Setting up a JS Dev Env with WSL2, Ubuntu and VS Code

Setting up a JS Dev Env with WSL2, Ubuntu and VS Code

We are going go through the process of setting up Ubuntu on windows using the “Windows Subsystem for Linux 2” to work with Node, VS Code and Git.

Cover image credit to ars Technica

I was able to complete all of the steps from this post in seven minutes. That is with a 300 Megabit internet connection. Depending on the speed of your computer and Internet connection it should take between 5 & 15 minutes to do the 3 steps.

  1. What we set up
  2. Caveats
  3. Video for steps
  4. Steps
    1. Prerequisites
    2. install wsl1
      1. Install Script
    3. update wsl1 to wsl2 and install Ubuntu
      1. install script
    4. Setup Ubuntu
      1. Install Script

What we set up

  • Windows Subsystem For Linux 2 (WSL2)
  • The Linux distribution, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS
    • We will update & upgrade Ubuntu’s packages
    • We will set git defaults
      • Git default name will be set to GitHub’s Name
      • Git default name will be set to Github default email
      • Git default starting branch will be set to main
      • Git default editor will be set to VS Code
    • We will install Node Version Manager (nvm)
    • We will use NVM to download the current LTS version of Node
    • We will install the VS Code WSL Server
  • Install as needed VS Code extensions


There are four main caveats to be aware of when using WSL2

  1. It is strongly advised to use VS Code with WSL2 using one of the following methods
    1. Using the commands
      • code . to open the current folder as the workspace
      • code path_to_folder to open the folder as the workspace
      • code path_to_file to open an individual file
    2. Using File>Open Recent within VS code if you have opened the folder/file recently
  2. For now, graphic based tools are not supported. However that is going to change soon
  3. The file system of the Linux distribution, in this case Ubuntu 20.04, is separate from the windows file system. For any projects you wish to work on within Ubuntu, you should
    1. Commit changes an push it up to GitHub from windows
    2. Within Ubuntu, git clone it to the folder of your liking.

Video for steps



  1. Check Windows Update
  2. Open Powershell as an administrator
  3. run msinfo32
    • we want ‘Hyper-V Virtualization Enabled in Firmware’ to say yes
  4. continue only if virtualization is not enabled.

install wsl1

  1. From an administrative powershell session run the following command and it’ll auto reboot when done. it’ll enable, if not already:
    • Microsoft Windows Subsystem for Linux
    • Virtual Machine Platform
    • Hypervisor Platform
    • Windows developer mode

Install Script

// File: ""
function start-script {
    $Shell = New-Object -ComObject ("WScript.Shell")
    $Favorite = $Shell.CreateShortcut($env:USERPROFILE + "\Desktop\wsl2.url")
    $Favorite.TargetPath = "";

    reg add "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\AppModelUnlock" /t REG_DWORD /f /v "AllowDevelopmentWithoutDevLicense" /d "1"
    dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
    dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart
    dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:HypervisorPlatform /all /norestart

update wsl1 to wsl2 and install Ubuntu

  1. Launch powershell terminal as an administrator and run:

install script

function Install-From-App-Store {
param (
  [string]$Path = "."

  process {
    $progressPreference = 'silentlyContinue'

    $StopWatch = [system.diagnostics.stopwatch]::startnew()
    $Path = (Resolve-Path $Path).Path
    #Get Urls to download
    $WebResponse = Invoke-WebRequest -UseBasicParsing -Method 'POST' -Uri '' -Body "type=url&url=$Uri&ring=Retail" -ContentType 'application/x-www-form-urlencoded'
    $LinksMatch = ($WebResponse.Links | where {$_ -like '*.appx*'} | where {$_ -like '*_neutral_*' -or $_ -like "*_"+$env:PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE.Replace("AMD","X").Replace("IA","X")+"_*"} | Select-String -Pattern '(?<=a href=").+(?=" r)').matches.value
    $Files = ($WebResponse.Links | where {$_ -like '*.appx*'} | where {$_ -like '*_neutral_*' -or $_ -like "*_"+$env:PROCESSOR_ARCHITECTURE.Replace("AMD","X").Replace("IA","X")+"_*"} | where {$_ } | Select-String -Pattern '(?<=noreferrer">).+(?=</a>)').matches.value
    #Create array of links and filenames
    $DownloadLinks = @()
    for($i = 0;$i -lt $LinksMatch.Count; $i++){
        $Array += ,@($LinksMatch[$i],$Files[$i])
    #Sort by filename descending
    $Array = $Array | sort-object @{Expression={$_[1]}; Descending=$True}
    $LastFile = "temp123"
    for($i = 0;$i -lt $LinksMatch.Count; $i++){
        $CurrentFile = $Array[$i][1]
        $CurrentUrl = $Array[$i][0]
        #Find first number index of current and last processed filename
        if ($CurrentFile -match "(?<number>\d)"){}
        $FileIndex = $CurrentFile.indexof($Matches.number)
        if ($LastFile -match "(?<number>\d)"){}
        $LastFileIndex = $LastFile.indexof($Matches.number)

        #If current filename product not equal to last filename product
        if (($CurrentFile.SubString(0,$FileIndex-1)) -ne ($LastFile.SubString(0,$LastFileIndex-1))) {
            #If file not already downloaded, add to the download queue
            if (-Not (Test-Path "$Path\$CurrentFile")) {
                "Downloading $Path\$CurrentFile"
                $FilePath = "$Path\$CurrentFile"
                $Downloaded = $CurrentFile
                $FileRequest = Invoke-WebRequest -Uri $CurrentUrl -UseBasicParsing #-Method Head
                [System.IO.File]::WriteAllBytes($FilePath, $FileRequest.content)
        #Delete file outdated and already exist
        }elseif ((Test-Path "$Path\$CurrentFile")) {
            Remove-Item "$Path\$CurrentFile"
            "Removing $Path\$CurrentFile"
        $LastFile = $CurrentFile
    "Time to download: "+$StopWatch.ElapsedMilliseconds/1000 + " seconds"

    $progressPreference = 'Continue'
    Add-AppxPackage -Path $Path\$Downloaded
    cd $Path
    rm $Downloaded
function install-wsl2 {
    $progressPreference = 'silentlyContinue'
    Write-Host -ForegroundColor Green "Downloading wsl2"
    Invoke-WebRequest -Uri "" -OutFile $env:USERPROFILE\Downloads\wsl_update_x64.msi
    cd $env:USERPROFILE\Downloads
    Write-Host -ForegroundColor Green "Installing wsl2"
    .\wsl_update_x64.msi -passive
    Write-Host -ForegroundColor Green "Waiting 10 seconds"
    Start-Sleep -s 10
    rm wsl_update_x64.msi
    wsl --set-default-version 2
    $progressPreference = 'Continue'

function Kick-It-Off {
    Write-Host -ForegroundColor Green "Starting download of Ubuntu, this may take a few minutes as its a sizeable download"
    Install-From-App-Store "" $env:USERPROFILE\Downloads
    start powershell{ubuntu2004.exe}
    cd $env:USERPROFILE\Desktop\
    rm wsl2.url

Setup Ubuntu

  1. Open ubuntu 20.04 LTS and go through initial setup for the user & password
  2. Run the below shell script, which must be copied into the terminal in one shot. It will ask you for your Ubuntu password.

Install Script

Feel free to read the comments that explain step by step what this script does.

# file: ""
touch && chmod u+x && echo '
clear # clear the screen
# gather info
echo Please enter your full name for git:
read name
echo Please enter the email you wish to use with git:
read email

# validation of user input
echo name: $name
echo e-mail: $email
echo "Are you sure this is all correct and you wish to proceed? [yN]:"
read REPLY

# Check if the reply is "y" or "Y"
if [[ ! $REPLY =~ ^[Yy]$ ]]
    # if it is...
    echo No changes made, try again
    rm ~/ # remove this script
    exit 1 #  exit the script with status code 1, and error

# configure the system

# update Ubuntu
sudo apt update # update the package versions
sudo apt upgrade -y # upgrade installed packages to new versions if was found

# config git
git config --global "$name" # update github name
git config --global "$email" # use your github email
git config --global init.defaultBranch main # change git main branch to, main
git config --global core.editor "code --wait" # set VS Code as default git editor

# install nvm, node, npm
curl -o- | bash # Install nvm
export NVM_DIR="$HOME/.nvm" # add NVM to the path
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/" # This loads nvm
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/bash_completion" # this loads bash completion for nvm
nvm install --lts # install latest node LTS module

# install wsl extension for vs code
code --install-extension ms-vscode-remote.remote-wsl

# set up ubuntu for vscode

code . # open VS Code for first time to install wsl server for VS Code

# clean up after script

rm # cleaning up
' >> && ./ && exit # run the script then exit powershell's ubuntu

Aaron Young © 2020. All rights reserved.