Setting up the Build Environment on Windows10 using WSL1 or WSL2

These setup instructions describe how to setup “Windows Subsystem for Linux” which allows building with waf.


It involves enabling the built-in Windows Linux environment (WSL) in Windows10, installing a compatible Linux OS image, and finally installing the build environment as if it were a normal Linux system.

Upon completion, you will be able to build ArduPilot binaries and run the native ArduPilot SITL simulator, including the MAVProxy developer Ground Control Station.

WSL Setup Steps

  1. The official instructions are here but the steps are also listed below

  2. Enable WSL by opening “Control Panel”, “Programs”, “Turn Windows features on or off” and selecting “Windows Subsystem for Linux” and press OK

  3. From a web browser open which should open the Microsoft store to allow installing Ubuntu. Then Launch Ubuntu and fill in a usernane and login

  4. From the Start menu, start the “Ubuntu” application and then follow the Ubuntu instructions to install ArduPilot development environment


    Compilation speeds will be much faster if the ArduPilot repository is downloaded inside of WSL’s file system and not externally in the normal Windows file structure.

    • To reload the path variables in WSL either close the terminal and reopen it or use: logout
  5. Install an XWindows application to run graphical programs such as SITL by installing VcXsrv, Cygwin X or Xming on Windows.

  6. Open the “Ubuntu” application and add the following to the end of ~/.bashrc. Be sure to comment and uncomment the appropriate lines depending on if you are using WSL1 or WSL2 (if in doubt, WSL1 is the default)

    # Export Display for XWindows
    # For WLS1
    export DISPLAY=0:0
    # For WSL2
    # export DISPLAY=$(grep -m 1 nameserver /etc/resolv.conf | awk '{print $2}'):0
  7. If desired, change default WSL parameters as described at this link. These parameters allow you to set for example the amount of memory and number of processors used by WSL.


    It is recommended to set memory limits as WSL2 currently does not release memory back to Windows properly.

    • Create or edit the file at the following location according to your needs and system specifications, C:\Users\<yourUserName>\.wslconfig
    memory=8GB # Limits VM memory in WSL to 8 GB
    processors=16 # Makes the WSL 2 VM use 8 virtual processors

WSL1 vs WSL2

WSL2 is the latest version of the Windows10 Subsystem for Linux. It is many times faster than WSL1 and is therefore preferred for building the code in terms of compilation speed. It can also run MAVProxy and native SITL. However, it does not support the following yet:

  • USB: uploading code or connecting to the autopilot is not possible
  • Running Realflight on the same or a remote PC

Once installed, you can switch between WSL1 or WSL2 versions as you prefer using PowerShell.

wsl --list --verbose
wsl --set-version Ubuntu 1
wsl --set-version Ubuntu 2

Using SITL with WSL and XWindows

When using SITL with default options or --console --map an installed XWindows application must be started first. If not, the following error message will appear when running:

[Errno 111] Connection refused sleeping

Using VcXsrv to Create XWindows Displays

  1. Select display settings: “Multiple Windows” but it is your preference

  2. Select how to start clients: Must select “Start no Client”

  3. Extra settings: Must check “Disable access control”


    If you have an issue with display check the following firewall rules,
    • Go to Windows Defender Firewall and click Advanced Settings (opens Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security)
    • Under Inbound Rules find VcXsrv windows xserver and ensure Allow Connection is enabled for your network type Private, Public, or both
    • Check Outbound Rules as well

Code Editing in WSL Using VSCode (Optional)

VSCode can be installed on the Windows 10 machine to edit and compile files inside of WSL. VSCode automatically integrates upon installation with WSL.

  • Do not install VSCode inside of WSL using for example apt-get.
  • Be sure that the folder you are working on is opened within the WSL remote. This can be achieved by clicking the green button in the bottom left corner.

Windows Terminal (Optional)

Windows Terminal enables multiple tabs that can switch between many Linux terminals, PowerShell, and more. Directions to install Windows Terminal are here.

  • You can change the default terminal when opening Windows Terminal by going to “Settings” and moving the Ubuntu section to be first in the list section of the settings.json file.
  • The default starting directory can be changed by adding the startingDirectory line below to your preferred location by following the example below.
  • Note a similar code block to one shown below will be automatically generated based upon the version and distribution of Linux installed.
"guid": "{07b52e3e-de2c-5db4-bd2d-ba144ed6c273}",
"hidden": false,
"name": "Ubuntu-20.04",
"source": "Windows.Terminal.Wsl",
"startingDirectory" : "//wsl$/Ubuntu-20.04/home/<yourUserName>/ardupilot"

Git Integration with Windows Credential Manager (Optional)

Git’s Credential Manager can be connected to Window’s Credential Manger tokens. This connection prevents re-authentication requests when accessing remote repositories such as GitHub after closing WSL or restarting Windows. The first time a Git operation requires credentials a dialog box will appear automatically to enter your credentials. See this guide for more information regarding GIT and WSL.

git config --global credential.helper "/mnt/c/Program\ Files/Git/mingw64/libexec/git-core/git-credential-manager.exe"

File System Access between WSL and Windows10

From within WSL, the Windows drives are referenced in the /mnt directory. For example, in order to list documents within your (<username>) documents folder:

ls /mnt/c/'Documents and Settings'/<username>/Documents
ls /mnt/c/Users/<username>/Documents

From within Windows, the WSL distribution’s files are located at (type in windows Explorer address bar):

\\wsl$\<distribution name>


When trying to run your Ground Control Station software on wsl, if the application returns an error “fuse: device not found, try ‘modprobe fuse’ first” then it will be better to either use MAVProxy or MissionPlanner as your default ground control station because wsl does not support fuse(for more information check : ). As of now, this error has been seen while using QGroundControl on WSL running Ubuntu 16.04.