How to Run Linux Commands on Windows 10

Can I run Linux commands on Windows? Cygwin is too heavy, Git for Windows is too light, freeware MSYS2 is a better choice

Free Download (Windows XP above)

Download msys2-x86_64-YYYYMMDD.exe version if you have 64 bit Computer, otherwise select msys2-i686-YYYYMMDD.exe

I installed it on Windows 10, so I chose the x86_64 version

After downloading, I will set up the mirror site of MSYS2 in C:\msys64\etc\pacman.d directory because there are mirrors of MSYS2 near my location, you can usually skip this step

Install MSYS2 following the guide at the download page

For the 64 bit version, the default location of the MSYS2 installation is C:\msys64

Basic usage of pacman (package manager for MSYS2)

Generally, Linux commands have some operations and options, each operation/option has a shorter version and a longer version

pacman -Syu, S is a shorter versions of a operation, y and u are shorter versions of two options. When you first saw it, did you know what it meant? Bad for beginners!

The best tutorial is that no tutorial is needed, the command with the same effect but a longer version is pacman --sync --refresh --sysupgrade we can directly guess what it means

Tutorials on the web should always show the long version of commands/operations, while one can still use the short version at home

  • Help for pacman:

    $ pacman --help
    usage:  pacman <operation> [...]
        pacman {-h --help}
        pacman {-V --version}
        pacman {-D --database} <options> <package(s)>
        pacman {-F --files}    [options] [package(s)]
        pacman {-Q --query}    [options] [package(s)]
        pacman {-R --remove}   [options] <package(s)>
        pacman {-S --sync}     [options] [package(s)]
        pacman {-T --deptest}  [options] [package(s)]
        pacman {-U --upgrade}  [options] <file(s)>
    use 'pacman {-h --help}' with an operation for available options
  • Help for --sync operation:

    $ pacman --help --sync
    usage:  pacman {-S --sync} [options] [package(s)]
      -b, --dbpath <path>  set an alternate database location
      -c, --clean          remove old packages from cache directory (-cc for all)
      -d, --nodeps         skip dependency version checks (-dd to skip all checks)
      -g, --groups         view all members of a package group
                           (-gg to view all groups and members)
      -i, --info           view package information (-ii for extended information)
      -l, --list <repo>    view a list of packages in a repo
      -p, --print          print the targets instead of performing the operation
      -q, --quiet          show less information for query and search
      -r, --root <path>    set an alternate installation root
      -s, --search <regex> search remote repositories for matching strings
      -u, --sysupgrade     upgrade installed packages (-uu enables downgrades)
      -v, --verbose        be verbose
      -w, --downloadonly   download packages but do not install/upgrade anything
      -y, --refresh        download fresh package databases from the server
                           (-yy to force a refresh even if up to date)
          --arch <arch>    set an alternate architecture
          --asdeps         install packages as non-explicitly installed
          --asexplicit     install packages as explicitly installed
          --assume-installed <package=version>
                           add a virtual package to satisfy dependencies
          --cachedir <dir> set an alternate package cache location
          --color <when>   colorize the output
          --config <path>  set an alternate configuration file
          --confirm        always ask for confirmation
          --dbonly         only modify database entries, not package files
          --debug          display debug messages
                           use relaxed timeouts for download
          --gpgdir <path>  set an alternate home directory for GnuPG
          --hookdir <dir>  set an alternate hook location
          --ignore <pkg>   ignore a package upgrade (can be used more than once)
          --ignoregroup <grp>
                           ignore a group upgrade (can be used more than once)
          --logfile <path> set an alternate log file
          --needed         do not reinstall up to date packages
          --noconfirm      do not ask for any confirmation
          --noprogressbar  do not show a progress bar when downloading files
          --noscriptlet    do not execute the install scriptlet if one exists
          --overwrite <path>
                           overwrite conflicting files (can be used more than once)
          --print-format <string>
                           specify how the targets should be printed
          --sysroot        operate on a mounted guest system (root-only)

How to start a program on Windows 10

  1. Press the Windows key
  2. Then enter the program name you are searching for, here is msys
  3. Press the up or down arrow key to select the best match (if needed), press Enter to start the selected program

Windows 10 how to start a installed program

Install new software via package manager pacman

After starting MSYS2, enter the command:

pacman --sync tar openssh unzip

MSYS2 instal packages using pacman

MSYS2 Install MinGW32 or MinGW64

Search for gcc (part of mingw)

$ pacman --sync --search gcc

MSYS2 search package mingw

For installing MinGW32:

 $ pacman --sync mingw-w64-i686-gcc

For installing MinGW64:

 $ pacman --sync mingw-w64-x86_64-gcc

I (King Eca) have installed MinGW32 because I want to build software that can run on 32-bit Windows systems. Of course you can install both MinGW32 and MinGW64

pacman List installed packages:

$ pacman --query

pacman search an installed package:

$ pacman cd --query --search ssh

Adding open MSYS Bash here to right-click context menu on Windows

.reg file:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

; Created by: King Eca
; Created on: 2019-12-17
; Tutorial: ; Tutorial:

@="Open Msys Bash Here"

@="C:\\msys64\\msys2_shell.cmd -msys -here -where \"%V/\""

@="Open Msys Bash Here"

@="C:\\msys64\\msys2_shell.cmd -msys -here -where \"%V/\""
  • If you have installed MSYS2 to c:\msys64 like me, you can download Open Msys bash here reg file and...

  • Save the .reg file to your desktop

  • Double click/tap on the downloaded .reg file to merge it

  • When prompted, click/tap on Run, Yes (User Account Control), Yes(Registry Editor), and OK(Registry Editor) to approve the merge

  • You can now delete the downloaded .reg file if you like

  • Download Remove Open Msys bash here reg file if you want to remove the right-click context menu

Right-click context menu of 'Open Msys Bash here'

For the meaning of the options -msys, -here and -where, you can check the file C:\msys64\msys2_shell.cmd for details

Make the integrated shell of Visual Studio Code to MSYS2 Bash

I installed Git for Windows before and selected Git Bash as the default shell for VS Code, here is my user settings.json:

    "files.autoSave": "afterDelay",
    "files.eol": "\n"
    "": "C:\\Program Files\\Git\\bin\\bash.exe"

Now I uninstalled git for Windows and installed MSYS2, and my settings.json changed to (base on UniformSoup's post and Make the integrated shell of Visual Studio Code to bash of MSYS2 ) :

        "path": "C:/msys64/usr/bin/bash.exe",
            "CHERE_INVOKING": "1",
            "MSYSTEM": "MSYS",
            "PATH": "/usr/bin;/mingw64/bin;${env:PATH}"
        "color": "terminal.ansiMagenta"
"": "MSYS",

"": [
"terminal.integrated.cursorStyle": "line",

Available values for MSYSTEM are: MSYS, MINGW32 or MINGW64, you can check the file C:\msys64\msys2_shell.cmd for details

How to set PATH environment for MSYS2

When you start MSYS bash, you are in the ~ directory, what is ~

~ is the a abbreviation of your home directory, we can enter pwd to print current working directory, it should like /home/ (Replace with your name)

It seems better to put our files in the ~ directory, because we can quickly switch to it via cd ~/dir

But your home directory in MSYS2 is different from your home in Windows. ~ in MSYS2 is C:\msys64\home\ in Windows, and your home directory in Windows 10 is C:\Users\

Some Windows software place its binaries in your Windows home directory, for example, the package manager for the Rust programming language places binaries in the C:\Users\\.cargo\bin directory

If we want to call the binaries placed in the C:\Users\\.cargo\bin directory from MSYS2, we need to add C:\Users\\.cargo\bin to the PATH environment of MSYS2

let's print the default PATH of MSYS2:

$ echo $PATH

We add our custom path to ~/.bashrc (Not ~/.profile)

~ $ vim ./.bashrc

Edit PATH environment variable of MSYS2

Check the result:

~ $ source ./.bashrc
~ $ echo $PATH

Adding MSYS2 binaries to Windows PATH

If you want to call MSYS2 binaries from outside of MSYS2 bash, you need to add them to the Windows PATH environment variable

  • Press Windows key on Windows 10
  • Enter envi
  • Select Edit the system environment variables then press Enter key
  • Click on the Environment Variable button
  • Double click on the Path Variable, Click New, add values (Fore reference only):
    • C:\msys64\usr\bin
    • C:\msys64\usr\local\bin
    • C:\msys64\mingw32\bin

Some software is installed in the C:\Users\ directory by default, and we can link them in the MSYS2' s home director for quick access

First, Add Shift + Right Click "Open command window here as administrator" Context Menu

Open C:\msys64\home\ (Replace with your name) In Explorer, Shift + Right-Click in the folder, select Open command window here as administrator:

Windows 10 right-click context menu: Open command window here as administrator


mklink /J Dropbox C:\Users\\Dropbox

Windows 10 mklink directory junction

Now we can:

  • cd ~/Dropbox to quickly access Dropbox folder
  • And start . to open the Dropbox folder from MSYS2 bash in Explorer

Another way is to define a command in ~/.bashrc file, e.g. alias ehc='cd /c/Users/' and then use ehc to change the current directory to Dropbox folder

MSYS2 define custom commands in bashrc to change current directory quickly

Note that you can safely delete a directory of the link type, but if you delete a file under that directory, the actual file will also be deleted. Therefor, if MSYS2 is no longer needed, please manually delete the directory of the link type before uninstalling MSYS2 to avoid accidental data loss

Usually we keep important files (for example ssh config file) in the cloud such as OneDrive or Dropbox, and link them to the folders that need them

~ $ mkdir .ssh
cd .ssh

# Open .ssh folder in Windows Explorer

Then Shift + right-click in the folder, select Open command window here as administrator

mklink config C:\path\to\your\clould\ssh\config

Enable color for ls command

Search for a line in the ~/.bashrc file containing the world color and uncomment the line by removing the character # at the beginning of the line

Enable Color for pacman

Find #color in /etc/pacman.conf and replace with color


2019-12-19 King Eca