Upgrading Kali Linux to Rolling Distribution

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Upgrading Kali Linux to Rolling Distribution

Like This Blog 0 Mike Danseglio
Added by February 15, 2016

Kali Linux is a fantastic operating system for penetration testing and security evaluation. It comes with virtually all security tools built in, it’s lightweight by default, and it has a huge ecosystem that is constantly helping with the project.

Kali recently began moving towards a rolling distribution. This allows both the core Debian operating system components and the applications to update much more frequently with fewer dependency breaks. This is big deal, both because all future development will be on the rolling distribution and because the current distribution will not be supported after April 15th 2016.

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Because this is a major change, it requires a few steps to upgrade an existing Kali Linux installation to a rolling distribution. Here’s the easy version of those steps.

First logon to Kali and open a Terminal window. If you’re not logged in as root (and I hope you’re not!) run su to invoke a root prompt.

We need to change the list of Kali repositories. To do that, type:

cd /etc/apt

Next I usually make a backup of the file I’m going to change. In this case the file is sources.list so the command I use is:

cp sources.list backup-sources.list

Here’s what that looks like with a ls to show the results:


The next step is the hardest. I’m going to type out a file that replaces the existing sources.list. This must be typed exactly correct or it will not work. The three commands are:

cat << EOF > /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://http.kali.org/kali kali-rolling main non-free contrib



This set of instructions creates a new sources.list with only one entry that points to the kali-rolling distribution.

The configuration is complete, now it’s time to update the OS. First I run apt-get update to update the list of available packages:


Then finally I run apt-get dist-upgrade to install new and updated packages.


Notice that it’s installing 2685 upgrades and 754 new packages. That’s essentially replacing every app and every system component. Fair warning, this can take a long, long, long time to complete. For me, it took about six hours from start to finish including downloading over a 100Mbps Internet connection.

Finally, I reboot the computer to load the updated kernel and devices drivers. That’s it! My Kali installation is now ready for the future.


Mike Danseglio – CISSP, MCSE, and CEH

Mike Danseglio teaches IT Security Training, Windows, System Center and Windows Server 2012 classes at Interface Technical Training. His classes are available in Phoenix, AZ and online with RemoteLive™.

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