xfce4 on Pengwin on wsl on windows 10

Some lessons about running a X11 Desktop Environment on WSL.

What I’m using today:

  • Windows 10 Professional
  • WSL 1.0 – about to switch to fast ring to get WSL-2
  • Pengwin Linux Distro – From Microsoft App Store
  • X410 X11 Display Server running on Windows 10

Once Pengwin and X410 were installed, I needed to install the binaries for XFCE4.

First make sure all the latest updates and upgrades are applied:

sudo apt update  
sudo apt upgrade  

then install xfce4

sudo apt install xfce4  

start the X410 X11 Display Server from windows, and we are almost ready to go.

Just need to tell Pengwin, to export the display to this server.

$ export DISPLAY=localhost:0

Then test:

xeyes &  

If all goes well, we should have the xeyes app visible on the display.

I found that setting X410 to Floating Desktop made it easier for me to adjust settings in the beginning. Perhaps later I’ll switch to Full Desktop. A quick tip: To toggle between floating desktop and full desktop, just hit CTRL-ALT-BACKSPACE

Starting xfce4

I’m not going to setup a login manager as I’m only going to be running locally anyway, however there are docs available if you are interested.

To start xfce4, rung the following command from your console terminal. Remember to set export DISPLAY=localhost:0 first.


For more see the docs for xfce4.

One of my pet annoyuances of more linux based X11 window managers, is that they always seem to want you to use a terminal with black text on white display. That’s the first thing I need to change, so edit the .Xresources file in your home folder and add the following:

xterm*font: 10x20  
xterm*background: black  
xterm*foreground: limegreen  
xterm*saveLines: 1000  

If you want to makes lots of tweaks to the .XResources files (and let’s face it, you are developer, you ARE going to tweak), there is a handy shortcut to update the settings without restart xfce4 every time. Just run this command every time you update your .XResources

xrdb -merge .Xresources  

Voila! X11 apps running beautifully in a very stable Windows 10 environment.

Note: You might notice that the web browser icon doesn’t work yet. Then ask yourself why you are trying to browse from linux when you can do the exact same things from Windows 10. Anyway, I might update you on how to install the best browser for WSL and get your beloved web browser icon working soon.

Laters.. 8)