andijh92 edited this page Jul 11, 2017 · 18 revisions

Gow - The lightweight alternative to Cygwin

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Gow (Gnu On Windows) is the lightweight alternative to Cygwin. It uses a convenient NSIS installer that installs over 100 extremely useful open source UNIX applications compiled as native win32 binaries. It is designed to be as small as possible, about 18 MB, as opposed to Cygwin which can run well over 100 MB depending upon options.

Here are a couple quotes from happy Gow users:

"Gow is one of the few things that makes Windows bearable/usable"

"I use Gow constantly. It's awesome."

"I just wanted to let you know that the GOW Suite is simply great - it is far lighter than the Cygwin tool, and is extremely useful. "

Features and Benefits

  • Ultra light: Small, light subset (about 18 MB) of very useful UNIX binaries that do not have decent installers (until now!).
  • Shell window from any directory: Adds a Windows Explorer shell window (screenshot) so that you can right-click on any directory and open a command (cmd.exe) window from that directory.
  • Simple install/remove: Easy to install and remove, all files contained in a single directory in a standard C:\Program Files path.
  • Included in PATH: All binaries are conveniently installed into the Windows PATH so they are accessible from a command-line window.
  • Stable binaries: All commands are stable and tested.

Win32 Utilities Overview

Below are just a few of the 100+ applications found in Gow.

  • Shell scripting: bash, zsh
  • Compression: gzip, zip, bzip2, compress
  • SSH: putty, psftp, pscp, pageant, plink
  • Download/upload: cURL, wget
  • FTP: NcFTP
  • Editing: vim, nano
  • Text search/view: grep, agrep, less, cat, tail, head
  • File system: mv, cp, du, ls, pwd, rmdir, whereis
  • Development: make, diff, diff3, sleep, cvs, dos2unix, unix2dos

Other Links


Gow was used by Vuzit LLC for years on production hardware as well as all development machines. In order to share the great product with the world as well as improve the quality it was released as an open source on July 14, 2010. This isn't the only open source project associated by Vuzit. The company has released several open source products that work with the DocuPub platform: VuzitJava, VuzitRuby, VuzitPHP and Vuzit.Net.


All source code is released under the open source MIT license which allows you to use it in any proprietary product. All binaries are licensed under various licenses, mainly GPL.


Please submit feedback via the Gow Issues forum.

Other Similar Projects

  • GNU utilities for Win32: Quite literally the grand-daddy of Unix utilities projects. It hasn't been updated since 2003. Gow originally borrowed from these utilities but has updated many of them and added all of the installer goodness that you've come to expect.
  • GnuWin: An excellent project with lots of utilities. GnuWin might be for you if you just want one or two utilities rather than the Cygwin-"light" suite that Gow provides.
  • MSYS: From MinGW, well known as the basis for msysgit (in fact, if you have msysgit on your machine, then you already have these utilities).
  • MSYS2: MSYS2 is software distribution and a building platform for Windows. It provides a Unix-like environment, a command-line interface and a software repository making it easier to install, use, build and port software on Windows.
  • UWIN: Software package created by David Korn at AT&T which allows programs written for the operating system Unix be built and run on Microsoft Windows
  • babun: a cygwin-based shell with oh-my-zsh, package manager and plugin architecture.
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