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Some notes on using Windows Subsystem for Linux

Created: December 30, 2019   Last Modified: June 13, 2022   Category: windows   Print this pageBack to Home

File permissions in WSL

Here, we describe how to handle file permission in Windows Subsystem for Linux. It was originally from here.

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) usually mounts Windows drives under /mnt. However, the Linux file permission seems to be awful. To fix this issue, simply add to /etc/wsl.conf (if the file does not exist, simply create it):

enabled = true
options = "metadata,umask=22,fmask=11"

In short, every files now have permission 0644 and every directories have permission 0755.

Also, add the following to ~/.profile to fix the permission of newly created files and directories.

if [[ "$(umask)" = "0000" ]]; then
	umask 0022

Export and import WSL Distros

  • Export: Let say I want to export my Arch WSL Distro which I downloaded from this page and customized for my personal use (it was pretty much like what I did in my real Arch system). The following command, executed in cmd, will compress the distro into a single file %userprofile%\Desktop\ArchWSL.tar. (The %userprofile% directory is C:\Users\[your-username].)

    wsl --export Arch %userprofile%\Desktop\ArchWSL.tar

    Additionally, as the size of my ArchWSL.tar is too big (around 8GB), I decided to compress it with 7-Zip using the following command

    "C:\Program Files\7-Zip\7z.exe" a -tzip %userprofile%\Desktop\ -m0=LZMA -mx=9 %userprofile%\Desktop\ArchWSL.tar

    Basically, the above command will create an archive in the folder %userprofile%\Desktop with “ultra” compression (option -mx=9, the highest compression level used by 7-Zip) using the LZMA compression method (option -m0=LZMA), which is the default and general compression method of 7z format. Use the -sdel option if you want to delete %userprofile%\Desktop\ArchWSL.tar after compression (Be careful!). If you want to protect the archive with a password, use the option -p[your-password] (there is no space between -p and your password) or simply just -p and you will later be asked to enter your password.

  • Import: To import back the exported distro, in case we compressed ArchWSL.tar with 7-Zip before, we first need to extract, say, to the %userprofile%\Desktop folder.

    "C:\Program Files\7-Zip\7z.exe" x -o%userprofile%\Desktop

    If the archive is password-protected, the program will ask you to enter the password you used at the time it was created. Now, we can import back the distro by running in cmd the following command:

    wsl --import Arch %localappdata%\Packages\yuk7.archwsl_35zwpb4sx6e50\LocalState %userprofile%\Desktop\ArchWSL.tar

Copy contents of a file to clipboard

clip.exe < file.txt # do not miss the .exe part


I use keychain to avoid typing SSH passphrases multiple times. After installing keychain in my Arch WSL, I simply put the following to .bashrc

/usr/bin/keychain --nogui $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa
source $HOME/.keychain/$HOST-sh

In this way, I have to type in the passphrase for the first time I open a Arch WSL terminal. As long as the distribution is running (which can be veerified by typing wsl -l --running in a cmd windows), I don’t have to type it again when using ssh.

Another way is to use wsl-ssh-agent. If you are using WSL1, the steps are simple.

  • Download from this page and extract it to the %USERPROFILE%\wsl-ssh-agent folder. The %USERPROFILE% corresponds to your Windows home folder C:\Users\<your-username>\, which is known in your WSL as /mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/.

  • Enable Windows 10 ssh-agent service by running the following in powershell as admin:
    Start-Service ssh-agent
    Set-Service -StartupType Automatic ssh-agent
  • Run wsl-ssh-agent-gui.exe in cmd using the command
    %USERPROFILE%\wsl-ssh-agent\wsl-ssh-agent-gui.exe -socket %USERPROFILE%\ssh-agent.sock

    I created a shortcut in %APPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup with the Target as in the above command, so that wsl-ssh-agent-gui.exe opens every time Windows starts.

  • Add the following to your WSL1 system’s $HOME/.bashrc file:
    export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=/mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/wsl-ssh-agent/ssh-agent.sock

If you are using WSL2, you need some workaround.

  • You will need npiperelay.exe.
    • Install go and socat in your WSL2 system. (In ArchLinux, use yay -S go socat. In Ubuntu, use sudo apt-get install golang-go socat.)
    • In your WSL terminal, run
      env GOOS=windows GOARCH=amd64 go get -d
      env GOOS=windows GOARCH=amd64 go build -o /mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/wsl-ssh-agent/npiperelay.exe
  • Put the following to your WSL2 system’s $HOME/.bashrc (I copied almost everything from this page).
    # Configure ssh forwarding
    export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=$HOME/.ssh/agent.sock
    # need `ps -ww` to get non-truncated command for matching
    # use square brackets to generate a regex match for the process we want but that doesn't match the grep command running it!
    ALREADY_RUNNING=$(ps -auxww | grep -q "[n]piperelay.exe -ei -s //./pipe/openssh-ssh-agent"; echo $?)
    if [[ $ALREADY_RUNNING != "0" ]]; then
        if [[ -S $SSH_AUTH_SOCK ]]; then
            # not expecting the socket to exist as the forwarding command isn't running (
            echo "removing previous socket..."
            rm $SSH_AUTH_SOCK
        echo "Starting SSH-Agent relay..."
        # setsid to force new session to keep running
        # set socat to listen on $SSH_AUTH_SOCK and forward to npiperelay which then forwards to openssh-ssh-agent on windows
        (setsid socat UNIX-LISTEN:$SSH_AUTH_SOCK,fork EXEC:"/mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/wsl-ssh-agent/npiperelay.exe -ei -s //./pipe/openssh-ssh-agent",nofork &) >/dev/null 2>&1

Install SageMath 9.3 in Ubuntu WSL

Enable WSL2

Follow this official instruction.

Install Ubuntu (version 18.04 or newer) as a WSL

Follow this official instruction. After finishing installation, run the following in a cmd or powershell (if you run wsl --set-default-version 2, you don’t need to do this):

wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2

Adjust file permissions in Ubuntu if necessary, following the above instruction.


Follow this instruction. I recorded the steps here. Open a Ubuntu terminal and run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade
sudo apt-get install  bc binutils bzip2 ca-certificates cliquer curl eclib-tools fflas-ffpack flintqs g++ g++ gcc gcc gfan gfortran glpk-utils gmp-ecm lcalc libatomic-ops-dev libboost-dev libbraiding-dev libbrial-dev libbrial-groebner-dev libbz2-dev libcdd-dev libcdd-tools libcliquer-dev libcurl4-openssl-dev libec-dev libecm-dev libffi-dev libflint-arb-dev libflint-dev libfreetype6-dev libgc-dev libgd-dev libgf2x-dev libgiac-dev libgivaro-dev libglpk-dev libgmp-dev libgsl-dev libhomfly-dev libiml-dev liblfunction-dev liblrcalc-dev liblzma-dev libm4rie-dev libmpc-dev libmpfi-dev libmpfr-dev libncurses5-dev libntl-dev libopenblas-dev libpari-dev libpcre3-dev libplanarity-dev libppl-dev libpython3-dev libreadline-dev librw-dev libsqlite3-dev libssl-dev libsuitesparse-dev libsymmetrica2-dev libz-dev libzmq3-dev libzn-poly-dev m4 make nauty openssl palp pari-doc pari-elldata pari-galdata pari-galpol pari-gp2c pari-seadata patch perl pkg-config planarity ppl-dev python3 python3 python3-distutils r-base-dev r-cran-lattice sqlite3 sympow tachyon tar xcas xz-utils yasm
sudo apt-get install  cmake coinor-cbc coinor-libcbc-dev git graphviz libboost-dev libfile-slurp-perl libigraph-dev libisl-dev libjson-perl libmongodb-perl libnauty-dev libperl-dev libsvg-perl libterm-readkey-perl libterm-readline-gnu-perl libterm-readline-gnu-perl libxml-libxslt-perl libxml-writer-perl libxml2-dev libxml2-dev lrslib ninja-build pari-gp2c tox
echo "e826c848c6bb972a188d5ddd4dc48308 sage-9.3.tar.gz" | md5sum -c
tar -xvf sage-9.3.tar.gz -C $HOME
cd $HOME/sage-9.3


  • The compilation may take very long time (around 4 hours in my computer).
  • Copy the compiled SageMath from one computer to another may not work, due to the difference in hardwares.

Some extra packages I installed with sage:

sage -i plantri sage_sws2rst rst2ipynb

Open SageMath Jupyter notebook in Google Chrome

In Ubuntu Terminal. run:

cd $HOME/sage-9.3
sage jupyter notebook –generate-config

Edit $HOME/.sage/jupyter-4.1/ by adding the following content to the end:

# NotebookApp(JupyterApp) configuration
c.NotebookApp.use_redirect_file = False

Finally, add the following to $HOME/.bashrc:

export BROWSER="/mnt/c/Program Files/Google/Chrome/Application/chrome.exe"

Note that C:\Program Files\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe is the location of Google Chrome installed in my computer.

If you want to open the notebook in a specific folder, say C:\Users\<your-username>\SageMath, run the following command in Ubuntu Terminal:

sage -n jupyter --notebook-dir="/mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/SageMath"

Create shortcuts in Windows desktop

  • Download sagemath.ico, and save it to some folder, say C:\Users\<your-username>\Pictures\Icons.
  • Create desktop shorcuts:
    • For accessing Jupyter notebook: Use the “Target” as C:\Windows\System32\wsl.exe --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c "$HOME/sage-9.3/sage --notebook jupyter", and name the shortcut as you like, for example, “SageMath 9.3 Notebook”. You can also point the shortcut’s icon to C:\Users\<your-username>\Pictures\Icons\sagemath.ico. You can also append --notebook-dir="/mnt/c/Users/<your-username>/SageMath to the “Target” command above to open the directory C:\Users\<your-username>\SageMath every time you start the notebook.
    • For accessing SageMath subshell: Use the “Target” as C:\Windows\System32\wsl.exe --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c "$HOME/sage-9.3/sage -sh".
    • For accessing SageMath console: Use the “Target” as C:\Windows\System32\wsl.exe --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c "$HOME/sage-9.3/sage".
  • If you want to open SageMath with Windows Terminal, simply just put wt.exe at the beginning of the command. For example, to open SageMath console with Windows Terminal, use wt.exe C:\Windows\System32\wsl.exe --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c "$HOME/sage-9.3/sage". If you use this command, the SageMath console will be opened at the folder /mnt/c/Users/<your-username>. To open it at a specific folder, say C:\Users\<your-username>\SageMath, add option -d C:\Users\<your-username>\SageMath right after wt.exe.

Add/Remove Right Click/Shift + Right Click “Open SageMath Notebook here” context menu

Create a Add_Open_SageMath_Notebook_here_context_menu.reg file with the following contents (I modified the downloaded registry file from this guide. Remeber to change the path to sagemath.ico appropriately):

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

@="Open SageMath Jupyter Notebook here"

@="wsl.exe --cd \"%V\" --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c \"$HOME/sage-9.3/sage --notebook jupyter\""

@="Open SageMath Jupyter Notebook here"

@="wsl.exe --cd \"%V\" --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c \"$HOME/sage-9.3/sage --notebook jupyter\""

@="Open SageMath Jupyter Notebook here"

@="wsl.exe --cd \"%V\" --distribution Ubuntu --exec /bin/bash -c \"$HOME/sage-9.3/sage --notebook jupyter\""

To remove these items from the context menu, create a Remove_Open_SageMath_Notebook_here_context_menu.reg file with:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00