My software development setup in WSL 2

July 19, 2020 - 3 min read

I'm writing this post because I work every day in WSL 2 on my main computer and I feel it might be useful to those trying to get a productive setup running.

I use Arch Linux inside WSL, with the ArchWSL project. Arch is used since it's what I've installed on my other computers, and is compelling for the same reasons: up to date packages, reliable, and is easy to package things for.

Shell/completion performance

Since I use a zsh shell with syntax highlighting and relatively slow command completion, I found that the stock setup of putting the ~30 directories in my Windows PATH into the Linux one was causing massive shell performance issues. This is resolved with some wsl.conf options on the Linux side:

/etc/wsl.conf:

[interop]
enabled = true
appendWindowsPath = false

# It was also not picking up my DNS settings so have it stop trying to do that
[network]
generateResolvConf = false

Terminal

Before switching to WSL for essentially all of my needs (except flashing my QMK peripherals), I used msys2, which uses mintty as a terminal. WSL with mintty is done through wsltty these days, and that is what I use. It does not require significant configuration.

The new Windows Terminal is likely viable these days (and possibly faster in terms of rendering performance), but I haven't investigated it.

Daemons

I use nix for managing Haskell dependencies for a work project, and I sometimes need to use Docker for development. Neither WSL nor WSL 2 natively support running systemd as an init system. With WSL 2, process ID namespaces can be used to make a namespace where systemd is PID 1 in which you can just run it. I use a tool called genie that manages this automatically.

Clipboard integration

Download win32yank, make this file and chmod +x it and neovim will pick it up as the clipboard provider:

/usr/local/bin/win32yank.exe:

#!/bin/sh

/mnt/c/Progs/win32yank.exe "$@"

This hack is required because of the PATH integration being disabled. I believe you could also copy the executable into a bin folder (don't change the extension) and it would work without the intermediate script.

Memory

I limit the memory available to my WSL lower than the default 80% of my RAM because I would rather stuff get killed on the Linux side or the Linux kernel drop some of its cache rather than making Windows swap a whole bunch. Further, I sometimes run sudo sysctl vm.drop_caches=2 to drop Linux caches when vmmem is causing memory pressure to the rest of my system.

%USERPROFILE%\.wslconfig:

[wsl2]
memory=20GB
swap=0