How to Login as root on Ubuntu with Windows WSL

laptop 5834809 640
laptop 5834809 640

This brief tutorial is going to show students and new users how to log in as root when using Ubuntu on a Windows WSL environment.

Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is a tool that lets developers run a GNU/Linux environment, including most command-line tools, utilities, and applications directly in Windows without setting up a virtual machine or dual-boot.

You can run full Linux operating systems inside Windows easily. We have written many tutorials on installing different Linux distributions on Windows WSL.

Now that you have Ubuntu installed with WSL, do you know how to log on as a root user? By default, after installing Ubuntu, you’ll be prompted to create a normal user account.

This account will be added to the sudoers file which gives the account sudo permission. However, this is not the root.

I don’t think you should log in as root on a Linux machine. But there might be some cases where you’ll need to log in as root to perform some critical tasks.

The tutorial should come in handy the day you need to log on as root.

Log on as root

As you can see, launching the Ubuntu WSL app logs directly into the normal user account. See the below screenshot.

The first user after installing is the default account.

Now, use the steps below to start the Ubuntu WSL app and log in as root instead.

First, close the Ubuntu console prompt for the normal user.

Then open the Windows command prompt by clicking the start button and find Command Prompt or search for it as shown in the image below.

When the command Prompt opens, type the commands below to configure the Ubuntu WSL app to log in as root instead of a normal user account.

Ubuntu:

ubuntu config --default-user root

Ubuntu 20.04:

ubuntu2004 config --default-user root

Ubuntu 18.04:

ubuntu1804 config --default-user root

After running the command above for the respective Ubuntu version, go and start up the Ubuntu WSL app and this time the root account should be logged in.

You can see that the root account is logged in.

Now do what you intend to do with the root account. When you’re done, exit.

You need to log back in with the normal account. Simply relaunch Windows Comment Prompt and run the commands below replacing the root user with the normal account.

ubuntu2004 config --default-user richard

Replace richard with your account.

There you go.

That should do it!

Conclusion:

This post showed you how to log on as root when using Ubuntu on WSL. If you find any error above, please use the comment form below to report.

Posted by
Richard W

I love computers; maybe way too much. What I learned I try to share at geekrewind.com.

8 Comments

  1. Why not just use the normal method with the “su” command. Works just fine for me and is a lot easier and faster.

    1. Because that doesn’t work for everyone. I literally tried to do that on a VM that I didn’t personally create and it didn’t work and I was locked out. His instructions helped me be able to access root

  2. Thanks! I just needed to set up my user in sudoers and now I won’t have to do this anymore. But that first time I had no idea what to do.

  3. Yeah it does work on nearly everything but for “wget -q0” commands, it won’t work. Those commands will require one to run it as the actual root for the host system.

  4. you saved my life man, I lost sudoers access using an user. !! it worked

  5. Thank you. This worked.

  6. Hi – is there a way to do this on Windows 11? ubuntu and ubuntu2004 does not work in command prompt.

  7. Thanks

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: