Set Windows Terminal to use your user HOME directory

Cross-posted from wsl.tips/tips/windows-terminal-start-directory

Windows Terminal is the new Terminal experience from the Windows team. It’s open source and iterating quickly. As a WSL user, a really nice feature is that it auto-detects the WSL distros you have installed.

By default, when you launch Windows Terminal for a WSL distro it puts you in the /mnt/... path for your Windows user profile (e.g. /mnt/c/Users/stuart).

As this post by Simon Ferquel suggests: “Fully embrace WSL2”! In other words, use the file system in your WSL distro. When you embrace this mindset, having Windows Terminal put you in a mounted Windows path is less helpful - I like to have it default to my HOME directory for the distro.

Fear not! This can be configured in the Windows Terminal settings. Fire up Windows Terminal and press Ctrl+, to open the JSON settings. For each profile you can set a startingDirectory property. There are two things to bear in mind for this property:

  1. The path needs to be a Windows path - so for your HOME folder in WSL you need to use the \\wsl$\... file share
  2. Backslashes need to be escaped, so this becomes \\\\wsl$\\...

To make it easy to get this path you can run the following command from your distro. This will convert the WSL HOME folder path to \\wsl$\... form, escape the backslashes and then pop the result on the clipboard ready for you to paste into your terminal settings. This uses the handy wslpath tool from the WSL Utilities collection by Patrick Wu.

wslpath -w ~ | sed 's/\\/\\\\/g' | clip.exe

Here’s an example of the finished result:

"profiles": {
    "defaults": {
        // Put settings here that you want to apply to all profiles.
        // "fontFace": "OpenDyslexicMono",
        // "fontSize": 16
    },
    "list": [
        {
            "guid": "{07b52e3e-de2c-5db4-bd2d-ba144ed6c273}",
            "hidden": false,
            "name": "Ubuntu-20.04",
            "source": "Windows.Terminal.Wsl",
            "fontFace": "Cascadia Mono PL",
            "startingDirectory": "\\\\wsl$\\Ubuntu-20.04\\home\\stuart"
        },

Enjoy!

P.S. If you liked this, you may also like my book “WSL 2: Tips, Tricks and Techniques” which covers tips for working with WSL 2, Windows Terminal, VS Code dev containers and more https://wsl.tips/book :-)