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What’s wsl.exe (Windows Subsystem for Linux)? Is it safe or a virus?

Need to run Linux command-line tools on your Windows PC? To do so, you'll probably need to run Microsoft's own wsl.exe Windows Subsystem for Linux process.

At our SpyShelter cybersecurity lab here in Austin, Texas, we found that wsl.exe usually shouldn't run, unless you're specifically using it. If you aren't using this process actively it could be worth running a free Windows Security (formerly known as Windows Defender) scan on your PC. Or, run our SpyShelter Antispyware software to investigate further. If everything looks OK, and as long as wsl.exe is signed by Microsoft Windows, it's probably safe to have on your PC.

wsl.exe, or Windows Subsystem for Linux, is a compatibility layer developed by Microsoft that allows users to run native Linux command-line tools directly on Windows. It enables Windows 10 to support a Linux kernel interface, allowing users to access and use Linux programs and tools without the need for a separate virtual machine or dual-boot system.

With wsl.exe, users can seamlessly integrate Linux with their Windows environment, providing a more flexible and versatile experience for developers and system administrators. This feature is particularly useful for those who require both Windows and Linux functionality in their work or personal computing tasks.

(Researched by Carl @ SpyShelter Labs)

Executable Processes List

More about wsl.exe on WINDOWS

Who makes wsl.exe (Windows Subsystem for Linux)?

We’ve found Microsoft Windows should be the publisher of wsl.exe.

How do we know? Our SpyShelter cybersecurity labs focuses on monitoring different types of Windows PC executables and their behaviors for our popular SpyShelter Antispyware software. Learn more about us, and how our cybersecurity team studies Windows PC executables/processes.

What does it mean if someone is the publisher of a PC .exe (executable or process)?

The publisher of an executable is the entity responsible for its distribution and authenticity. Most processes/executables on your PC should be signed. The signature on the executable should have been verified through a third party whose job it is to make sure the entity is who it says it is. Find an unsigned executable? You should consider scanning any completely unsigned .exe on your PC.

Is wsl.exe safe or a virus?

Below are 4 simple steps you can take to see if the wsl.exe process is safe or malware.

  1. Scan the executable with Microsoft's built-in tech
  2. Find wsl.exe's publisher
  3. Search the executable's hash with VirusTotal
  4. Monitor the executable's behavior
Last updated: February 3, 2024

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Why should you trust us?

Our team at SpyShelter has been studying Windows PC executables for over 15 years, to help fight against spyware, malware, and other threats. SpyShelter has been featured in publications like The Register, PC Magazine, and many others. Now we’re working to share free, actionable, and easy to understand information about Windows executables (processes) with the world, to help as many people as possible keep their devices safe. Learn more about us on our "About SpyShelter” page.

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