Windows Subsystem for Linux | Backup & restore

Hello guys

WSL 2 is almost here! and if you are here, reading this post. Please consider reading about WSL 2

During one of the recent chit-chats, few of my contacts were asking me about the “real” business sense behind Linux on Windows. It is simple. Microsoft is:

Going to integrate LINUX so deep within Windows that, in the very near future, one don’t have to run a separate LINUX Server. Simple like that.

After experimenting with KALI Linux WSL, I managed to install Xfce & XRDP on Ubuntu 18.04 WSL & the only few things I couldn’t do with the WSL was starting services automatically when the subsystem starts. There are hacks, well, I don’t think they really worth a try soon as Microsoft will BE bringing it on to WSL pretty soon.

Now, let us get back to the topic. I’ve installed Ubuntu 18.04 WSL nothing less than half dozen times. Every time something goes wrong & I am forced to uninstall and re-install the WSL to continue with additional experiments. My last attempt was to install Kubuntu desktop, that screwed my Xfce & after 2 days of continuous efforts to “fix” few “unknown” things, I had to uninstall one Ubuntu WSL that had a fully functional WordPress instance :(

So, I decided to learn how to backup a functional WSL, so that if something goes wrong, I can restore & continue

I’ve ready at few places that Windows 10 version 1903 comes with WSL backup functionality out of the box. Until you decide to upgrade your box to 1903, you may use the below for backing up your dear WSL instance.

I came across a pretty decent thread here & a user Jaime’s answer is the apt ONE, missing only few details like /tmp folder.

Make a tar ball as mentioned by Jaime

# cd /
# sudo tar vzcpf /mnt/c/tmp/ubuntu_`date +%Y%m%d_%H`.tar.gz --exclude=/proc --exclude=/dev --exclude=/mnt --exclude=/media --exclude=/lost+found  --exclude=/tmp --exclude=/sys  --exclude=/run / > /mnt/c/tmp/ubuntu_`date +%Y%m%d_%H`.log 2> /mnt/c/tmp/ubuntu_`date +%Y%m%d_%H`.error

Where /mnt/c is C:\> drive of your Windows Machine. You may change /mnt/c/ to /mnt/d/ or /mnt/e/, based on how your partitions are laid. Closely watch the excluded directories. You MUST exclude them.

My tar ball was around 1.5GB in size & I moved the tar ball to another machine which didn’t have WSL activated.

First you have to enable Window Subsystem for linux from Turn Windows Features on or off (If you are not restoring the backup to same Windows Machine). This will ask you to restart your Windows Machine.

Copy the tar ball to a folder, say, D:\wsl

Download launcher.exe from

Copy launcher.exe to D:\wsl

If you are going to restore a Ubuntu 18.04 WSL rename launcher.exe to Ubuntu1804.exe & rename your tar ball to rootfs.tar.gz

Open an elevated command prompt & switch to D:\wsl

and just execute, for example “Ubuntu1804.exe”

It will take a while for the installation to complete. As the superuser thread states, it installs and opens the WSL for you. From next time, all you need to do is to start Ubuntu1804.exe & your WSL instance is up and running!

However, I had an issue with the restored instance. It was related to missing /tmp folder. I found a solution for it with nixcraft article.

Prior trying to start any sevices, those you were using with your backed up instance, make sure you create the /tmp folder like below

$sudo chown root:root /tmp
$sudo chmod 1777 /tmp

Now, try to start your services, start xrdp & enjoy!




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