How to Install Kali Linux

Get a penetration testing platform up and running

Kali Linux Desktop

APLIX-45 / Wikimedia

Penetration Testing is a way to test your desktop and servers for vulnerabilities. There are a number of tools that can accomplish this task, some of which are single-purpose and some that include a multitude of tools. 

And then there are entire distributions dedicated to the testing of vulnerabilities (and more). Kali Linux is one such distribution. With this Linux platform you have everything necessary for:

  • Information gathering
  • Vulnerability analysis
  • Wireless attacks testing
  • Exploitation testing
  • Stress testing
  • Forensics tools
  • Tools to test for sniffing and spoofing
  • Password attack testing
  • Tools for reverse engineering
  • And much more

But how do you get this powerhouse penetration testing platform installed? Let’s find out.

Download Kali Linux ISO

The first thing you must do is download the Kali Linux ISO image. Make sure to download the image that suits your computer's architecture (i.e., 32- or 64-bit). Once you have the file downloaded, you’ll need to burn the image onto a USB flash drive. Make sure you have a flash drive with at least 8GB of available free space (otherwise you run the risk of not having enough room to house the entire ISO). Do not use a USB drive with data you want to keep, as it will get deleted during the flashing of the image.

For instructions on burning an ISO image read, “How to burn an ISO to USB in Linux.” 

Install Kali

With the image burned to a flash drive, insert it into the target computer, and boot the machine. Depending on the make and model of your computer, you might need to open the boot menu and instruct the system to boot from the USB device. 

Find out how to boot from a USB drive from “How to Boot From a USB Device.” 

Once booted, here are the steps for installing Kali Linux:

  1. At the first screen, select Graphical install.

    Screenshot of the Kali Linux greeter.
  2. Select your language of choice and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the language selection window.
  3. Select your location and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the location selection window.
  4. Select your keyboard configuration and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the keyboard selection window.
  5. Kali will automatically detect and configure the network interface. When the network configuration is complete, type a hostname (or leave the default) and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the hostname configuration window.
  6. At the domain name section, leave it blank and click Continue. If you are using this on your personal network, you can type anything (such as test.lan or mynetwork.local) or just leave it blank.

    Screenshot of the domain name configuration window.
  7. Type (and verify) a password for the root (admin) user and click Continue.

    Screenshot of configuring the root password.
  8. Select your timezone and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the timezone configuration.
  9. Select Guided - use entire disk and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the partition window.
  10. Select the disk to be used and click Continue. NOTE: If your computer has more than one disk, make sure to select the correct disk (one that doesn’t contain data you wish to keep).

    Screenshot of the disk selection window.
  11. Select All files in one partition and click Continue.

    Screenshot of the disk partitioning type window.
  12. Select Yes and Click Continue.

    Screenshot of the partition acceptance window.
  13. Allow the installation to complete.

Once the installation completes (it should take about 2-5 minutes, depending on the speed of your computer), click Continue so you can select a network mirror (to be used to install third-party packages).

Screenshot of the network mirror configuration.

Unless you need a proxy (which you probably don’t), click Continue. In the next window, you are asked if you want to install the GRUB boot loader. This is essential (otherwise Kali Linux won’t boot). Keep the default (Yes) and click Continue

Screenshot of the GRUB bootloader configuration.

Next, select the drive that will house the bootloader. Chances are, this will be /dev/sda (which should appear automatically). Select /dev/sda and click Continue

Screenshot of the bootloader location configuration window.

You will finally be informed the installation is complete. Click Continue. Your computer will reboot. Remove the USB drive and allow the computer to boot. Eventually, you’ll find yourself at the login screen, where you type root as the user and then type the password you created during the installation. 

Screenshot of the Kali Linux desktop.

Kali Linux is now installed and ready to be used. Click on Applications to see all of the applications that are available to help you begin testing your network and computers for various types of vulnerabilities.