How to install WSL on a Windows machine not connected to the Internet

In this post, we will install Ubuntu 20.04 WSL package on an offline Windows 10 machine. Although this post is prepared with Ubuntu 20.04, the steps should be valid for other WSL packages too.

Getting files

If your Windows machine is connected to the Internet and you can easily install WSL packages via Microsoft Store like by clicking Download from the Microsoft Store here. To install it on an offline machine, first we get .appx package for a corresponding guest OS from Microsoft. All available Packages are listed here. Transfer the downloaded package to the target offline machine. For example, when I am writing this post, to install Ubuntu 20.04 I get Ubuntu_2004.2020.424.0_x64.appx.

Enabling WSL on Windows

Open a PowerShell terminal and type wsl. If you get an error about not recognized command, first you should enable WSL. The official instructions are given here. Alternatively you can do it with GUI. Find Programs and Features on Control Panel, then click Turn Windows features on or off as shown below.

WSL enable

After rebooting Windows, wsl command should be available to use and should be working on PowerShell. Since we don’t have any installed WSL guest OS on the PC, it will say ... no installed distributions.

ℹ️ If your machine satisfies requirements for WSL 2 and you don’t have any specific reason to stick with WSL (1), I recommended to switch to WSL 2 now but you can stick with WSL (1) either. I am not using WSL 2 but I think the following steps should be fine for WSL 2 too.

Installing WSL package

In theory, the following command given in the official page should do the work.

Add-AppxPackage .\Ubuntu_2004.2020.424.0_x64.appx

Error: “The service has not been started”

After installing the package, you can find the installed software by typing Ubuntu in Windows Start menu search. However in my case, I couldn’t start the Ubuntu WSL and got the The service has not been started. error as shown below. This is probably related to version of Windows 10.

WSL The service has not been started error


You can remove Ubuntu found in Windows Start menu by right clicking and selecting Uninstall since we won’t use it.

One solution recommended by Microsoft is extracting .appx file with an file archiver program, like 7-Zip by right clicking on file and selecting Extract option, and then running ubuntu2004.exe.

⚠️ After extraction please make sure that your folder is at right place. Although it is possible to move folders to another location, in my case moving folders after installation gives me Cannot find the specified path error. So before installation make sure that this is the correct location. After installation, rootfs folder is created next to ubuntu2004.exe and file system of the Linux will live here. So make sure that you have enough space for your future needs. The WSL is somehow fragile 1. Although it is possible to move files as moving ordinary files in Windows after installation, be ready for side effects.

With first run the installation process begins and you are prompted to select an username and associated password. After completing installation, you can use your Linux distro. Notice that file system for the Linux is created under rootfs folder. After installation, Ubuntu 20.04 creates ~40K items in its folder.

Pitfall: Moving Ubuntu 20.04 After Installation

I got Cannot find the specified path error when I moved to another folder after installation. Other people report the same problem too 1. In my case, since I was using fresh Ubuntu installation, I reinstalled it but I don’t know the proper solution if you don’t want to loose your distro. Some people also reported that a Windows update also breaks the WSL 1, so… yeah, classical Windows…


Even if you decide to reinstall the Ubuntu at the new location, when you run ubuntu2004.exe you get The system cannot find the path specified error. Even if you run wsl on PowerShell you get the same error. The reason is the previous machine is still registered. If you run wslconfig /l, you will see the previous machine. So first unregister the previous distro, example:

wslconfig /u Ubuntu-20.04

After that, wsl command should run, then you can install the Ubuntu to a new location.

ℹ️ If you know how to move installed distro without reinstalling again, please comment. Maybe this?

Error: “WslRegisterDistribution failed with error: 0x80070005”

When I tried to install the distro runnig ubuntu2004.exe on D: drive, I got this error but if I run it on C: drive everything works. This is probably due to security settings of my Windows machine.


Since I don’t want to bother with these settings, I chose to Run as administrator on D: drive. After installation, user is able to run the distro and no privilege is required. Similar problems and proper solutions also exist 2, 3, 4.


Although using a Linux distro on Windows in a native way is a very good experience, WSL doesn’t look so solid and may become broken after an Windows update. So if you are planning to use be ready for possible future problems.

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