With Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), Microsoft offers a near native way to run Linux on Windows. Released three years ago in 2016, the first release of WSL offered a compatibility layer allowing Linux binaries to run on Windows. This compatibility layer however was limited in that the Linux software could not access hardware elements such as the network stack directly. Thus, popular packages such as nmap or wireshark would not run, rendering Linux distributions such as Kali (available from Microsoft Store) almost useless.
Microsoft is currently testing WSL2 where the Linux kernel runs in a virtual machine, allowing for greater compatibility and access to virtual hardware resources. Members of the Windows Insider program can test these features as well. Unfortunately, due to a bug in the latest releases (e.g. build 18956, 18963, 18965) many distributions such as Kali Linux won’t run in WSL2 after being installed from the Microsoft Store or after being converted from WSL1 to WSL2. Preexisting installations cannot be launched and new installations keep issuing the following error message after asking the user to configure a new user name:
"A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond."
Until this issue is fixed however, there is a workaround enabling users to convert and run Kali or other distros in WSL2.
Use the following guide to install a working WSL2 version of Kali Linux enabling the use of nmap and other tools which require access to hardware features.
Step by step instruction
After installing the Windows Subsystem for Linux feature in Windows and before downloading any Linux distributions from the Microsoft Store make sure it is set to WSL1. Although this is the default setting, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side. Open a terminal (have you tried the new Microsoft Terminal?) and type in the following command:
wsl --set-default-version 1
Afterwards, install a Linux distro from the store.
If you have already installed Kali or another Linux distribution in WSL2 and realized it doesn’t run, you can convert it back to WSL1.
wsl --set-version kali-linux 1
Enter the installed Kali as root and check if the bin as well as the sbin folders are symlinks. If they are, delete the symlinks.
wsl -d kali-linux -u root cd / ls -Alh rm bin rm sbin
Get out of Linux and convert your installation to WSL2
wsl --set-version kali-linux 2
Enter the distro again as root and apply a workaround to your file system:
wsl -d kali-linux -u root -e /usr/bin/bash cd / mv bin/wslpath usr/bin/ mv sbin/mount.drvfs usr/sbin/ rmdir bin rmdir sbin mv usr/bin bin mv usr/sbin sbin ln -s /bin usr/bin ln -s /sbin usr/sbi
To test it, leave the distro, terminate it, check the version info and enter it again
wsl -t kali-linux wsl -l -v wsl -d kali-linux
Now the distribution is ready and will allow nmap and other tools to run.