Kali Linux’s primary goal is to make it as easy as possible for you to access the tools that you require. There have been many ways to obtain Kali over the years, and not all people know about them. This post will give you an overview of the different ways you can run Kali and point you to more detailed information.
As we discuss options, it is important to keep in mind what you need. Which purpose do you plan to use Kali? What will you do if you have to access Kali? The unique thing about Kali is that most items are very short-lived and can be replaced frequently. Many people in penetration testing believe that it’s best to erase your entire install before starting over with any new client or assessment. Kali can also be used to scan for enterprise scanning engines, which is a long-standing practice.
There is no one “right” way of interacting with Kali. You have to find what works for you. We offer many choices. Here’s a look at all the options for getting Kali. If you find anything interesting, there are hyperlinks to the documentation for that platform.
View the Platform
This is Kali Linux’s current state at the time this article was published. To see a continuously updated table, visit .
There are many options. It can seem overwhelming at first. If we consider our needs, we will be able to easily determine which image we wish to download.
- Is it possible to do an on-site pentest with a Kali instance, or will we need to have a separate Kali instance?
- Do we really need a system that leaves behind to be connected to?
- What is the likelihood that this instance will continue to exist?
- Is it being used for our own personal use?
All of these questions can be used to help us determine the type of Kali init we need. These are only examples and you may need to answer more.
What should I use?
We asked what kind of situations Kali will be used under. What now? Now it’s time to look at which options can be used for what purpose.
- Installations – This is a very old way to use Kali. It’s also very common. There are many customizations that you can make during installation, as well as post-installation. It is very useful in a variety of situations, from daily Linux use to dedicated pentest machines. This is the right image for personal computers.
- Virtual Machines – Another way to familiarize yourself with Kali. A virtual machine provides a similar experience as a bare metal installation. Virtual machines are useful for both short-term and long-term situations. They can use snapshots to go back to an earlier time point to make a ready-made system for pentesting whenever needed. A virtual machine is a good option if you need something for occasional work. Virtual machines are the best option when in doubt.
- Cloud is a popular method of using Kali. It is possible to use only what you need from the images. These images are useful in short-term or longer-term situations, as well as for remote pentests. A cloud system is a great option if you are looking for remote work.
- Containers are gaining popularity. Although containers aren’t a replacement for virtual machines they can be used to create a traditional Kali desktop environment. Apple Silicon users will find them especially useful, as virtual machines can still be difficult to use on older architectures. A container is the best option if you are looking for a quick way to run a port scan.
- WSL – A useful feature in modern Windows systems. Although there are not many ways to obtain WSL, it is worth a look under the category virtual machines. WSL, in its current state, is an integrated virtual machine that runs on the backend. However it presents itself as a fully integrated solution which allows you to use Kali apps along with your Windows apps. To make it as simple as possible, we offer a variety of customization options like Win-Kex. WSL can be useful to everyday Windows users. WSL is a good alternative to using containers or virtual machines.
- USB – Live boot, a less common way to use Kali in the past, is slowly losing its popularity. There are two options: standard live boot where the data is saved in RAM and erased when it is turned off; or persistence mode where the data is written to the USB drive. It is useful to repair machines and investigate harmful software that may have been installed on a computer. A USB is a good option if you’re not sure whether you wish to use Kali.
- ARM (Single Board Computer). : The ARM Single Board Computer is an important platform for Kali. It serves many purposes. ARM devices can be used for both daily computing and remote access. They are especially useful in “leave behind” systems. If you are looking for something reliable and affordable, consider an ARM device.
- Mobile, NetHunter: You can run Kali on your Android smartphone. Modern phones are a fantastic platform to execute any number of classic attacks and unique items. This is especially useful in a low-profile setting. NetHunter is a great option if you don’t have a laptop to take with you or are unable to transport one.
Pros and Cons
Every way you interact with Kali has its pros and cons. It would be difficult to list all the pros and cons, however we will try to highlight some.
- The pros: Very familiar, easily customizable and able to dual-booted
- Cons: Uses up large amounts of hard drive space
- The pros: Easy to use, familiar, and quick.
- Cons: It is slower than bare metal installations and it can be difficult to access hardware directly.
- The pros: It is simple to add and remove, can be used anywhere and allows for collaboration.
- Cons: Dependence on external resources can be slow due to slower connection speeds and could lead to additional running costs
- The pros: It is lightweight, customizable and easy to use.
- Cons: Software and hardware restrictions can become more restrictive the bigger the container.
- The pros: It is easy to transport, uses all available system resources and can even be used for system recovery.
- Cons: It is slower than an bare-metal installation
- The pros: It is light, compact, and easy to transport.
- Cons: Not all software available to ARM is accessible due to a general reduction in system resources
- The pros: A phone that can access a desktop environment. It is also low-profile, portable, and easy to use.
- Cons: A small display is required for full Android experience. External hardware, such as Wi-Fi cards or keyboards, might be needed.
It may help to highlight some of the most common ways Kali is used and which image would be the best for you. This will allow people who are looking for advice or other examples of Kali usage.
Daily driver Use the installer image to install Kali. You will have no problems using Kali every day with the or our . Follow the installation method.
Pro pentester Most likely, you’ll want to use cloud images or virtual machines. Although bare metal installation is possible, it can be tedious to have to reinstall the system every few days to keep client data safe.
Student or Hobbyist . A virtual machine will almost always be the best option for such situations. It’s also fun to look at Nethunter and ARM. Because of the possibility of ” ” installations from inexperience, it is not recommended to use bare-metal.
You won’t find the “right” way of interacting with Kali. It is up to you to decide what suits you best. We hope you have found enough information to help you decide what works best for you, and what the drawbacks might be. You can also ask questions in our .