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A step by step tutorial on how to automatically start ssh server on boot on the Windows Subsystem for Linux

How to automatically start ssh server on boot on Windows Subsystem for Linux

Microsoft partnered with Canonical to create Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, running through a technology called the Windows Subsystem for Linux. Below are instructions on how to set up the ssh server to run automatically at boot.

  1. Edit the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file by running the command sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config and do the following
    1. Change Port to 2222 (or any other port above 1000)
    2. Change PasswordAuthentication to yes. This can be changed back to no if ssh keys are setup.
  2. Restart the ssh server:
    • sudo service ssh --full-restart
  3. With this setup, the ssh server must be turned on every time you run Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, as by default it is off. Use this command to turn it on:
    1. sudo service ssh start
  4. Follow the next steps which will create scripts that start the ssh server automatically:
    1. Create a sshd.bat file and edit it with the following commands:

      • vi sshd.bat
      • Add the following code: C:\Windows\System32\bash.exe -c "sudo /usr/sbin/sshd -D"
      • Save the file and move it to a more accessible location, e.g. mv ssh.bat /mnt/c/Users/YourUserName/Documents. Make sure to match your username! Take note of this location for the next step as in Windows language this corresponds to C:\Users\YourUserName\Documents
    2. Create a sshd.vbs file and edit it with the following commands:

      • vi sshd.vbs
      • Add the following code, making sure to put in your actual user name:
      Set WinScriptHost = CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
      WinScriptHost.Run Chr(34) & "C:\Users\YourUserName\Documents\sshd.bat" & Chr(34), 0
      Set WinScriptHost = Nothing
      • Save the file and move it to a more accessible location, e.g. mv sshd.vbs /mnt/c/Users/YourUserName/Documents.
      • Open start menu, type run. Then type shell:startup. Copy the vbs file over to the Startup folder
    3. Finally, you will need to configure the ssh server to start without requiring password. Run the command sudo visudo and add this line to the end of the file:

      • %sudo ALL=NOPASSWD: /usr/sbin/sshd
  5. If configured properly, the ssh server should now automatically start in the background when Windows starts.
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I solved this problem as follows (instead of the above steps)

  1. Set up sshd on distro of choice. Ensure it works (firewall set up properly, etc.) when launched manually
  2. Ensure that the distro which will run sshd is the default distro (use wslconfig)
  3. Create a task using Task Scheduler (taskschd.msc) that has the action "Start a program", with the program set to wsl with optional arguments -u root service ssh start
  4. Set the task to run on computer startup. Specify a user account to run the task as, and specify that the task run whether or not the user is logged in

FWIW, I'm using the Debian distro.

This is also working for me using Ubuntu 20.04

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Nice. It's worked.

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I have a question.
I know that I can create a service.bat that runs wsl /etc/init.d/service start. I can also add it to windows startup via startup folder/registry/task scheduler.

However, I occasionally do wsl --shutdown to test any network/X server changes. And to start it again, I run bash.exe /path/to/ (usually with some arguments).
I prefer not to add the service start logic in (there could be multiple such scripts.)

Is there a way to start a Linux service when WSL (re)starts?

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@anishsane You could enable the service within WSL to autostart: sudo systemctl enable ssh

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placasse commented Feb 16, 2021

Thanks everyone.
I have it working, but not easily.
What worked for me is the @joelrbrandt comment.

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@anishsane You could enable the service within WSL to autostart: sudo systemctl enable ssh

I can't get it to load automatically.

Manually loading works and stays until I restart wsl if I replace the systemctl with the one from here:

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niecore commented May 21, 2021

Add firewall rule as well:

netsh advfirewall firewall add rule name="SSH WSL" dir=in action=allow protocol=TCP localport=2222

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haipnh commented Nov 2, 2021

Another way without Task Scheduler:

  1. On the WSL put to the end of the /etc/sudoers file the following line:
    %sudo ALL=NOPASSWD: /etc/init.d/ssh start
  2. Put to the shell:Startup folder bat file with the content:
    powershell.exe "& 'C:\Windows\System32\bash.exe' -c 'sudo /etc/init.d/ssh start'"

That's it!

no sudo promt no Task Scheduler stuff no stucking daemon process like sudo /usr/sbin/sshd -D no WSL window open

Thanks ! What a concise way.

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It does not work as described, you need to run C:\Windows\System32\bash.exe -c "sudo /usr/sbin/sshd -D"``, otherwise /run/sshd` is missing.
I did not user the VBA thing, just created a task running on startup.

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sogemao commented Apr 10, 2022

I succeeded. I did this:
a、create “/etc/init.wsl” in linux,Write the following:
#! /bin/sh
/etc/init.d/ssh start

b、create “ubuntu.bat” on win,Write the following:
bash /etc/init.wsl

c、Move the “ubuntu.bat” to the Windows startup directory:
C:\Users\<YourUserName>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

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use nssm is more prefect.

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pkumarg commented Jan 31, 2023

This should have been easier. I'm not going to do this. I appreciate that you explain the steps to do it. But Linux does it better, and easy. So if Microsoft want to feed us their WSL2 bull**** then should make it better.

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I know that this is a pretty old thread.
wsl2 now has systemd support, which means that we can create startup services.

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hyeonbeenlee commented May 11, 2023

For me, the two easiest ways to achieve this were:

Way 1: Installing the Docker Desktop with WSL2 based engine (set as default if WSL2 is installed), and turning on "Settings->General->Start Docker Desktop when you log in".

Way 2: Install 'Terminal' app from Microsoft Store->Settings->Startup->Set Default profile as WSL distro and check 'Launch on mahine startup'
-> I felt this is more stable than the first one when running Pytorch codes.

Test it by rebooting your Windows.
I've verified these on both WIndows 10 and 11 running WSL2 with Ubuntu-22.04 distro.
Hope this relieve your pain.

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