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Setting Up Docker Desktop for Windows and WSL2

Windows Subsystem Linux provides an intuitive Linux development interface for Windows users.

Unlike the usual Linux Docker installation process where the Docker process is installed and runs as a Linux process, To develop Docker applications within Windows Subsystem Linux, Docker Desktop must be installed and running within the Windows operating system.

Docker Desktop and WSL2 are built with integrations such that docker container information and functions are shared between the Desktop application and docker commands from the Linux CLI.

Cursory experience with WSL and Docker Desktop has shown the integrations to work seemlessly once installed. This is a solution walkthrough of installing Docker Desktop for Windows and WSL2 Development.


Before you install Docker Desktop, you must complete the following steps:

Install Windows 10, version 1903 or higher or Windows 11.

WSL is not supported on earlier Windows operating systems.

Enable WSL 2 feature on Windows.

Important: The Linux distro must be running in WSL 2, not WSL 1. If the distro is using WSL 1, it can be changed to WSL 2 with a simple command.

# Check what version WSL your linux distros are running (from Windows)
> wsl.exe -l -v
  NAME                   STATE           VERSION
* Ubuntu-18.04           Running         2

# Upgrade existing distro to WSL2 (from Windows)
> wsl.exe --set-version [distro_name] 2
**Warning: Changing the version takes up all your RAM. It's a huge memory operation, and the only community solutions are to a) patch the process to have max-memory consumption or b) start the process and expect the PC to be locked up for a bit of time. I went with option B, and it took approximately an hour. See the Github issue in the references for more details.

Have a project that can be initiated with docker-compose up.

See the reference link Get Started with Docker Compose for a walkthrough of creating such a project if you do not yet have this.


Download Docker Desktop or a later release.


Follow the usual installation instructions to install Docker Desktop. Docs from the developers say to read any information displayed on the screen, and select any options to enable WSL 2 to continue.

I did not encounter any questions about enabling WSL2 in January 2022, and found the configuration enabled by default.

Start Docker Desktop from the start menu or however.

Run Docker Commands in WSL

From the Linux CLI, you can now run docker commands. Container, image, and other information can be seen within Docker Desktop. From Linux:

# start a container
$ docker-compose up -d

# list available containers
$ docker ps

# exec onto the container
$ docker exec -it [container_name] bash
Update: 2022-01-21 I don't recommend planning on developing web applications or apps with ports you need to access from Windows. E.g. - You would like to access your application through a Chrome browser http://localhost:3000. The software to allow cross-platform networking, Windows/WSL2, is not built yet . Or at least it's not intuitive enough to make it to page 2 of a Google search. is a non-trivial feature that is necessarily on WSL2's roadmap. If you're reading this in the future, do a fresh web search to see if networking between WSL2 Docker and localhost is possible

What I do recommend is running Docker containers within the Windows OS. This means running `docker-compose` and `docker` commands from within Windows Terminal or Powershell.


Check WSL2 version -

Docker Desktop Prerequisites -

Getting Started with Docker Compose -

WSL2 Conversion Time issue -

WSL2 Conversion Memory Consumption Issue -

Installing Docker Desktop -

About WSL -