Getting WSL2Host.Exe To Work With A Microsoft Login featured image

Getting WSL2Host.Exe To Work With A Microsoft Login

About 8 min reading time

If you’ve tried setting up WSL2Host.exe to use with a WSL GUI Full Desktop, or for some other reason, but you sign in to your computer using a Microsoft account (rather than a local account) then you’ve probably struggled.

The fix requires some steps – and they’re a pain in the butt. It’s not Shayne’s fault, it’s the way Windows works. The answers are available on the Github page at but they’re not particularly easy to follow unless you’re fairly familiar with Windows admin.

So this post will address that….

So you try running WSL2Host.exe install and you put in your username and password. And it accepts it and everything looks great. Until you try to connect to ubuntu2004.wsl (or whichever distro you installed) and it doesn’t work. So you check your Windows hosts file thusly and you’re missing the .wsl entry…

WSL2Host not updating hosts file
Your hostname.wsl is missing from this file isn’t it?

This is more than likely because you’re using a Microsoft Account to login to your Windows system and even though you entered your username and password correctly it’s not worked because Microsoft Accounts can’t, by default, run Windows Services.

So now we need to fix it. Fortunately it’s fairly straightforward but does involve a couple of processes.

Fix The Service Permissions

Services From Taskbar
Click The Services App to open

Firstly, in the Cortana / Search box at the bottom left (usually) of your screen, type in the following;


Then click the Services App link to open it. You will probably be prompted to allow Adminstrator execution of the program. This will open up the Services applet which allows you to control all the different background services that are running on your computer. WSL2Host is installed as a service but probably not started.

Clicking the Start the service link waits a few seconds and then tells you it cannot start the service due to a logon failure.

Cannot start WSL2Host service
Cannot start the WSL2Host Service

This happens for one of two reasons. Either, you really didn’t enter your username and password correctly – or you’re using a Microsoft Account to login to Windows.

WSL2Host Service Properties

So, right click over the WSL2Host service and choose Properties. Then choose the Log On tab at the top. You should see a dialog box like on the right of the screen.

Click on the Browse… button to open up the user browser screen. Then click the Advanced… button from that screen. Then click the Find Now button which will bring up a section at the bottom of the dialog where you can see all the different users on your computer. Most are likely to be system users that can be ignored. Look for the one that looks like it’s your username.

In my case it’s my name of course. The picture to the left should be similar to what you’ll be seeing. Highlight your username then click OK. Then click OK again and you should see the Windows username (it may be a shortened form) in the window. Enter and Re-Enter your password just to be sure, then click OK.

Some people have had success just by following those steps, so it’s worth trying to start the service at this point. If it works, you’re finished. If it doesn’t (and you’re sure you have the right password) keep reading.

Fix The Local Security Policy

Windows 10 Home Users Additional Step First

If you’re on Windows 10 Home you’re going to need to do an additional step before you can fix the Local Security Policy. Thanks to MajorGeeks for documenting this one. Click here if you’re on Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Professional already has the necessary software to continue to the next steps.

All Users Next Step

Local Security Policy

From the taskbar search box again, type Local Security Policy and you should see something like the image to the right. Click on Run As Administrator to open up the local security policy editor.

Navigate to the Local Policies -> User Rights Assignment and then find the Logon As A Service rights and double click it. The image to the left shows you an idea of where to look.

Click the Add User Or Group… button in the dialog that pops up and then go through the same procedure as you did for adding your username to the Service users.

Once your username is added as an account that has the rights to logon as a service you’re almost done. But there’s one final step.

Login To Windows With A Password

For some reason, you’ll need to login to Windows with a password rather than a Windows Hello PIN or Face recognition. To do this you can either restart your computer and tell it you want to login with your password instead – or you can simply lock the screen by pressing the WIN-L combination and the unlock by giving your password instead of the PIN.

To unlock your screen if you have a PIN set up you’ll need to tell Windows that you’ve forgotten your PIN. It’ll then go through a series of fairly self explanatory questions and answers and then you can put your password in instead.

If The Password Login Option Isn’t Available

More recent versions of Windows (or at least in my case) sometimes won’t even offer you the option to login with your password. Unfortunately, you need to login with your password at least once to get this all working.

Getting WSL2Host to work with Microsoft Account Login might require switching off Windows Hello temporarily
Click image to make larger

Fortunately, it turns out it’s an option that switched on in the Settings. You’ll need to open up the Settings app, choose Accounts -> Sign In Options and look for the toggle switch that says Require Windows Hello Sign-In For Microsoft Accounts. If it’s switched on, switch it off. Then follow the procedure above to Login To Windows With A Password.

Once you have logged in once you can switch the Windows Hello requirement back on. Passwords are insecure. I long for the day when Digi-ID can be used to login to Windows, and web sites…

Start The WSL2Host Service

Once you’ve done all that you should be able to go back to the Services applet and start the service.

You may also find – unless you did the password bit via a reboot – that you need to restart your WSL instance. You can do this from CMD or Powershell with the command;

wsl --shutdown

When you re-open a WSL prompt it’ll restart the WSL instance and you should find your \Windows\System32\drivers\etc\hosts file now has an extra entry for your WSL instance.

WSL2Host Silently Fails

If you have done all of the above and WSL2Host starts correctly but nothing is updated in your hosts file and when you check Services again the service has stopped, you may have the problem whereby your default WSL instance is no longer what you thought it was.

This happened to me. I run Docker Desktop and presumably had done something to cause the Docker Desktop WSL instance to become my default WSL instance. I didn’t realise this had happened. I probably unregistered my Ubuntu instance or something. Anyway… The fix for this is to make an actual WSL instance the default instead of the Docker Desktop instance. Everything sprang into life again when I did that.


  • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
    Richard JossFriday, 27th November 2020

    OK – the problem was one with the Microsoft account name and PW. I use Linux 95% of the time and only log in to Windows if I really need to. At the moment I dual boot for this. So it is ages since I had to do anything with Windows that required remembering passwords etc.

    Anyway, I finally got everything working – Services, Local Security, PWs, and host file. What a business! Not sure most average Win 10 users would be able to manage this lot just to see a Linux distro complete with desktop environment working via wsl. I look forward to the day (apparently just a couple of months from now) when setting up the DE part of things is automated.



    • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
      SteveFriday, 27th November 2020

      I tend to agree, it is a right chow on and it’s not something the average Windows user will do. To be fair though, it’s more aimed at a reasonably seasoned Linux user and they’re probably the ones most likely to want to get it working.

      Glad you made it happen – it’s pretty good once it’s set up! The MS Wayland server to do it all natively will be very very interesting indeed though

      All the best,

  • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
    Richard JossTuesday, 24th November 2020

    Ah – thought it was a syntax error or similar. OK – the command now runs fine but the problem is I only know my Microsoft account PW and that does not work here. I have no idea if I have a PW for a local account – so will have to chase that issue down.

    Thanks anyway for you kind and prompt help. Leave it with me. If I fail even more miserably I’ll be back as Arnie said.


    • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
      SteveTuesday, 24th November 2020

      Heya Richard,
      Re-read this article – it’s literally how to do it when you have a Microsoft Account not a local password 🙂

  • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
    Richard JossTuesday, 24th November 2020

    Sorry Steve, my bad.

    I should have also posted the attempts I had made with an elevated command prompt. These went nowhere as well. The wsl2host.exe file (v0.35) had been downloaded to my windows Download directory. I started a Command Prompt and ran the command: .\wsl2host.exe install

    C:\WINDOWS\system32> .\wsl2host.exe install

    This resulted in a large blue dialogue box that said: “This app can’t run on your PC. To find a version for your PC, check with the software publisher”. Closing that box then gave me an Access denied comment in the terminal:

    C:\WINDOWS\system32> .\wsl2host.exe install
    Access is denied.

    I found that this had also inserted a copy of the file in the C:\WINDOWS\system32 folder. Just on the off chance, I deleted that copy and reran the command with this result:

    C:\WINDOWS\system32> .\wsl2host.exe install
    ‘.\wsl2host.exe’ is not recognized as an internal or external command,
    operable program or batch file.

    No doubt you can put me right on what I am doing wrong!



    • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
      SteveTuesday, 24th November 2020

      Ah – the .\ at the beginning says find the following file in the current directory and execute it. If the wsl2host.exe isn’t in the same directory as your elevated command prompt opens up in then you’ll need to Change Directory (CD) to the right place.

      cd c:\Users\Richard\Downloads

      (you may not be called Richard on your computer though, you’ll have to look in File Explorer to find out where your Downloads directory actually is and use that instead).
      In my case for example it’s cd c:\users\snibb\Downloads

      Once you’re there you can issue the .\wsl2host.exe install command

      Hope that helps

  • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
    Richard JossFriday, 20th November 2020

    Sorry – completely confused. I have ubuntu wsl with kde desktop running perfectly. Now want to sort out wsl2host – BUT:

    1. Looking in services, wls2host does not appear there at all.

    2. Tried to install wsl2host.exe as per Shane’s Githib page. However, not sure where I am to download the binary to – Windows or Linux?

    3. Anyway I have downloaded it to wsl but can’t run it in any console or PowerShell. Trying to do the following:

    Open an elevated/administrator command prompt to run this:

    > .\wsl2host.exe install
    Windows Username:
    Windows Password:

    However, all terminals say the same thing – e.g. :
    wsl@NUC-wsl:~$ WSL2Host.exe install
    WSL2Host.exe: command not found

    root@NUC-wsl:~# . \wsl2host.exe install
    -bash: wsl2host.exe: No such file or directory (with space after full stop)


    root@NUC-wsl:~# .\wsl2host.exe install
    .wsl2host.exe: command not found (no space after period)

    Any help appreciated



    • {node.authorName}'s gravatar
      SteveSunday, 22nd November 2020

      Hi Richard,
      WSL2Host runs on the Windows side, not the WSL side. It updates your Windows c:\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts file to create a local alias and IP address mapping for (for example) ubuntu2004.wsl so you can easily connect to it by name instead of address.

      It looks (from the command prompt copy and pasted) that you’re trying to run it in a WSL Bash session. You need to run it in a CMD session…

      Type CMD.EXE in the Windows search bar (bottom left, next to start button on a standard windows taskbar). Click ‘Run As Administrator’ in the search result for ‘Command Prompt’ that should come up…

      Hope that helps,

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