Booting and installing Kali from a USB stick is our favorite and fastest method of getting up and running. In order to do this, we first need to image the Kali ISO on a USB drive.

Preparing for the USB copy

  1. Download Kali linux.
  2. If running Windows, download Win32 Disk Imager.
  3. No special software is needed for a *nix OS.
  4. A USB Key (at least 2GB capacity for mini, 4GB for regular).

Kali Linux Live USB Install Procedure

Imaging Kali on a Windows Machine

  1. Plug your USB stick into your Windows USB port and launch the Win32 Disk Imager software
  2. Choose the Kali Linux ISO file to be imaged and verify that the USB drive to be overwritten is the correct one.
  3. kali-usb-install-windows

  4. Once the imaging is complete, safely eject the USB drive from the Windows machine. You can now use the USB device to boot into Kali Linux.

Imaging Kali on a Linux Machine

Creating a bootable Kali Linux USB key in a Linux environment is easy. Once you’ve downloaded your Kali ISO file, you can use dd to copy it over to your USB stick as follows (make sure you’re root first):

WARNING. Although the process of imaging Kali on a USB stick is very easy, you can just as easily destroy arbitrary partitions with dd if you do not understand what you are doing. Consider yourself warned.
  1. Plug in your USB device to your Linux computer’s USB port.
  2. Verify the device path of your USB storage with dmesg.
  3. Proceed to (carefully!) image the Kali ISO file on the USB device:
 dd if=kali.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=512k

That’s it, really! You can now boot into a Kali Live / Installer environment using the USB device.

Imaging Kali on a OSX Machine

Creating a bootable Kali Linux USB key in an OSX environment is similar to the Linux method. Once you’ve downloaded your chosen Kali ISO file, you can use dd to copy it over to your USB stick as follow:

WARNING. Although the process of imaging Kali on a USB stick is very easy, you can just as easily destroy arbitrary partitions with dd if you do not understand what you are doing. Consider yourself warned.

  1. Plug in your USB device to your Apple computer’s USB port.
  2. Verify the device path of your USB storage with diskutil list.
  3. Unmount the drive (note, in this example, the USB stick is /dev/disk2):
  4. diskutil unmount /dev/disk2
  5. Proceed to (carefully!) image the Kali ISO file on the USB device:
  6. sudo dd if=kali-linux-*.iso of=/dev/disk2 bs=1m

    Note: Increasing the blocksize (bs) will speed up the write progress, but increase the chances of creating a bad USB stick.

The time to dd the image across will depend on the speed of the system used, USB stick, and USB port.

And that’s it! You can now boot into a Kali Live / Installer environment using the USB device.

If you choose to boot on an Apple device, you can bring up the boot menu by pressing the Option key immediately after powering on the device.
For more information, see Apple’s knowledge base.

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