If we have Windows 10 or 11 and use WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) with a distribution such as Ubuntu, would we be using the same binaries as if we created a bootable Linux PC?

For instance, when we are using the WSL Bash or Zsh command prompt, if we install:

  • Ruby, gcc, and cc
  • GPU drivers
  • Any Crypto mining executable such as xmrig, t-rex

Does it use the same binaries as it would if we created a bootable Linux drive or USB drive and booted up from there?

Actually, Ruby/gcc/cc might not be a problem, but for Linux GPU drivers, won't that conflict with Windows native GPU drivers?

  • it is unclear what you are asking ... using windows is like using linux, not like booting linux
    – jsotola
    Dec 13, 2021 at 1:40
  • @jsotola the question is "does WSL provide the same type of environment as a baremetal boot of linux?", specifically asking if the linux version of GPU drivers would be used when running GPU-based software
    – Fox
    Dec 13, 2021 at 2:14

2 Answers 2


Well, yes and no (since you ask about several different types of binaries).

Application binaries

Yes, assuming you are using an x64 Linux system, the binaries are identical between the two systems. You can actually take a drive directly out of a physical Linux machine and either:

  • Create a tarball of the system which can then be imported into WSL
  • Or just chroot into the filesystem on that drive (and this has been done).

There is no "conversion" or change made to the binaries in either of these tasks.

Bootstrap binaries

Note that, when booting WSL2 this way, you are running most of the binaries from the original distribution. However, the actual kernel and init are provided by WSL2, so that it can bootstrap the Windows integration (e.g. ability to run Windows .exe's, networking integration, and more).

Notably, Systemd does not automatically start. There are workarounds for Systemd support under WSL2, but it needs to run post-bootstrap, so that WSL's init can do it's thing first.

Binary Drivers

On the other hand, no, (most) binary drivers that expect direct access to physical hardware will typically not work unless there is a virtual equivalent provided by WSL. WSL2 is running in a virtualized environment. There are a few exceptions, though ...

USB Device Drivers

It is possible, though, to get direct hardware access to USB devices in Windows by sharing them through USB/IP (from Windows) and connecting to them in WSL/Linux. For these devices, binary drivers will work.

The most recent WSL2 kernel release has USB/IP support included, but even prior to that, it was possible to build your own kernel with that feature enabled.

GPU Compute

Recent WSL2 releases (Windows 11 and Windows 10 21H2) provide the ability to use the Windows GPU driver for WSL2 GPU Compute tasks. This allows Linux binaries which take advantage of GPU compute architecture (e.g. TensorFlow) to leverage the Windows GPU.

I can't speak to crypto-mining (and I doubt Microsoft's going to be pushing that), but I'd expect that it's now possible to use this architecture with those binaries as well.


No. WSL is only Microsoft's interpretation of Linux, and doesn't have the same hardware access as a standalone Linux.

  • WSL2 is based on an actual Linux kernel running in a virtual machine. There's no "interpretation". Just like any virtual machine, the hardware drivers may be different but that really depends on how the VM Hypervisor emulates the hardware. Dec 13, 2021 at 20:00

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