The Ultimate Guide to Kali Linux Live USB Installation and Persistence
Kali Linux Download Live USB: A Complete Guide
Kali Linux is one of the most popular and powerful operating systems for penetration testing, security research, digital forensics, and ethical hacking. It comes with hundreds of tools for various information security tasks, such as network analysis, vulnerability scanning, password cracking, web application testing, wireless hacking, reverse engineering, and more. Kali Linux is free and open-source, and it is based on Debian Linux.
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But what if you want to run Kali Linux without installing it on your computer? What if you want to have a portable and flexible way to access Kali Linux anytime and anywhere? This is where a live USB comes in handy. A live USB is a USB drive that contains a bootable operating system that you can run directly from the USB drive without affecting your existing operating system or hard drive. A live USB allows you to try out Kali Linux without making any permanent changes to your computer. You can also use it to install Kali Linux on a hard drive if you want.
In this article, we will show you how to create a bootable USB drive with Kali Linux and how to run Kali Linux from a USB drive. We will also provide some tips and resources for using Kali Linux effectively. Let's get started!
How to create a bootable USB drive with Kali Linux
To create a bootable USB drive with Kali Linux, you will need three things:
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how to customize your own Kali Linux ISO image and put it onto a USB drive
how to configure your Kali Linux Live USB drive to have persistent storage
how to access the Kali toolset without the overhead of an isolated virtual machine using Docker or LXD
how to use Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to run Kali Linux on Windows 10
how to install Kali Linux on a Single Board Computer (SBC) such as Raspberry Pi
how to use Kali NetHunter, a mobile penetration testing platform for Android devices, based on Kali Linux
how to host Kali Linux on a cloud provider such as AWS or Azure
how to use Kali Win-Kex, a graphical desktop environment for Kali Linux running on WSL 2
A verified copy of the appropriate ISO image of the latest Kali build image for the system youll be running it on. You can download the ISO image from the of Kali Linux. Choose either the 32-bit or 64-bit version depending on your system architecture. You can also choose between different desktop environments such as Xfce, KDE, GNOME, etc.
A USB drive with at least 8 GB of storage capacity. Make sure to backup any important data on the USB drive before proceeding, as creating a bootable disk will erase and overwrite any existing data on the USB drive.
A tool to write the ISO image to the USB drive. There are many tools available for this purpose, but we recommend using Rufus on Windows or Balena Etcher on Mac. These are free and easy-to-use tools that can create bootable USB drives from ISO images.
Here are the steps to create a bootable USB drive with Kali Linux using Rufus on Windows or Balena Etcher on Mac:
Using Rufus on Windows
Download Rufus from and run it. No installation is required.
Plug your USB drive into an available USB port on your Windows PC and select it from the "Device" menu in Rufus.
Select "Disk or ISO image" from the "Boot selection" menu and click on the "SELECT" button to browse and choose the Kali Linux ISO image that you downloaded earlier.
Make sure that the "Partition scheme" is set to "MBR" and the "Target system" is set to "BIOS or UEFI". You can also change the "Volume label" if you want.
Click on the "START" button to begin writing the ISO image to the USB drive. Rufus will warn you that all data on the USB drive will be destroyed. Click on "OK" to confirm and proceed.
Wait for Rufus to finish writing the ISO image to the USB drive. This may take several minutes depending on the size of the ISO image and the speed of your USB drive.
Once Rufus is done, you will see a message saying "READY" and a green checkmark. You can now safely eject your USB drive and use it to run Kali Linux.
Using Balena Etcher on Mac
Download Balena Etcher from and install it on your Mac.
Plug your USB drive into an available USB port on your Mac and launch Balena Etcher.
Click on the "Flash from file" button and select the Kali Linux ISO image that you downloaded earlier.
Click on the "Select target" button and choose your USB drive from the list of available devices.
Click on the "Flash!" button to start writing the ISO image to the USB drive. Balena Etcher will ask you to enter your administrator password to proceed.
Wait for Balena Etcher to finish writing the ISO image to the USB drive. This may take several minutes depending on the size of the ISO image and the speed of your USB drive.
Once Balena Etcher is done, you will see a message saying "Flash Complete!" and a green checkmark. You can now safely eject your USB drive and use it to run Kali Linux.
How to run Kali Linux from a USB drive
Now that you have created a bootable USB drive with Kali Linux, you can use it to run Kali Linux on any compatible computer. Here are the steps to run Kali Linux from a USB drive:
How to boot from the USB drive
The first step is to boot your computer from the USB drive. This may vary depending on your system configuration and BIOS/UEFI settings. Here are some general guidelines:
If your computer has a BIOS system, you may need to press a specific key (such as F12, F10, F9, Esc, or Del) during the startup process to access the boot menu and select the USB drive as the first boot option. Alternatively, you may need to enter the BIOS setup (usually by pressing F2 or Del) and change the boot order in the settings.
If your computer has a UEFI system, you may need to disable Secure Boot and enable Legacy Boot or CSM in the UEFI settings. You may also need to press a specific key (such as F12, F10, F9, Esc, or Del) during the startup process to access the boot menu and select the USB drive as the first boot option.
If you are running Windows 10 on your computer, you may need to access the Advanced Startup Options by holding down the Shift key while clicking on Restart from the Start menu or the login screen. Then, choose Troubleshoot > Advanced options > Startup Settings > Restart. After your computer restarts, press F10 or F12 to access the boot menu and select the USB drive as the first boot option.
If you are running Mac OS X on your computer, you may need to hold down the Option key while turning on or restarting your Mac. Then, choose the USB drive from the list of available startup disks.
If you are running Linux on your computer, you may need to press a specific key (such as F12, F10, F9, Esc, or Del) during the startup process to access the boot menu and select the USB drive as the first boot option.
Once you have successfully booted from the USB drive, you will see the Kali Linux boot menu with several options. You can choose one of the following options:
How to use the live mode
The live mode is the easiest and fastest way to run Kali Linux from a USB drive. It allows you to use Kali Linux without installing it on your hard drive or making any changes to your existing operating system. The live mode runs entirely in your computer's memory (RAM), so it does not save any data or settings on the USB drive. This means that any changes you make or files you create will be lost when you shut down or reboot your computer. The live mode is ideal for testing, troubleshooting, or performing quick tasks with Kali Linux.
To use the live mode, choose the "Live system (forensic mode)" option from the Kali Linux boot menu. This option will boot Kali Linux in a read-only mode that does not mount any local drives or swap partitions. This is useful for preserving the integrity of any evidence or data on your hard drive. Alternatively, you can choose the "Live system" option, which will boot Kali Linux in a normal mode that may mount some local drives or swap partitions. However,