Running ELF File Format on a Windows 10 System

In this running ELF file format on a Windows 10 system, we are showing you how to use Windows 10 to run a sub-Linux to support ELF files.

The ELF file format is a common type of file for Unix systems. In Linux ELF is the executable file that the system can run. It is known as Executable and Linkable Format or Extensible Linking Format. ELF files are the equivalent of EXE files on Microsoft Windows systems. By default, Microsoft Windows or Windows 10 in particular, does not support ELF files but this changed recently.

ELF File Format and Windows:

On August 2nd, 2016, Microsoft released the Anniversary Update. Anniversary Update contained Windows Subsystem for Linux support which allowed users to run ELF files. The update was released to Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019. The first release did not make it very simple or easy to run ELF files which is why Microsoft followed up on the Anniversary Update with another one.

In 2019, WSL 2 or Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 update was released. It introduced important changes such as a real Linux kernel using Hyper-V features. The update was made available to all Windows 10 users, regardless of the edition they were using. To run ELF files, there are a few steps you need to follow and install the WSL 2 update.

  • Check if your system is up to date. You need to have Windows 10 version 2004 or newer. To do this, go to “Settings”, “Update & Security” and check for updates. If you still do not vet version 2004 after the updates, you can download it manually from the Microsoft website using the below link.  Get the May 2020 update or the latest one available.
  • Enable virtualization support from BIOS. Each computer is different. You will need to check on how to do this on your laptop manufacturer website or in the motherboard user manual.
  • Ensure that you have at least 1GB of spare space on your C drive. Run a disk cleanup or move some files to a different drive.
  • Hit the “Start” button and in the search bar type “Programs and Features”. You should see a result stating “Turn Windows Features on or off”. Click on that result.
  • A new window will appear. Scroll down at the bottom of the list. You should see “Virtual Machine Platform” and “Windows Subsystem for Linux” features, both with the checkboxes unchecked. Enable them. You will have to wait after each step for the feature installation to finish.

Using Windows Powershell

Alternatively, you can enable both of them from Windows Powershell. Run Powershell as an administrator and use the following commands:

  • dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
  • dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart
  • Restart your computer.
  • Run Powershell as an administrator and use the command: wsl –set-default-version 2
  • Go to the Microsoft Store from the Start menu. Search for “Linux”. You will get several options. Choose the desired Linux distribution and install it.
  • Launch the Linux from the Microsoft Store app by hitting Launch.

With all these steps done, you should be able to run the ELF file format on your Windows 10 system. You will not be able to launch ELF executables directly in Windows. You will need to do it through the Linux distribution you just installed.

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