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 create the Kali ISO image on a USB drive. If you would like to add persistence to your Kali Linux USB stick, please read the full document before proceeding to create your image.
Preparing for the USB copy
- Download Kali linux.
- If running Windows, download Win32 Disk Imager.
- No special software is needed for a *nix OS.
- A USB Key (at least 2GB capacity for mini, 4GB for regular).
Kali Linux Live USB Install Procedure
Imaging Kali on a Windows Machine
- Plug your USB stick into your Windows USB port and launch the Win32 Disk Imager software
- Choose the Kali Linux ISO file to be imaged and verify that the USB drive to be overwritten is the correct one.
- 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:
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.
- Plug in your USB device to your Linux computer’s USB port.
- Verify the device path of your USB storage with dmesg.
- Proceed to (carefully!) image the Kali ISO file on the USB device:
That’s it, really! You can now boot into a Kali Live / Installer environment using the USB device.
Adding Persistence to Your Kali Live USB
Adding persistence (the ability to save files and changes across live boots) to your Kali Linux image can be very useful in certain situations. To make your Kali Linux USB stick persistent, follow these steps. In this example, we assume our USB drive is /dev/sdb. If you want to add persistence, you’ll need a larger USB device than we listed in our prerequisites above.
- Image the Kali Linux ISO to your USB stick as explained above, using the “Linux Method” and dd.
- Create and format an additional partition on the USB stick. In our example, we use gparted by invoking:
- Your current partitioning scheme should look similar to this:
- Proceed to format a new partition of your desired size to be used for persistence. In our example, we used all the remaining space available. Make sure the volume label of the newly created partition is persistence, and format it using the ext4 filesystem.
- Once the process is complete, mount your persistence USB partition using the following commands:
mount /dev/sdb2 /mnt/usb
echo "/ union" >> /mnt/usb/persistence.conf
- Plug the USB stick into the computer you want to boot up. Make sure your BIOS is set to boot from your USB device. When the Kali Linux boot screen is displayed, select “Live boot” from the menu (don’t press enter), and press the tab button. This will allow you to edit the boot parameters. Add the word “persistence” to the end of the boot parameter line each time you want to mount your persistent storage.