ECI support for WSL

Prior to Docker Desktop 4.20, Enhanced Container Isolation (ECI) on Windows hosts was only supported when Docker Desktop was configured to use Hyper-V to create the Docker Desktop Linux VM. ECI was not supported when Docker Desktop was configured to use Windows Subsystem for Linux (aka WSL).

Starting with Docker Desktop 4.20, ECI is supported when Docker Desktop is configured to use either Hyper-V or WSL version 2.


Docker Desktop requires WSL 2 version or later. To get the current version of WSL on your host, type wsl --version. If the command fails or if it returns a version number prior to, update WSL to the latest version by typing wsl --update in a Windows command or PowerShell terminal.

Note,however, that ECI on WSL is not as secure as on Hyper-V because:

  • While ECI on WSL still hardens containers so that malicious workloads can't easily breach Docker Desktop's Linux VM, ECI on WSL can't prevent Docker Desktop users from breaching the Docker Desktop Linux VM. Such users can trivially access that VM (as root) with the wsl -d docker-desktop command, and use that access to modify Docker Engine settings inside the VM. This gives Docker Desktop users control of the Docker Desktop VM and allows them to bypass Docker Desktop configs set by admins via the settings-management feature. In contrast, ECI on Hyper-V does not allow Docker Desktop users to breach the Docker Desktop Linux VM.

  • With WSL 2, all WSL 2 distros on the same Windows host share the same instance of the Linux kernel. As a result, Docker Desktop can't ensure the integrity of the kernel in the Docker Desktop Linux VM since another WSL 2 distro could modify shared kernel settings. In contrast, when using Hyper-V, the Docker Desktop Linux VM has a dedicated kernel that is solely under the control of Docker Desktop.

The table below summarizes this.

Security FeatureECI on WSLECI on Hyper-VComment
Strongly secure containersYesYesMakes it harder for malicious container workloads to breach the Docker Desktop Linux VM and host.
Docker Desktop Linux VM protected from user accessNoYesOn WSL, users can access Docker Engine directly or bypass Docker Desktop security settings.
Docker Desktop Linux VM has a dedicated kernelNoYesOn WSL, Docker Desktop can't guarantee the integrity of kernel level configs.

In general, using ECI with Hyper-V is more secure than with WSL 2. But WSL 2 offers advantages for performance and resource utilization on the host machine, and it's an excellent way for users to run their favorite Linux distro on Windows hosts and access Docker from within (see Docker Desktop's WSL distro integration feature, enabled via the Dashboard's Settings > Resources > WSL Integration).

Docker Build and Buildx have some restrictions

With ECI enabled, Docker build --network=host and Docker Buildx entitlements (, security.insecure) are not allowed. Builds that require these won't work properly.

Kubernetes pods are not yet protected

Kubernetes pods are not yet protected by ECI. A malicious or privileged pod can compromise the Docker Desktop Linux VM and bypass security controls.

Extension containers are not yet protected

Extension containers are also not yet protected by ECI. Ensure you extension containers come from trusted entities to avoid issues.

Docker Desktop dev environments are not yet protected

Containers launched by the Docker Desktop Dev Environments feature are not yet protected either. We expect to improve on this in future versions of Docker Desktop.

Use in production

In general users should not experience differences between running a container in Docker Desktop with ECI enabled, which uses the Sysbox runtime, and running that same container in production, through the standard OCI runc runtime.

However in some cases, typically when running advanced or privileged workloads in containers, users may experience some differences. In particular, the container may run with ECI but not with runc, or vice-versa.