DC8 5822 9FC7 DD38 854A  E2D8 8D81 803C 0EBF CD88
uid           [ unknown] Docker Release (CE deb) <>
sub   rsa4096 2017-02-22 [S]

Add the edge docker repository. (stable will probably work, but I suspect less errors with WSL2 on windows will happen on edge)

$ sudo add-apt-repository \
   "deb [arch=amd64] \
   $(lsb_release -cs) \

Ensure you are about to install from teh Docker repo instead of default Ubuntu repo:

$ sudo apt-cache policy docker-ce

// you should see output similar to:
  Installed: (none)
Cadidate: 5:19.03.4~3-0ubuntu-bionic
Version table:
  ... (a bunch of versions listed)

Install Docker and peer packages

sudo apt install docker-ce docker-ce-cli

Configure Docker on Ubuntu

In order for the docker command on the windows host to run "natively", we'll need to use the daemon running in WSL to allow connections from the Windows Host.

Since Windows Build 18945, services on the WSL machine are automatically exposed to localhost on the Windows side, and vice-versa.

There is probably a startup script that can be run to figure out what the IP of the Windows Host is from the Linux machine, but I haven't gotten that far yet, so for now, we'll just set the daemon to listen to unix:// and optionally tcp://

If you don't intend to use the docker command from powershell or a windows terminal, and map the wsl as a network drive, you can remove the host entry from the example below to increase security.

Create the following /etc/docker/daemon.json file in WSL machine:

    "hosts": ["unix://", "tcp://"],
    "experimental": true

Start the docker daemon

sudo service docker start

Set docker env vars on Windows

Open up your Environment Variables in Windows, and add the following entries under the System Environment Variables section:

Env Var Value Required/Optional
DOCKER_HOST tcp://localhost:2375 Required

Install docker client on Windows

  1. Download the docker client from the following url, substituting for the release you want:
  1. Unzip the contents of the to C:\Program Files\Docker (new directory) Note: Make sure that the docker.exe is at C:\Program files\Docker\docker.exe

  2. Add C:\Program Files\Docker to the System PATH Environment Variable

  3. Run refreshenv in Powershell and you should now be able to run docker version!

You should see output similar to below:

Client: Docker Engine - Community
 Version:           19.03.4
 API version:       1.40
 Go version:        go1.12.10
 Git commit:        9013bf583a
 Built:             Fri Oct 18 15:54:09 2019
 OS/Arch:           linux/amd64
 Experimental:      false

Server: Docker Engine - Community
  Version:          19.03.4
  API version:      1.40 (minimum version 1.12)
  Go version:       go1.12.10
  Git commit:       9013bf583a
  Built:            Fri Oct 18 15:52:40 2019
  OS/Arch:          linux/amd64
  Experimental:     true
  Version:          1.2.10
  GitCommit:        b34a5c8af56e510852c35414db4c1f4fa6172339
  Version:          1.0.0-rc8+dev
  GitCommit:        3e425f80a8c931f88e6d94a8c831b9d5aa481657
  Version:          0.18.0
  GitCommit:        fec3683

Install docker-compose on Windows

Using chocolatey is the easiest for this one:

$ choco install docker-compose


*1 Make sure you use the name of the distro as listed in the output of the wsl -l command


Get docker setup on WSL2 now!







No releases published


No packages published