I have cloned a WSL distro using
wsl --export and
wsl --import, but now, running
wsl newdistro always logs me in as root. I understand that the
lxrun command is deprecated and want to avoid it. The docs recommend using
distroname.exe config, but that doesn't work, since this one doesn't have a corresponding executable.
I have cloned a WSL distro using
As of the time of this writing, there are at least three (let's call it 3.5) different methods of changing/setting the default user in an imported WSL instance. While the two that have already been mentioned still work, there is a Microsoft recommended way to do it that hasn't been mentioned yet in this question.
Method 1 -
The current Microsoft recommended way of setting the username in an instance is to create a
/etc/wsl.conf in the instance with the following setting:
Changing, of course, username to be your default username.
Exit your distro/instance, then issue a
wsl --terminate <distroname> from PowerShell or CMD. When you restart, the default user should be set.
This is safer and less error-prone than the registry-based methods.
Method 2 - Registry Key
Setting the registry key per @harrymc's answer.
Method 3 - LxRunOffline
Semi-method 4 - Runtime user selection via
wsl commandline argument
The username can be selected when starting any WSL instance by:
wsl -u username or
wsl -d distroname -u username, etc.
wsl -d Ubuntu -u root.
Side Note: This question was specifically about setting the default username in an imported instance.
However, for completeness, you can also set the default username for a distro that was installed from the Store (or
wsl --install) with:
<distro>.exe config --default-user <username>
For instance, if you installed "Ubuntu 20.04" from the Store, you would use:
ubuntu2004.exe config --default-user <username>
.exe here is an "App Execution Alias" in Windows. You can check the name by going to "Manage app execution aliases" in the Windows System Settings.
For readers who need to create a new user
@ndemou made a good point in the comments last year that I, in hindsight, dismissed improperly. Two other users have now mentioned in the comments that @ndemou's information was helpful. My belated apologies! Here's the additional information based on @ndemou's advice ...
Some users who find this answer may be starting up as root not because they
--import'd a distribution, but possibly because the default user was never created during installation in the first place. This can happen when the distribution installation is stopped prematurely, and likely for other reasons as well.
Under Ubuntu, the default distribution for WSL, you can create your user by starting with:
wsl ~ -u root
If you need to, add the
-d <distribution> option.
NEWUSER=<your_username> useradd --create-home --shell /usr/bin/bash --user-group --groups adm,dialout,cdrom,floppy,sudo,audio,dip,video,plugdev,netdev --password $(read -sp Password: pw ; echo $pw | openssl passwd -1 -stdin) $NEWUSER
Then set the user as the default using the
/etc/wsl.conf as mentioned above.
If you've already created the user, or are using a different distribution, as @ndemou points out, make sure to also add the user either to a group that is in
sudoers or directly to
visudo. See the answers to this question for additional details.
The normal command syntax is for example:
ubuntu config --default-user new_user_name
However, this does not work for an imported distro, which is started by the following command :
wsl --distribution <DistributionName>
Try this undocumented method:
regeditand navigate to the key:
- Examine its subkeys for a distribution that has the right name in the
- Create or modify a DWORD item named
DefaultUidand set it to the user-id (uid) of your default user. Here root user is id
0while the first user id is 1000 (
If this does not work for your setup, you would need to run as:
wsl --distribution ubuntu -u user_name
For more information see :
Verify the uid of the user that you want to set as default in your Linux console by
username@host:~$ id uid=1000(username) gid=1000(username) groups=1000(username),4(adm),20(dialout),24(cdrom),25(floppy),27(sudo),29(audio),30(dip),44(video),46(plugdev),117(netdev),1001(docker) username@host:~$
Verify the distro name in Powershell by
wsl -l -v:
PS C:\WINDOWS\system32> wsl -l -v NAME STATE VERSION * ubuntu-20.04 Running 2 docker-desktop-data Running 2 docker-desktop Running 2 PS C:\WINDOWS\system32>
Edit the registry in Powershell:
Get-ItemProperty Registry::HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Lxss\*\ DistributionName | Where-Object -Property DistributionName -eq ubuntu-20.04 | Set-ItemProperty -Name DefaultUid -Value 1000
Should be good by now.
If you are installing some custom distributions in WSL, you will not get a "distroname.exe" command to change the configuration. You may use LxRunOffline to change the default user. This toolset can be installed in Windows using
choco install lxrunoffline.
Get the default user id of a distro
LxRunOffline allows you get and set the default user id (
uid) for any installed distributions. For instance, if you have a distro named
newdistro you may check the default user using
gu (get default user) and
-n with the name of the distribution:
lxrunoffline gu -n newdistro
The command returns a number, the user id of the default user:
rootuser has the
- the default user created during the install has the
Set the default user id for a distro
If you want to set the
root as the default user, you can make it using
su (set default user) with
-n and the name of the distro, and
-v with the user id, i.e.,
0 for the
lxrunoffline su -n newdistro -v 0
If you are using Windows Terminal then you can configure a profile for your distribution.
In the Profiles settings for Windows Terminal select your distro's profile, then click the General Tab and under
Command line you can use one of the previously recommended options for the
For example, if you named your Profile
Ubuntu and your username is
bob, then you would set
Command line to
wsl.exe -d Ubuntu -u bob
While you're at it, you can configure the
Starting directory, aka the one opened by default when you open a terminal for your distro with:
Using the previous example, for a distro named
Ubuntu and a username of
bob, you would set
Starting directory to:
None of the answers worked for me on Windows 11 with an imported Ubuntu distribution. This is more than likely because my user is a domain user rather than local.
What worked is: