Kali Linux is a great operating system for learning about s1ecurity and penetration testing. It’s an open-source Linux distribution that comes with many pre-installed tools to help you get started on your journey into the world of hacking.
You can install Kali on most desktop computers, but it works especially well in virtual machines like VirtualBox (for both Windows & Mac users). This guide will teach you how to install Kali Linux in VirtualBox on both Windows & Mac OSX! Let’s get started…
Now that you have learned where to download Kali, let’s talk about what we need to do before we actually begin installing our new operating system. First thing first – make sure your computer meets the requirements: 2GB RAM, 20GB disk space, Graphics card capable of 800×600 resolution. Make sure your VirtualBox is updated before you attempt to install Kali. I won’t go into detail about how to update VirtualBox because it’s pretty straightforward – just click on Help -> Check for Updates (for Windows users).
If there are any updates available, please apply them before proceeding. As far as the installation goes, this will be broken down into two sub-sections: Installing Kali Linux in VirtualBox for Windows users; and then, Installing Kali Linux in VirtualBox for Mac users. Let’s get started…
NOTE: If you don’t like these screenshots or you find them confusing, please follow my YouTube video tutorial series located at the top of the page (and the sidebar, if you’re on mobile). It’s the best way to see exactly how this process works – and it may be easier than reading a bunch of text…
Installing Kali Linux in VirtualBox for Windows users
Once you have downloaded Kali, go ahead and extract the file. It’s self-contained so it doesn’t really matter where you extract the files – just make sure that your Kali iso is easily locatable (for ease of use later on).
Open VirtualBox. Once everything has loaded up, click on New at the top left corner of your VirtualBox window. This will open a new dialogue box asking for some information about your new virtual machine. I usually give my machines descriptive names but feel free to name yours anything you like (I’ll be using “Kali Lin” for this tutorial).
Continue by hitting the Next button twice; in this case, we want to choose an appropriate amount of RAM for our virtual machine. On a side note, this really depends on what computer you’re using as well as how many other programs you have open.
The amount of RAM that Kali uses is 256 MB – however, if your computer has 4GB of RAM or more, allocate at least 2048MB to it (2048 x 1024 = 2147483648). To be honest, 2048MB is usually the default option so there’s no need to change this unless your system really needs it. For most people out there, sticking with 2048MB will work just fine.
Continue by hitting the Next button twice; in this case, we want to choose an appropriate amount of disk space for our virtual machine. By allocating at least 20 GB here, we can install some extra software on our Kali Linux machine.
The older Kali distro requires at least 20 GB while the newer one requires 16GB – this is still a generous amount of space and you really shouldn’t need to change it unless your computer has more than 16GB of disk space.
You’re almost done! Now we just have to set up some hard drive options. Here, I usually choose VDI since they’re the most compatible types out there (and that’s what we want). When setting up disk storage, keep in mind that VirtualBox uses raw disks rather than formatted ones; therefore once you create a virtual machine using these settings, it’ll be formatted when you boot up for the first time. You can always go back to this screen and change the disk type if you don’t like raw images.
Finish by hitting Create. This virtual machine (VM) will now be created – however, it won’t show up in your VirtualBox list until it’s been started/booted once. This is because VMs are initially powered off; thus, they’re displayed as “Unknown” until you hit the Start arrow at the top of VirtualBox.
You can now find your Kali iso file (in my case, “Kali Lin.iso”) under Machine -> Optical Drives > Choose Disk Image… . Once selected, click on Start to boot up Kali for the first time! We’ll need to make some changes before we actually get to the login screen so let’s get down to it…
Q: Why am I getting this error message?
“This PC supports VT-x, but Intel VT-x is disabled in the BIOS. Your CPU may not support Virtualization.”
A: You’ll need your virtual machine’s settings to be compatible with your computer’s hardware. Here are some common fixes for this error.
Q: My Kali VM isn’t booting up – all it does is show a black screen! How do I fix this?!
A: This usually happens because you assigned too little RAM to your virtual machine. Make sure that at least 2048MB of RAM is available during startup (2048 x 1024 = 2147483648). Also, make sure that Video Memory is set to at least 128 MB (you can do this by hitting Machine -> Video in VirtualBox).
Q: My keyboard isn’t working!
A: I recommend using a USB keyboard for the time being. You can always switch back to your regular keyboard once you’ve finished booting up Kali Linux.
Q: I’m stuck at a black screen and can’t seem to type anything in – how do I get past this stage?!
A: Try hitting Alt + F1. If that fails, hit Ctrl + Alt + F1. You should now be seeing the VM’s terminal. To get to the login screen, type “login” (without quotes) and press enter. Then type your username (in my case, “root”) and password. *If you’re using Kali Linux 2017 or earlier, don’t forget to add “startx” after your username! For instance, [email protected]:~# startx . This will launch Xorg – after which you can use CTRL+ALT+F7 to return to your virtual machine’s terminal.