How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox for Hacking Training (2020)

If you want to become an Ethical Hacker, installing a Linux Operating System (OS) made for hacking/hackers is one of the VERY first steps you must take. In this post, using illustrative screenshots, I will show you how to install Kali Linux in VirtualBox on your Windows computer.

Don’t miss: How to Install Parrot Security OS on VirtualBox for Hacking Training

Important! As of Jan 29th, 2020 the installation procedures on this post became a little obsolete. This is because the Kali team made changes to the installation files, and also fixed many of the cons you’ll find on the table below. Find an updated version of this post here:

There are two methods of installing Kali Linux in VirtualBox I’ll show in this tutorial and I’ll tell you the one to choose and give reasons why. Both methods will get the work done but I highly recommend the first (#1) for hacking newbies.

Below is a table summarizing the pros and cons of both methods.

[supsystic-tables id=1]

Method #1 – Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox using .ISO light file (recommended)

I recommend using the .ISO file to install Kali Linux for serious beginners looking to learn ethical hacking. This is ofcourse the general installation procedure for installing any Linux operating system.

However, we are going to be using the light version of the .ISO images that Kali provides for download instead of the full .ISO images, and that’s for a good number of reasons.

Firstly, using the light image automatically fixes the issue with Kali Linux running very slow or sluggish on VirtualBox even though you have allocated it quite a bit of computing resources. This frustrating lag will particularly be very noticeable to those who have low- to mid-end computers.

Secondly, you get to install only the hacking tools you need or require. Because the light image installs a barebones system that is not bloated with unnecessary hacking tools you may never need or use. I mean, what’s the point of having such hacking tools in your arsenal that you didn’t even know are there.

Thirdly, you’ll learn hacking and the Linux environment a lot faster when you can install things by yourself. Because when you face any issues you will definitely research for a fix and that will accelerate your learning.

Alright with that out of the way, let’s get to the actual installation. There are only 4 straight forward steps to install Kali Linux in VirtualBox on your Windows computer:

  1. Download and install VirtualBox.
  2. Download Kali Linux .ISO file.
  3. Create Kali guest on VirtualBox.
  4. Install Kali on VirtualBox.

Go to Oracle VirtualBox Official website and download the latest version of VirtualBox for Windows hosts.

As at the time this post was written, VirtualBox was at version 6.0. Yours might be different, but it’s okay.

Installing VirtualBox on Windows is as easy as installing any other application. Choose the default installation options and you should be fine.

Go to the download page on the Kali Linux official website and download the Kali Linux Light 64-Bit.

Step 3: Create Kali Linux guest on VirtualBox

Launch VirtualBox and click “New” under the Tools menu.

Add new Virtual Machine on VirtualBox

Click “Expert Mode” below the pop-up window.

Switch to "Expert mode"

Configure the guest OS with the details below:

  • Name: Give the virtual machine any name you want. I’ll name this one Kali Linux 2019.2.
  • Machine Folder: Leave this as it is
  • Type: Linux
  • Version: Debian (64-bit)
  • Memory size: This is the amount of RAM Kali will run on. Anywhere within the green mark will be fine. I’ll set this to 1024MB.
  • Hard disk: Create a virtual hard disk now. 
Guest OS configuration

Click “Create” to proceed.

On the next pop-up window, adjust File size to at least 20 – 30GB to give Kali enough space to cater for all the programs we will be installing later on.

Leave Hard disk file type set to VDI (VirtualBox Disk Image) and Storage on physical hard disk set to Dynamically allocated.

Guest OS configuration page

Click “Create” to finish up.

Now to complete this step, attach the Kali .ISO file you downloaded to this newly created guest OS. With the newly created guest OS selected, click “Settings“.

Settings button on virtualbox
settings button

In the window that comes up, click “Storage“, “Empty” and click the “disk icon” as shown in the image below. Afterwhich select the Kali Linux .ISO file you downloaded to attach it.

Add Kali Linux .ISO file to VM
Add Kali Linux .ISO file to VM
Kali Linux .ISO file added to VM
Kali Linux file added to VM

You are now ready to install the Kali Linux operating system on our VirtualBox. Double click to launch the Kali Linux virtual machine.

On the boot menu, select “Graphical install“.

Graphically install Kali Linux
Graphical install

Note: Upon clicking inside the virtual machine, your mouse cursor will be captured. To uncapture it simply press the Ctrl key on the right side of your keyboard.

Now the next couple of screens are just cosmetic settings and are a matter of user preference. System language <> Location <> Keyboard language. I normally just press enter to select the highlighted option which is just fine for me. 

System language set to English
System language set to English
Location set to the United States
Location set to the United States
Keyboard language set to American English
Keyboard language set to American English

Configure nameservers. Leave this option blank, we don’t need it. Press enter to proceed.

Leave name server address empty
Leave name server address empty

Configure system Hostname. This is the name this guest OS will be identified by on your local network but for now, let’s leave it as kali.

System hostname set to "Kali"
System hostname set to “Kali”

Configure domain name. Leave this blank too. Press enter to proceed.

Leave domain name empty
Leave domain name empty

Set a password for the root account here. Ensure you don’t forget it.

creating password for ROOT user
creating password for ROOT user

Configure the clock. This is yet another setting based on user preference.

Time zone set to Eastern
Time zone set to Eastern

Partition Disks. We could go ahead to partition our virtual hard disk and have separate partitions for /home, /opt, etc. But using the entire disk without partitioning will work well for our purposes, which by the way is recommended for new users.

Use entire virtual disk space to install Kali
Use entire virtual disk space
partition the virtual harddisk
partition the virtual harddisk
Put all files in one partitionPut all files in one partition
Put all files in one partition
Finish disk partitioning
Finish disk partitioning
Select "yes" to confirm virtual disk partition changes
Select “yes” to confirm virtual disk partition changes

After writing changes to disk the system will begin to install. This will take some time to complete depending upon the speed of your computer and also on how much RAM you allocated the VM

Kali Linux system installing on VirtualBox

Use a network mirror? Select NO because we won’t be needing it for our package manager.

Don't use a network mirror for package manager
No need for a network mirror

Install GRUB boot loader? Select “YES” and then select the only device hard disk we have which is the 25GB virtual hard disk we created in the beginning. 

Select "yes" to install GRUB
Select “yes” to install GRUB
Install GRUB on virtual harddisk
Install GRUB on virtual harddisk

Finishing the installation… Give this a few more seconds to complete and ta-da! Installation is complete.

Kali Linux installation on VirtualBox completed successfully
Installation completed successfully

You can log in to your new Kali Linux virtual machine using username = root and the password you set during the installation.

Kali Linux login screen

Method #2 – Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox using OVA File

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox using an Open Virtual Appliance (OVA) file is no doubt a super quick and easy method. All you need to do is download the prepackaged Kali Linux OVA file and import it with one click on VirtualBox.

Overall, it’s not a method I would recommend for beginners looking to come into the world of hacking. Simply because you won’t learn much that way. As you continue your hacking journey, one of the things you would quickly notice is that you would be installing a LOT of things.

Really if you want to learn to hack, you should be able to at least know the procedure to install the operating system you are going to be spending hundreds, if not thousands of hours working on.

To install Kali Linux on VirtualBox using .OVA file there are only 2 quick steps to take:

  1. Download Kali Linux .OVA file.
  2. Import the Kali Linux .OVA file on VirtualBox.

Go to the virtual images download section on the Kali Linux official website and click the VirtualBox section.

Donwload Kali Linux .OVA file

Download the Kali Linux VirtualBox 64-Bit OVA file. Note that 32-Bit virtual machines are no longer supported as from VirtualBox 6.x.

Launch VirtualBox and click “Import” under the Tools menu.

Import OVA file in virtualbox

Next, click the folder icon to the right of the search box to select your downloaded Kali Linux .OVA file.

Configure the virtual appliance settings as you need. Here I basically leave everything as it is. The only thing I may modify is the virtual hard disk space and RAM allocation to suite the resources I have on that computer.

OVA file appliance settings configuration screen
Kali Linux configuration screen

Ensure to tick the checkbox next to Import hard drives as VDI. Click “Import” to finish up.

Your new Kali Linux virtual machine will now be visible on the VirtualBox homepage, double click on it to launch.

Kali Linux virtual machine loaded and installed
Kali Linux installed on VirtualBox using .OVA

Login with Kali Linux default username: root & password: toor

What’s Next

Now that’s all for installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox for hacking. But before you can go ahead to start tinkering around with your newly installed hacking box, there are a few necessary FIRST THINGS you need to do.

For that, I’ll send you off to the follow-up post for this tutorial: First 7 Things to do After Installing Kali Linux for Hacking.

Have any questions? Hit me up in the comments below, I’ll get to them ASAP. Also please do leave me a comment if this worked for you and consider sharing it too.

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