Despite being bitter enemies for years, today, Windows and Linux go hand in hand. We can not deny that there is still some rivalry to conquer desktop computers, but the union between the two systems goes so far as to allow us, thanks to the virtualization of Hyper-V and a tool known as “Windows Subsystem for Linux”, install different distros (including Ubuntu) within Microsoft’s own operating system. However, how is the performance offered by these virtual systems?
It is not the first time that the performance of WSL has been discussed in comparison to the performance offered by an Ubuntu installed naturally on the computer. And now, with the arrival of the new Windows 11, and the imminent arrival of Ubuntu 21.10, the well-known portal Phoronix has put these two systems face to face again to find out what is the best way to use Linux on a computer.
Before going into detail with the tests, the quick answer is logical: a system installed on a computer, with direct control over the hardware, will be faster than a virtualized system. Although we may get some other surprises.
WSL2 or Ubuntu: who is faster?
From Phoronix they have tested, on the one hand, the latest available version of Ubuntu 21.10 , the new version of the operating system that will arrive at the end of the month to all users, and on the other hand WSL2, the latest version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux, included in Windows 11 build 22454 .
As we can see in most of the tests, in most of them Ubuntu offers better performance than WSL, although not by much. In tests with moderate CPU usage, WSL2 performs quite well and doesn’t lose much distance to its rival. However, when CPU usage is high, or I/O systems come into play, the difference grows to nearly 50% in favor of Ubuntu.
But not always the Canonical distro has the upper hand. In some specific tests, Windows Subsystem has been shown to be superior to Ubuntu. For example, when stress testing the Nginx web server.
Some more than curious data that reflects both the excellent work of Microsoft when creating its subsystem, as well as its great weaknesses.
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Taking an average of all the data obtained, we can see that the Windows Subsystem for Linux (version 2, specifically) is between 6 and 7 percent below the performance offered by a pure Ubuntu physically installed on the PC.
Microsoft has improved a lot, and it has gained great performance after the arrival of the new WSL2. And surely there is still room for improvement. But we cannot forget that we are talking about a virtualized operating system, whose control depends on the hypervisor (Hyper-V in this case) and that, even if it improves a little more, it is difficult for it to replace a physical installation of Ubuntu, or any other another Linux, at least in terms of performance.
We also remember that we will soon be able to run applications with a graphical environment (GUI) in WSL2 , very useful for those who want to try a program from this operating system without having to install it from scratch.
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