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Electron is tricky to get set up on Windows Subsystem for Linux, but it can work!

Four things needed overall:

  1. you need WSL2, not WSL1
  2. you need node, of course, and that part isn't so bad
  3. you need to apt install several dependencies
  4. you need an X Server so it can display the electron GUI over in Windows-land

Setup instructions, in order:

  1. Set up WSL2 via
    • If you have WSL1 already, I suggest making a second installation of Ubuntu etc with WSL2 beside your WSL1 so you don't mess up existing projects while you troubleshoot it all.
  2. Install NVM via
  3. Install a node version, like using nvm install stable
  4. Clone your electron repo like Zettlr, and npm install or yarn install things
  5. Try to run it (npm start or yarn start usually). Do you see some errors related to libraries?
    • The filename it can't find is a hint for a package you have to install, but with slight naming changes. Its apt install package name is slightly different than the filename that electron is looking for. In my cases, the underscore became a dash, and the dash between the name and version number goes away. libgdk_pixbuf-2.0 becomes libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0. I had the most luck googling "ubuntu libgdk" etc and then the package name showed up usually.
    • My latest install command: sudo apt install libgconf-2-4 libatk1.0-0 libatk-bridge2.0-0 libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0 libgtk-3-0 libgbm-dev libnss3-dev libxss-dev
    • Anyone know a better way to find these without googling? lol I'm thankful there weren't too many
  6. Try to run npm start again - does NOTHING happen? Now you need X Server!
  7. Now try again, and it should work!
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Thank you for this! #6 was the step I needed.

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For me libxcursor1 libnss3 libgdk-pixbuf2.0-0 libgtk-3-0 libxss-dev libnss3-dev were missing.

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Remember to sudo apt update before step 5 (unlike me)

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I'm using Electron with Snowpack and npm and noticed that when I run "npm run dev" under wsl2, changes in source files do not result in updates to the displayed app. On plain Ubuntu it works as expected. The sources are all under my wsl2 home dir.
The same app, in a different branch, running as a web app, does update when running with "npm start" and displaying in the Windows 10 Firefox browser. Anybody notice this behavior with Electron on wsl2? Maybe it only happens with Snowpack? In any case there is a difference between plain Ubuntu and Ubuntu under wsl2.

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Maybe there is an easier way without installing some libs:
$ export npm_config_platform=win32 && npm install --save-dev electron && unset npm_config_platform

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Hi, I got a question. Now I have my X Server all configured and I can start apps like gedit or firefox in WSL1. However, after executing yarn run electron:serve it just shows up the message INFO Launching Electron... and nothing happens. Any ideas guys? Thanks!



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Well, today I updated my WSL1 to WSL2, and I face the same problem.

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carlosgallego98 commented Feb 12, 2022

In combination with another tutorial I finally got it working.

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anemology commented Feb 20, 2022

Update WSL may fix something.

wsl --update
wsl --shutdown
# Core version:

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WSL2: Ubuntu

In my case, Xvfb was required, as well.

sudo apt-get install -y xvfb


Then run the following:

export DISPLAY=$(cat /etc/resolv.conf | grep nameserver | awk '{print $2}'):0


VcsXsrv Config:

On Windows, open VcsXsrv and it’ll guide you through three config screens. Here’s what to pick on each one:

  1. Choose Multiple Windows
  2. Choose ‘Start no client’
  3. Choose Clipboard and OpenGL integration, plus provide -ac as additional arguments

Electron apps then successfully executed.

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abalter commented May 4, 2024

We aren't supposed to need VcsXsrv any more in WSL2 to run X11 apps.

Is it necessary for using electron?

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