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  • Creating an Installation USB Stick for Kali Linux

    Kali Linux is an ultra-powerful security tool. I use it extensively when doing Wi-Fi penetration testing, network security evaluations, and security audit tasks. It is freely downloadable from as an ISO.

    I want to get the best possible performance out of Kali. To do that, I typically create a bootable installation on a USB stick and then install from the stick to a dedicated hard disk partition. There’s tremendous reusability value in preparing an installation stick, as you can use a single stick to install Kali Linux whenever and wherever you need it.

    In this blog I’ll show you how to prepare the USB stick.

    Necessary Supplies Before You Begin

    You’ll need a few things to get started:

    • The current Kali Linux ISO from Kali Linux Images. Download either the 32-bit or 64-bit version depending on the hardware you’re eventually installing Kali on.
    • UNetbootin software from UNetbootin – Homepage and Downloads. Download the latest version for the platform you’re currently running – versions are available for Windows, Mac OS X, and several flavors of Linux including Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and Arch.
    • A blank USB stick. Although you can get away with a 4GB stick, I prefer an 8GB USB 3 stick for speed and future expansion. Faster USB memory speeds mean faster installations, but even a slowpoke stick will be fast enough for setup.
    • A running computer. Whatever computer you’re using to download the Kali ISO and UNetbootin is fine. You’ll need a computer to prepare the USB stick prior to installation. This can be the same computer that you eventually install Kali Linux on, but it doesn’t have to be.
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    Now it’s time to setup Kali on the stick!

    Setting Up Kali On the USB Stick

    I’m demonstrating this on Windows 7, so your mileage may vary on OS X or Linux.

    First, connect the USB stick to the computer. It should go without saying that things go faster when you plug a USB 3 stick into a USB 3 port, but a mismatch won’t hurt anything.

    Now run UNetbootin.exe You don’t need to install it on Windows, just double-click the executable.

    Click the Diskimage radio button and specify the Kali Linux ISO that you downloaded.

    Verify that Type shows USB Drive and the Drive is set to your target USB stick. These settings are shown in Figure 1.


    Figure 1. The configured UNetbootin screen.

    Now click OK to start the fun! You may receive an error message depending on the files already on the USB stick. For example, when overwriting a previous Kali Linux image, this dialog box appears for me:

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    Figure 2. Confirmation before destruction.

    Once I click Yes to All, UNetbootin shows the progress as shown in Figure 3.


    Figure 3. Confirmation before destruction.

    That’s about it. The process takes a variable amount of time depending on computer load, size of the ISO, and speed of the USB stick. Eventually it will successfully complete and yield a bootable drive.


    Mike Danseglio -CISSP / MCSE / CEH
    Interface Technical Training – Technical Director and Instructor

    Mike Danseglio teaches Security classes at Interface Technical Training. His classes can be attended in Phoenix, Arizona or online from anywhere in the world with RemoteLive.

    See what people are saying...

    1. sam

      you can use UUI(universal USB installer)..simple and safe….careful while choosing which flavour to be written to USB…

    2. Mike Danseglio

      Nick, usually your computer’s BIOS has a key for interrupting the boot process and specifying a boot device. F2 or F12 are the most common. Then just select the USB stick that you created.

    3. Mike Danseglio

      Damien, you can use either Win32 Disk Imager or unetbootin. You could also use dd (if you’ve already got Linux running) or even Rufus, which is my new favorite. 🙂

    4. DamienNg63

      Is unetbootin fully working with kali linux ? Some other sources say we have to use Win32 Disk Imager.

    5. nick

      how do i boot it now that I have it ???

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