How to Restore a WSL 2 Linux Distribution

This post will show you how to restore a WSL distribution on a Windows 10 machine using the wsl.exe command line.

In the previous blog post, we learned how to back up a WSL distribution on Windows 10 and now would do the restore.

Import (Restore)

In WSL, a restore operation is called import, and in the below example, I’m restoring my Ubuntu distribution from a backup file. The import process will create a new Linux distribution that will run side by side of the existing one (If it was not deleted).

In the example below, I am calling the restored distribution Ubuntu-20.04-restore

wsl --import Ubuntu-20.04-restore C:\WSL-Backup\ C:\WSL-Backup\ubuntu.tar

After the distribution is restored, I will run the list command

 wsl --list
 Windows Subsystem for Linux Distributions:
 Ubuntu-20.04 (Default)

To start I will run

wsl --distribution Ubuntu-20.04-restore

If you are happy with the results, you can make it the default distribution using the command below so when you type WSL, it will start.

wsl --distribution Ubuntu-20.04-restore

If you would like to cleanup and remove the old distribution you can simply run the following command.

wsl --unregister Ubuntu-20.04

Success! You're on the list.

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