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Xucong ZHAN
Xucong ZHAN

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Setting up WSL 2 for Web Development

This post was originally posted on my personal blog:

Recently, WSL 2 landed on the slow ring of Windows Preview. As a fan of WSL myself, I am eager to try it out and enjoy the improved I/O performance it brings to the table. So without further delay, I opted in and upgraded to Win10 2004 and enabled WSL 2. HOWEVER (there is always a "however"), not all things are smoothed out yet at the time of writing. In this post, I am going to write about my experience of setting up WSL 2 for a Django web development workflow.


My .zshrc:

# enabling some built-in features
zstyle ':completion:*' menu select
autoload -U compinit && compinit

# personal aliases
alias mooc="cd /home/xzhan/Development/MOOC"
alias proj="cd /home/xzhan/Development/Projects"
alias pk="cd /home/xzhan/Development/Packages"
alias wk="cd /home/xzhan/Development/Work"
alias da="deactivate"
alias dcu="docker-compose up"
alias dcud="docker-compose up -d"
alias dex="docker-compose exec"
alias dcd="docker-compose down"
alias dcs="docker-compose stop"
alias dcl="docker-compose logs"
alias vim="nvim"
alias ls="lsd"
alias ll="lsd -l"

# added for vscode
alias code="/mnt/c/Users/zhanx/AppData/Local/Programs/'Microsoft VS Code'/bin/code"

# added for miniconda3
export PATH="/home/xzhan/miniconda3/bin:$PATH"

# added for pipenv
eval "$(pipenv --completion)"

# added for rust
export PATH="/home/xzhan/.cargo/bin:$PATH"

# added for homebrew
export PATH="/home/linuxbrew/.linuxbrew/bin:$PATH"

# added for nvm
export NVM_DIR="$([ -z "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME-}" ] && printf %s "${HOME}/.nvm" || printf %s "${XDG_CONFIG_HOME}/nvm")"
[ -s "$NVM_DIR/" ] && \. "$NVM_DIR/"

# added for zsh-history-substring-search
source /home/linuxbrew/.linuxbrew/share/zsh-history-substring-search/zsh-history-substring-search.zsh
bindkey "$terminfo[kcuu1]" history-substring-search-up
bindkey "$terminfo[kcud1]" history-substring-search-down

eval "$(starship init zsh)"
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A few things to pay attention to here:

WSL 2 I/O Performance Catch

WSL 2 has a much improved I/O performance, but only on the Linux partition. As described in this documentation WSL 2 has a much slower performance when performing cross-OS I/O tasks. Outcome include:

  • Unacceptable slow performance with zsh shell prompt/plugins, like oh-my-zsh or starship. I don't know enough about the internal implementation of these projects to identify the direct reason, but the outcome is printing a new line takes over 30s 🙃:

    Slow ZSH with starship

  • Slow startup performance. Sometimes the WSL prompt can take over 15s to start. One way to mitigate this is to exclude the inclusion of Windows PATH, with which I can reduce the startup time down to 1s. This will be elaborated in the next point.

If you are interested you can follow up on the progress at this Github issue. Note that the problem is clearly known and actively being worked on so hold yourself from spam the thread with +1 comments.

Exclude Windows PATH

As mentioned, excluding Windows PATH can bring some nice performance boost. If you are not relying on Windows programs anyways, you can safely exclude it by adding this to /etc/wsl.conf:

appendWindowsPath = False
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"But what about VS Code?! 😱" Don't worry my friend. I have you covered. Notice that we have a special alias on line 22 of the .zshrc file:

alias code="/mnt/c/Users/zhanx/AppData/Local/Programs/'Microsoft VS Code'/bin/code"
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With this alias, we can now use the code command inside WSL 2 as we would in any local shell terminal.

Zsh History Search & Starship

With a ton of experiments, some of which can be seen in this GitHub issue, my zsh with oh-my-zsh was proven to be slow in WSL 2. Slower than I would like, at least. I used to be a big fan as it really helps configure a nice and usable zsh out of the box. However, it includes too many things under the hood which I don't really need. Some of the features I would really like to keep are:

  • Menu-like options when hitting Tab, which is built-in and can be enabled like shown at the beginning of my .zshrc
  • A nice-looking theme. I really like the spaceship theme
  • History search with up arrow key

After searching for a while, I landed on starship, a Rust-powered and spaceship-inspired cross-shell prompt which also works with Powershell (Yay!!🤗), and this nice zsh-history-substring-search plugin. I installed the latter via homebrew. You can configure them just like I did at the end of the .zshrc file.

Typeface & Nerd Font

As you would expect from a spaceship theme user, I like icons and emojis. However, not all emojis look nice in every terminal on every OS. On the other hand, nerd font icons are much are consistent and renders nicer in VS Code's built-in terminal. You can find a preset config from starship.

A nice typeface is also critical to a nice CLI experience. As a diehard Consolas fan, I've always been looking around for an open-source alternative that I can use across all systems. Luckily, that mission was recently accomplished: Code New Roman and its nerd font version CodeNewRoman Nerd Font. Give them a try if you share the love for Consolas!

Python & Node

As you might have noticed, I use miniconda and nvm for managing Python and node/npm versions. You can install them simply by running:

# miniconda
sh ./

# nvm
wget -qO- | bash
# and add the nvm-related scripts to your .zshrc
nvm install --lts
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If you know Anaconda, miniconda is just a stripped-down version of it. I like using it because of its separation from the system Python: I don't need to worry about breaking some system packages when I upgrade my Python installation. Conda, the dependency manager miniconda uses, can also identify packages that need upgrade and resolve conflicts when you bump up the Python version. At the time of writing, miniconda only comes with Python 3.7. However, you can easily upgrade to Python 3.8 by:

conda install python=3.8
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If you want to upgrade, please do this right after installing miniconda as I've experienced some failures with a dozen packages already installed. For my purpose, Django already support Python 3.8 since 2.2.8 so it's safe to make the upgrade.

Web & Database

Here comes the (a bit) more tricky part. IIRC, previously in WSL 1, you can access the host (Windows) database from inside WSL. Due to the architecture change in WSL 2, you are not able to do that out of the box. Here in this section it says:

To access a Windows network application you'll need to use the IP address of your host machine.

You can do so by cat /etc/resolv.conf inside WSL, copy the IP address following "nameserver" and use it in your CLI:

zsh accessing Windows network application
Easy enough for web services. But what about database? Well, here you have two options.

Install Database in WSL

One of the more straightforward option is to install your database server inside your WSL 2. It is just the same as installing your database on any Ubuntu-based distro. As for my project, I use MariaDB and you can find the official instructions here. You will be able to start the database server with sudo service mysql start. The problem comes after the installation: How do I inspect the database with my favorite GUI tools like DataGrip/DBeaver/Sequel Pro from Windows?

First, if you have a database server running on you Windows host, make sure to change either one of the ports your database is running on. Then, bind your WSL 2 database to the address These settings can be applied by adding the following lines to your /etc/mysql/my.cnf:

UPDATE: I just tested with the latest WSL2 and MariaDB and it seems the bind-address= is no longer necessary.

port=3307 # or any port you like
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After editing, make sure to restart the database server by sudo service mysql restart. Now you should be able to access your WSL database via

Accessing Database Running on Windows from WSL

TL;DR I personally don't recommend this approach because it requires much more workaround.

Warning: This approach relies on the IP addresses on both the host and guest machine pointing to each other. As Uzume stated here, WSL 2 acts more like a virtual machine compared to WSL 1. HOWEVER, these IP addresses are NOT fixed! They change on every reboot so you have to reconfigure something every time.

wsl 2 and win10 ip communication

As shown in the graph above, in the current setting, WSL 2 can access Windows application via, which is the IP address in /etc/resolv.conf. By default, Windows share the with WSL 2 and can access network applications running in WSL 2 via<port> as shown above. You may wonder, "Well, what's the use of that in this case and where does it come from?" 🤔

That's a great question. Databases, out of security consideration, do not allow remote access by default. You have to manually grant remote access to specified IP addresses if you want to do so. Let's first try to connect to the MariaDB running on Windows from WSL 2 first and see what will happen:

# Inside WSL 2
mysql -u root \
  -h \ # replace1 with your own IP address in /etc/resolv.conf
  -p windows_db # replace windows_db with your own db name
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At this point, you will likely encounter some error message like this:

# Inside WSL 2
> mysql -u local_pr -h -p windows_db
Enter password:
ERROR 1130 (HY000): Host '' is not allowed to connect to this MariaDB server
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Here we get, the IP address of our WSL 2 virtual machine on Windows. Seeing this error message is actually a good sign as it indicates you can hit the database but just don't have the access right. What you need to do now is to configure your database server for remote access and grant access to your WSL 2's IP address For MariaDB, the instructions can be found here. Following the instructions, we start the MySQL client command prompt, log in and type:

# Inside MySQL Client on Windows
GRANT ALL PRIVILEGES ON windows_db.* TO 'local_pr'@'' IDENTIFIED BY 'my-new-password';
# again, replace the db name, ip address and password to your local ones
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You might need to restart the MariaDB server for it to take effect. If all goes well, you can now access the Windows MariaDB from WSL 2:

# Inside WSL 2
> mysql -u local_pr -h -p local_pr
Enter password:
Reading table information for completion of table and column names
You can turn off this feature to get a quicker startup with -A

Welcome to the MariaDB monitor.  Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MariaDB connection id is 15
Server version: 10.4.12-MariaDB binary distribution

Copyright (c) 2000, 2018, Oracle, MariaDB Corporation Ab and others.

Type 'help;' or '\h' for help. Type '\c' to clear the current input statement.

MariaDB [local_pr]>
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Now you can put the database host info in your web app's settings. For example, in Django's setting file:

    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.mysql',
        'NAME': 'local_pr',
        'USER': 'local_pr',
        'PASSWORD': 'my-new-password',
        'HOST': '',
        'PORT': '3306',
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VS Code

Microsoft really provides great tooling for your development workflow on WSL. No surprice, my editor of choice is VS Code. For remote development using WSL, check out this guide if you haven't. Not everything applies to WSL 2 just yet but it's still a nice guide. What we need most is the Remote - WSL extension. With it installed, we can now go to any working directory, type code ., open up VS Code and start working. Install the extensions you need and enjoy the Linux dev workflow on Windows!


In this post I discussed how to set up WSL 2 for web development (Django and Vue in my case). Aspects covered include setting up zsh without the dependency on oh-my-zsh, installing Python and Node, and setting up the database for web development.

Finally, a big THANK YOU to the awesome folks behind the WSL project! 💖 Thanks for making this possible and I really look forward to the first official release!

I hope you find this post helpful. Thanks for stopping by!

Top comments (10)

quillen profile image

After spending hours on connection to MariaDB from Windows, I still coulndt get it working.
I am using Ubuntu 20.04 LTS distro, WSL2 on Win10 64 bit.

This is what I got from Datagrip:

[08000][-1] Could not connect to address=(host=localhost)(port=3307)(type=master) : Socket fail to connect to host:localhost, port:3307. Connection refused: connect Connection refused: connect.
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I am able to connect to MariaDB from the terminal. I have tried to reinstall/install.
Any ideas how to debug this issue? Thanks!

hymanzhan profile image
Xucong ZHAN • Edited

I cannot guarantee a fix but I know there's a bug in recent WSL2 updates where people cannot connect to localhost/ on startup. People say it's related to Windows fast boot in BIOS but even if I disable it I still hit this error.

As for the possible fix, if you are sure that your MariaDB is running in WSL and you can access from WSL terminal, try wsl --shut-down from PowerShell and restart WSL2 by opening a new WSL2 terminal. I am able to fix my connection error every time.

quillen profile image
Quillen • Edited

Thanks for the help. After trying what you suggested, I still couldn't connect to it. Neither cloud my python application. But I can connecct to MariaDB within terminal.

EDIT: When I use the connecter provided by MariaDB, I can connect to the database from my Python app. But when I use the method described here, I got connection refused error.

Have you ever worked with MariaDB+SQLAlchemy? Love to hear how you work arond with it.

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hymanzhan profile image
Xucong ZHAN • Edited

Just to be clear, is your python app running in WSL or Windows?
Also, did you add the line bind-address= in your /etc/mysql/my.cnf?
I don't know your connection config, but double-check you are using the same host. and localhost is not the same nor always interchangeable.

It's hard to tell what the problem is based on what you described, but I can try and replicate if that's also the case on my machine.

Update: OK I just tried, and it seems that with the latest WSL2 and MariaDB the bind-address= in /etc/mysql/my.cnf is no longer necessary. I can connect to my MariaDB from both WSL and Windows app with sqlalchemy and pymysql.

sqlalchemy to wsl mariadb

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quillen profile image
Quillen • Edited

OK. I think not being able to connect from datagrip and sqlalchemy is related.
MariaDB is running on WSL2 and I am able to connect to it from the terminal. I created admin user with root privilege.

MariaDB [(none)]> select user, host from information_schema.processlist;
| user  | host      |
| admin | localhost |
1 row in set (0.000 sec)

I'd love to provide you with more detail. Here is my my.cnf:

# Port or socket location where to connect
# port = 3307
socket = /run/mysqld/mysqld.sock

# Import all .cnf files from configuration directory
!includedir /etc/mysql/conf.d/
!includedir /etc/mysql/mariadb.conf.d/

I tried both what you described in this blog post and not binding the address. Both not working.
Would you mind share your my.cnf with me?

Here is my complete setup:

Clean uninstall:

sudo dpkg -l | grep mariadb 
 sudo apt-get purge mariadb*


sudo apt update
sudo apt install mariadb-server

Start the service:

sudo service mysql start

Config by following this

sudo mysql_secure_installation

edit /etc/mysql/my.cnf (optional)

port=3307 # or any port you like

Then restart mariaDB:
sudo service mysql restart

doniking profile image

Running mysql on windows will slowdown your wsl 2 app.
I moved mysql from windows to inside the wsl 2, and my app response is increase 10 times.

hymanzhan profile image
Xucong ZHAN

Definitely, and that's to be expected with any local vs remote network access comparison. Network latency is so much higher with the latter.
A simple test, which confirms your number of 10 times faster:
Remote vs Local

bidipeppercrap profile image
Fransisco Wijaya

How can I start mysql automatically on WSL startup?

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hymanzhan profile image
Xucong ZHAN • Edited

I am afraid I don't have the best answer. The WSL distros aren't managed by systemd so normal ways of sudo systemctl enable xxx.service won't work. You can try adding sh -c "sudo service mysql start" at the end of .zshrc or .bashrc file.

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bidipeppercrap profile image
Fransisco Wijaya