Laravel on WSL and VS Code

Author by Jakub Misek
11 minutes
Laravel on WSL and VS Code

Visual Studio Code and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL): those represent a great couple for developing a PHP application such as Laravel inside a virtual Linux environment. This tutorial describes installation of WSL (version 2) on Windows 10, setting up PHP with debugging capabilities in there, creating a Laravel project, and getting your VS Code ready to debug the PHP project in WSL.

Windows Subsystem for Linux

For the complete documentation of WSL, visit

Before you begin, ensure your computer has a CPU Virtualization support enabled in your BIOS. Sometimes it is disabled by default.

Enabling WSL

Make sure you have installed the following Windows Features:

  • Virtual Machine Platform
  • Windows Subsystem for Linux

windows features

You can install them either from the Turn Windows features on or off control panel (as depicted on the screenshot above), or using the following PowerShell (opened as Administrator) commands:

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart

After installing the features, restart your computer.


Now download and install the WSL 2 update package using the installer at WSL2 update for x64 machines.

And finally, open PowerShell and set your WSL version to 2 by default:

wsl --set-default-version 2

Using WSL version 2 may be optional, but I've encountered a few issues with just WSL 1.

Installing Ubuntu on WSL

Ubuntu in Windows Store

Ubuntu itself is installed from the Microsoft Store app. Open Microsoft Store, search for Ubuntu, and click Get and Install.

After installing the container, Launch the application. A new terminal window will appear, finishing initialization and waiting for you to fill in a new user name and password.

Installing, this may take a few minutes...
Please create a default UNIX user account. The username does not need to match your Windows username.
For more information visit:
Enter new UNIX username:
New password:
Retype new password:

Installation successful!

Prepare your VS Code

Visual Studio Code is a powerful editor for developers. One of its features is that you can develop projects on a remote machine (in our case in a WSL container). To develop PHP code on WSL, install at least those two extensions:

Required VSCode Extensions

Open Ubuntu in WSL

Now you have VSCode, WSL, and Ubuntu installed and ready. Connect the VSCode to the your Ubuntu container. Press F1 to bring the command palette, and run the command Remote-WSL: New WSL Windows using Distro...,

New WSL Windows using Distro

Choose the Ubuntu from the list, and confirm.

Ubuntu from the list

A new VSCode window will open. From now on, the VSCode workspace is actually your user folder in the virtual environment, and all the commands and all the code run in Linux. To complete the setup of VSCode on Ubuntu, explicitly install VSCode extensions in WSL:

PHP Tools in WSL

Open Terminal

VSCode Terminal on WSL

The last step is to open VSCode terminal (Ctrl+`) and start typing commands ...

Install PHP+Xdebug

In the terminal window, enter the following two commands - to update the apt cache and install PHP with a set of extensions, including Xdebug!

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install -y git php7.4 php7.4-curl php7.4-xml php7.4-zip php7.4-mbstring php7.4-gd php7.4-sqlite3 php7.4-mysql php7.4-xdebug

You can verify the installation by running the PHP command php -version:

php version

Install Composer

To create a new Laravel project, it will be useful to have Composer tool installed globally. Follow the official instructions to download and install the tool in your Ubuntu container, and move the tool to global path:

php -r "copy('', 'composer-setup.php');"
php composer-setup.php
php -r "unlink('composer-setup.php');"
sudo mv composer.phar /usr/local/bin/composer

The Laravel Project

Now we are ready to create some PHP, edit it, run and debug the code, etc. In this part, we'll create a new default Laravel project using Composer.

composer create-project laravel/laravel example-app

This command effectively creates a sub-folder example-app containing the entire Laravel and a default empty project in it. You might notice, VSCode has still no folder opened. Click Open Folder and choose example-app from the list.

VSCode Open Folder on WSL

Now you're working inside the container's example-app folder, PHP Tools extension activates for the first time, downloads an additional dependencies, and you're ready to setup run & debug.

VSCode WSL PHP Tools

Ignore vendor problems (Optional)

You'll get reported several problems in vendor sub-folder as there are known typos and mismatches in original PHPDoc comments. Go to VSCode's settings.json file (File / Preferences / Settings, search for php problems, and click Edit in settings.json). Copy the following json in there:

  "php.problems.exclude":   {
      "vendor": true

Run & Debug

PHP Tools will serve as a built-in server, debugger, and editor, all in one. Create launch configuration for the Laravel as described below, and run the project.


create launch configuration

In order to run and debug the project, create launch.json configuration first, as on the picture above. Go to Run and Debug tab, click Create launch.json file, and choose PHP (Xdebug).

launch artisan public

In the newly create file, change argument "." to "public", as Laravel expects the root of the server to be the ./public sub-folder. Optionally, you can change the web server port number in here as well (change localhost:8000).


Press F5 (Run / Start Debugging) to start the built-in web server and initiate debug. You'll get welcomed by a first (handled) exception which is normal. The debugger is just set, by default, to break on any error or exception, even it is handled.

vscode exception

Uncheck Everything, and check Errors only if you wish.