Windows is powerful, but it is not well suited for application development and deployment. Container platforms such as Docker make it easy to develop and scale cross-platform applications. Read on to learn how you can get started with Docker on Windows 10 and 11.
What is Docker?
Docker is an open-source platform that allows developers to efficiently build, deploy, and run their applications within a single container. All dependencies are bundled so that your project can be easily deployed in any environment.
Docker is popular among many containerization platforms because it is reliable, functional, and highly scalable. It runs on Docker Engine, an essential DevOps tool that provides a clean and lightweight environment for testing and deployment. Docker is not a virtual machine; It’s a container—it virtualizes only the operating system and not the underlying hardware.
Still, if you want to try something else, these are some great Docker alternatives.
On Windows 10 and 11, you can access Docker via Docker Desktop and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). Docker Desktop is available on Windows, macOS, and Linux, and is known to accelerate productivity by simplifying the process of configuring complex application environments.
But if you prefer to containerize your application via the command line interface (CLI) instead, you can use WSL 2 on Windows 10 and 11 or Linux Terminal.
A simple example to understand Docker comprehensively is to imagine a web application with a front-end user interface, a back-end server, and a database.
Through Docker, you can separate the three modules with their dependencies into separate containers; Your application can be developed and deployed on any platform. If you want to increase the capacity of a single module (eg backend server), you can scale it directly without affecting other modules.
Why should you use Docker?
Many developers rely on Docker because they can package application configuration and dependencies into a single container. This can then be executed using a single Docker image. You can use Docker Hub to download Docker images for thousands of publicly hosted applications, including Apache, Tomahawk, Ubuntu, and more.
Because Docker containers are robust, you can also configure them to host your servers; nginx docker containers are commonly used as web servers. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, Docker makes scaling and scaling your applications incredibly convenient.
This is a significant advantage over traditional virtual machines in a DevOps framework. Container orchestration services such as Kubernetes (K8s) can also help you manage multiple Docker containers efficiently.
If you want to try out any of these features – especially running Linux distros smoothly – you can check out our guide on running Ubuntu as a Docker container.
What is Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)?
Windows Subsystem for Linux lets Windows users run Linux distributions such as Ubuntu and Kali on Windows without having to dual-boot or configure a dedicated virtual machine. Windows users can directly access Linux command-line tools, applications, and utilities without additional installation overhead.
Initially launched alongside Windows 10, the latest version—WSL 2—offers greater stability and power. As a developer, you can benefit from WSL by developing cross-platform applications without worrying about dedicated hardware or leaving the Windows ecosystem.
How to Install Docker with Docker Desktop on Windows
You can use Docker Desktop as a standalone application or integrate it with Windows Subsystem for Linux for better performance and efficient resource consumption. We’ll cover both methods in the upcoming sections.
You can now download a sample image from Docker Hub to test the container.
How to Enable WSL 2 on Windows
Before installing Docker via WSL 2, you must first install WSL 2.
Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 is available for users running Windows 10 (build 19041 and higher) and Windows 11. If you’re running an older version of Windows 10, you’ll need to install it manually.
Fortunately, Microsoft makes it easy to install and set up a Linux distro with this tool.
Once you have securely configured WSL 2 on Windows 10 or 11, you can install Docker.
How to install Docker with WSL 2 backend on Windows
If you integrate Docker Desktop to use WSL 2 as its backend, you can take advantage of improved performance from your containers. WSL 2 provides efficient boot-up and optimized resource consumption by using dynamic memory allocation; These features allow you to start Docker containers quite quickly.
For optimal performance on Windows, we recommend installing Docker with Docker Desktop integrated with WSL 2.