Windows 11 Subsystem for Android is finally getting a much-needed update

 woman using her mobile phone while working with laptop sitting on the floor at home.
(Image credit: Josep Suria / Shutterstock)

Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), which has been around since 2022, will finally be able to access Windows 11 folders like Documents and Pictures in an upcoming update.

The concept behind WSA is that you can run Android apps in Windows natively but, in practice, it’s rather counterintuitive thanks to the fact that you can’t easily download picture or video files from the PC to an Android social media app, or vice versa. But now, thanks to a new update coming first to the Windows Insider preview program, before rolling out to all users in a future Windows 11 update, WSA will be able to access Documents and Pictures through file sharing with the OS.

File Sharing, according to Liliputing, will be enabled by default once the update drops, but you can turn it off via the WSA Settings app. Access to those folders is limited, as apps will need to request permission before accessing folders for security reasons. 

There’s also the fact that the feature doesn’t have full access to every folder in your PC, only the ones tied to a user profile like Documents, Pictures, Videos, and Downloads. That means the new File Sharing feature for WSA doesn’t have access to these files:

  • Windows system folders like Program Files
  • External drives
  • Other users’ folders
  • Hidden files or folders
  • Executable files (like .exe files)

Why use Windows 11 Subsystem for Android? 

Before Windows 11 Subsystem for Android, there was Windows Subsystem for Linux, which became publicly available in November 2022. According to Microsoft, this allowed for developers to use “their favorite laptop for programming to run a GNU/Linux environment without the overheads of a traditional virtual machine or dualboot setup.”

But while it makes sense for there to be a subsystem for one computer operating system to run on a different one, running Android on PC seems a bit pointless. Why would a user want to run an Android app on their Windows PC, when they can simply use the more fleshed-out desktop version instead?

File sharing will probably be the only reason for regular users to actually make use of WSA, as being able to share picture and video files between phone and PC is an incredibly useful feature. Otherwise, there isn’t a real purpose for anyone but developers to need this program.

Maybe more updates like File Sharing will convince me otherwise but for now, WSA feels like a feature with only a narrow focus — for devs to test out Android apps in Windows without having to use an emulator.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.