Windows 10 vs. Windows WSL vs. Linux - Ubuntu / openSUSE / Debian / Clear Linux
Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 28 March 2018. Page 1 of 6. 13 Comments

With Debian having been added to the Microsoft Store earlier this month for running Debian 9 on Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) plus in wanting to do some fresh updates prior to Microsoft shipping their Spring Creators Update, here are some fresh benchmarks of various Linux distributions and their raw performance, the current major Linux distributions available on WSL, and then also the native Windows 10 performance in the various supported tests.

As the Spring Creators Update to Windows 10 is said to be shipping in April, we'll certainly be benchmarking that in looking for any performance improvements around WSL -- particularly I/O -- but until then here is a fresh look where things stand today. This round of testing was done with an Intel Core i7 8700K Coffee Lake processor running at stock speeds, an ASUS PRIME Z370-A motherboard, 2 x 8GB DDR4-3000 Corsair memory, Intel UHD Graphics 630, and a Samsung 950 PRO 256GB NVMe SSD. All of the hardware remained the same throughout testing.

The various operating system configurations tested included:

Clear Linux 21510 - Using Intel's own Linux distribution for getting a reference result of a highly-tuned out-of-the-box Linux distribution that for many workloads tends to perform the fastest out of all the operating systems we benchmark. This rolling-release Linux distribution is currently using the Linux 4.15 kernel, GCC 7.3.0, and an EXT4 file-system by default. Besides its default CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS tuning, Clear Linux is defaulting to the performance governor of P-State, making use of the Kyber I/O scheduler with NVMe SSDs where as others default to "none", and other tuning and optimized package configurations.

Debian 9.4 - The latest stable release of Debian 9 with the Linux 4.9 kernel, GCC 6.3.0, and an EXT4 file-system. This will be our first time trying out Debian 9 on Windows 10 WSL so should be interesting to see.

OpenSUSE 42.3 Leap - The latest stable release of openSUSE Leap for seeing how it's currently running up against Windows Subsystem for Linux. OpenSUSE 42.3 by default makes use of the Linux 4.4 kernel, GCC 4.8.5 compiler, XFS + Btrfs, etc. This summer will bring openSUSE 15 so it will be exciting to run more benchmarks of that when its release approaches.

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS - The current Long-Term Support release of Ubuntu since that's what is also used by Windows Subsystem for Linux. Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS has the Linux 4.13 kernel, GCC 5.4.0, and an EXT4 file-system by default.

Windows 10 Pro Build 16299 - The latest Windows 10 release with updates as of the time of testing.

Debian 9 On WSL - The Debian GNU/Linux 9 release from the Microsoft Store and tested on Windows 10 Pro Build 16299.

OpenSUSE 42.3 On WSL - Ditto the above, but with obtaining openSUSE Leap from the Microsoft Store.

Ubuntu 16.04 LTS On WSL - Ditto the above, but with using Ubuntu from the Microsoft Store.

A variety of benchmarks were run for this comparison, including some network tests and other test profiles we haven't tried previously in our WSL tests. Also new are the Windows 10 native benchmark results thanks to the new and ongoing Phoronix Test Suite for Windows support. All of these benchmarks were run in a fully-automated and standardized manner using the open-source, cross-platform Phoronix Test Suite benchmarking software.

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