Windows Subsystem for Linux and Android in Windows 11

Good Host

Outlook on the Subsystem for Android

Much like the technical underpinnings for WSL, Microsoft is also looking to run mobile apps for Android on Windows with the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA). In contrast to WSL, WSA is still in its infancy and was not offered until the recent release of Windows 11 version 2022, aka Sun Valley 2. Unfortunately, by the editorial deadline, only a fairly vague announcement had been released on Microsoft's blog. Now, however, the pre-release version of WSA is available in the Microsoft Store [9] [10].

Retrofitting a Graphical Package Manager

The WSA Package Manager (WSA PacMan, Figure 4) accesses the WSA developer interface and installs Android packages with a double-click. You can download the installer for WSA PacMan from the project's GitHub page [11] and install the software. It registers as the default for the APK file type if you let it. After rebooting the system, call the package manager from the Start menu, which tells you that WSA is not yet running and offers to start the subsystem.

Figure 4: WSA forms the basis for Android apps on Windows, and WSA PacMan helps with the install.

In the next step, download Android packages from an alternative F-Droid open source repository for Android apps [12] or Aurora OSS [13] on Windows. Now, as soon as you double-click on one of the downloads in APK format, WSA PacMan displays the permissions the respective app requests before proceeding to install the app in the subsystem. You will then find it in the Windows Start menu. Alternatively, you can call up Android's app launcher from the package manager and install additional software from the alternative app stores, such as the privacy-oriented browser by search engine coders DuckDuckGo, which is then also shown directly as a link in the Windows Start menu.

Even without the alternative app stores, various online portals offer you direct downloads of Android packages beyond the official app stores by Google and Amazon. However, be careful, because these offerings are not validated by the store providers, and you cannot rule out the packages containing malware. Notes on which Android apps work with WSA are also available on GitHub [14].


Microsoft is continuously expanding WSL's feature set. Under Windows 11, the subsystem has already reached a practical level of maturity that makes a full-fledged virtual or even physical machine unnecessary for many Linux use cases. Graphical applications integrate seamlessly, and even the systemd init system is now available.

In contrast, WSA is still in its infancy, but this new subsystem demonstrates that Windows can be a candidate as a platform for Android apps. The practical benefits totally depend on the available apps. It remains to be seen whether Microsoft and Amazon will expand their offerings and open up to customers outside the US market. Until then, the preview lets you try out WSA.

The Author

Christian Knermann is Head of IT-Management at Fraunhofer UMSICHT, a German research institute. He's written freelance about computing technology since 2006.

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