How to Create a Kali Linux Bootable Usb

Welcome back to our next tutorial. Today we will be creating a Kali Linux bootable USB. If you would install Kali Linux locally, check out our tutorial on Installing Kali Linux in VirtualBox.

Go ahead and start the download as it will take some time on slower connections. Grab the Kali Linux Live ISO from https://www.kali.org/downloads/.

Get the appropriate architecture for the target system. If you will be primarily using your USB thumb drive on 64-bit architectures you can grab the x86_64 version. If you are unsure you will usually be safe with the 32-bit (i386) version.

Once your download is complete we can go ahead and start the installation process. The instructions will vary slightly depending on your host OS.

Creating a Bootable Kali USB Drive on Windows

Connect your USB thumb drive to the system and make sure it can store at least 4GB of data. Make a note of the drive letter that your drive uses once it mounts. In this example our USB is mounted as drive “F:\”.

Flash the ISO image with Etcher. Etcher is a free utility for burning ISO files to disk and USB. Simply select the ISO file you previously downloaded and the appropriate drive letter.

After the flashing process is complete, you can safely eject the USB and use it to boot Kali Linux.

Creating a Bootable Kali USB on Linux

Use fdisk -l from the command line to view the disks and their device paths. Now connect the USB drive and make sure it has at least 4GB of available space.

Run the fdisk -l command again and identify the newly added device name. You can also verify the size matches the approximate size of your USB thumb drive. Make sure you identify the correct device path for your USB. In our example we are using /dev/disk4. Other systems may show the device path as /dev/sdb or similar.

After triple checking that you have the correct device you can proceed to copy the ISO to the USB disk. Be careful when typing this command. dd is a powerful command especially when run as root! You can easily overwrite your primary disk if you enter the wrong device name.

dd if=kali-linux-2020.1b-live-amd64.iso of=/dev/disk4 bs=4M

This command copies our input file (if), kali-linux-2020.1b-live-amd64.iso to our output ‘file’ (of) /dev/disk4. The additional parameter bs instructs the dd command to copy in 4 megabyte chunks.

Note: The dd command can take quite some time depending on the performance of the USB thumb drive. Just be patient and wait for the command to complete. On some systems this process can take upwards of 30 minutes. You can press CTRL-T to see how many bytes dd has copied so far.

Creating a Bootable Kali USB on Mac OS

MacOS is a UNIX based operating system so the instructions for creating a bootable Kali USB on Mac OS are similar to the Linux instructions above.

Start by listing the disk devices available on the system with:

diskutil list

After making a note of the devices listed, plug in your USB thumb drive and repeat the process. You should see a new device in the list that matches the size of your USB drive. In our example our USB drive is available at /dev/disk2.

Now unmount the drive with diskutil:

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2

And now CAREFULLY copy the Kali Linux ISO to the USB drive. Be careful with the dd command and double check that you have the correct device!

dd if=kali-linux-2020.1b-live-amd64.iso of=/dev/disk6 bs=4M

Copying the ISO takes time (up to half an hour on some systems) so be patient. Pressing CTRL-T will show how many bytes have been processed by dd so far. This can be used to estimate the time remaining.

Kali on the Go

Now that you have Kali Linux installed on a bootable USB it is up to you where to unleash this power. Theoretically you can boot Kali Linux on almost any machine you have physical access to. Physical access is a holy-grail during penetration testing as it spells almost immediate game-over for the defenders.

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