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How to fix “An unexpected error was encountered while executing a WSL command” in Docker Desktop

4 min read

If you’re using Docker Desktop for Windows and you’re seeing the error message "Docker Desktop Unexpected WSL error," it means that there’s a problem with Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL).

WSL is a feature that allows you to run Linux distributions on Windows. Docker Desktop relies on WSL to run Linux containers. So if WSL is not working properly, Docker Desktop will not be able to start.

There are a few things you can try to fix this error:

Workaround #1 – Resetting the Winsock

The netsh winsock reset command is used to reset the Winsock catalog. The Winsock catalog is a database that stores information about the network protocols that are installed on your computer. When you reset the Winsock catalog, you are essentially telling your computer to forget about all of the network protocols that it knows about and to reload them from scratch.

This can be helpful if you are having problems with your network connection. For example, if you are unable to connect to the internet, or if you are experiencing frequent connection drops, resetting the Winsock catalog may fix the problem.

To reset the Winsock catalog, follow these steps:

  • Open a command prompt as an administrator.
  • Type the following command and press Enter:
netsh winsock reset
  • Restart your computer.

Once your computer has restarted, the Winsock catalog will be reset and you should be able to connect to the internet again.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when resetting the Winsock catalog:

  • Resetting the Winsock catalog will not delete any of your network settings.
  • Resetting the Winsock catalog may cause some network applications to stop working. If this happens, you will need to restart the applications.
  • Resetting the Winsock catalog is a relatively safe operation, but it is always a good idea to back up your computer before making any major changes

Workaround #2 – Resetting WSL

The wsl --update command is used to update the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) kernel. The WSL kernel is the software that allows Linux distributions to run on Windows. Updating the WSL kernel can help to fix bugs and improve performance.

To update the WSL kernel, follow these steps:

  • Open a command prompt as an administrator.
  • Type the following command and press Enter:
wsl --update

The wsl –update command will download and install the latest version of the WSL kernel. Once the installation is complete, you will need to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when updating the WSL kernel:

  • The wsl –update command will not affect your existing WSL distributions.
  • You can also update the WSL kernel by downloading and installing the latest version of the WSL kernel manually.

Unregistering WSL

The wsl --unregister command is used to unregister a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distribution. This means that the distribution will be removed from your computer and you will no longer be able to use it.

To unregister a WSL distribution, follow these steps:

  • Open a command prompt as an administrator.
  • Type the following command and press Enter:
wsl --unregister docker-desktop

Replace with the name of the distribution you want to unregister. You can find the names of your distributions by running the following command:

wsl -l

Once you have unregistered the distribution, you will need to restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when unregistering a WSL distribution:

  • Unregistering a WSL distribution will delete all of the data associated with that distribution, including your files, settings, and applications.
  • If you want to unregister a distribution that you have restored from a backup, you will need to use the wsl –set-version command to set the distribution to its original version before unregistering it.

Workaround #3 – Reinstalling Docker Desktop

If you’ve tried all of the above and you’re still getting the error, you can try reinstalling Docker Desktop. If you’re still having trouble, you can try searching for help online or contacting Docker support.

Workaround #4: Enabling the Hypervisor Launch

The hypervisor is a software layer that allows multiple operating systems to run on a single computer. By enabling hypervisor launch, you are allowing your computer to boot into a hypervisor environment. The bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype Auto command enables hypervisor launch in your boot configuration.

Here are some of the benefits of enabling hypervisor launch:

  • Increased security: Hypervisors can help to improve security by isolating each operating system from the others. This can help to prevent malware from spreading from one operating system to another.
  • Improved performance: Hypervisors can help to improve performance by allowing multiple operating systems to share hardware resources. This can be helpful if you are running multiple resource-intensive applications.
  • Flexibility: Hypervisors can provide flexibility by allowing you to run different operating systems on the same computer. This can be helpful if you need to run applications that are not compatible with your primary operating system.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to enabling hypervisor launch:

  • Increased complexity: Hypervisors can add complexity to your system. This can make it more difficult to troubleshoot problems.
  • Performance overhead: Hypervisors can add some overhead to the system. This can make your computer run slightly slower.

Here are the steps on how to make sure that the hypervisor launch is enabled in your boot configuration:

  • Open an elevated PowerShell prompt.
  • Run the following command:
bcdedit /enum | findstr -i hypervisorlaunchtype+

If you see hypervisorlaunchtype Off, then the hypervisor is disabled.
To enable it, run the following command:

bcdedit /set hypervisorlaunchtype Auto
  • Restart your computer.

The hypervisor launch is now enabled in your boot configuration. You can verify this by running the bcdedit /enum command again and looking for the hypervisorlaunchtype entry. It should now be set to Auto.

Workaround #5 – Disabling Legacy console in CMD

Disabling Legacy Console has several benefits:

  • It can improve performance by reducing the amount of memory that Command Prompt uses.
  • It can improve security by making it more difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities in Legacy Console.
  • It can improve compatibility with newer versions of Windows.

Follow the steps to disable Legacy console in CMD:

  • Open Command Prompt as Admin
  • Right-click the title bar and select Properties.
  • Choose the first tab, Options.
  • Uncheck the box at the bottom of the page describing Use Legacy Console.
  • Press OK.

Tips for troubleshooting Docker Desktop WSL errors

Here are some additional tips for troubleshooting Docker Desktop WSL errors:

  • Make sure that you have the latest version of Docker Desktop installed.
  • Make sure that WSL is enabled in Windows Features.
  • Make sure that you have enough free disk space on your C drive.
  • Try running Docker Desktop as an administrator.
  • Try disabling any antivirus or firewall software that you’re using.
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Ajeet Raina Ajeet Singh Raina is a former Docker Captain, Community Leader and Arm Ambassador. He is a founder of Collabnix blogging site and has authored more than 570+ blogs on Docker, Kubernetes and Cloud-Native Technology. He runs a community Slack of 8900+ members and discord server close to 2200+ members. You can follow him on Twitter(@ajeetsraina).

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