How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox: Complete Walkthrough

Kali Linux is a Debian-based Linux distribution developed for penetration testing, and is especially useful for security specialists and enthusiasts. Kali Linux, formerly known as BackTrack Linux, includes a lot of tools and applications for network audits. Kali can be run as a Live DVD, and can be installed on a computer as a host operating system (OS) as any other Linux. However, it is not recommended that you use Kali as a general purpose desktop operating system. At the same time, when using Kali Live DVD, settings are not saved after a system reboot. In this situation, virtual machines can be of great help.

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The advantages of installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox are:

  • By running multiple operating systems simultaneously (a host OS and a guest OS or multiple guests), you don’t need to reboot a computer as when using dual boot.
  • A VM running Kali Linux is isolated from your host OS – running Kali on a VM in an isolated environment is secure.
  • You can take a snapshot and roll back to the previous VM state if something goes wrong. The risk of harm to Kali Linux on a VM is minimal as a result.
  • You can copy a configured VM on which Kali Linux is installed to other computers.
  • You can attach physical USB devices, such as external network adapters directly to a VM due to the VirtualBox USB pass-through feature.

Make sure that VirtualBox is installed on your host operating system before continuing, using the latest VirtualBox version if possible. Please install VirtualBox Extension Pack on your host machine to use some advanced features such as USB pass-through.

Downloading the Installation Image of Kali Linux

First, go to the official web site and download the ISO image of Kali Linux. There are multiple 32-bit and 64-bit images that have different graphical user interfaces (Gnome, KDE, XFCE, LXDE etc.). Let’s download Kali Linux 64-bit v.2019.2 – this distribution has Gnome as a graphical user interface (GUI). You can download images via HTTP and Torrent protocols. Save the ISO file to a custom folder, for example, C:\VirtualBox\kali-linux-2019.2-amd64.iso. You can also verify the SHA256 check sum to make sure that your image is consistent after finishing downloading.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – downloading the installation ISO image of Kali Linux 64-bit

Creating a New VM

Once you have downloaded the installation image, you can create a new VM. Open VirtualBox and create a new VM (Machine > New or Ctrl+N) on which Kali Linux will be installed.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – creating a new VM

Set the following VM parameters:

Name: Kali_x64

Machine Folder: C:\Virtual\VirtualBox (This path is used only for demo purpose. Try not to use a system partition to store VMs).

Type: Linux

Version: Debian (64-bit)

Memory size: 4096 MB. The VM memory size must be large enough to run a guest OS, though you should leave enough unallocated memory to run your host OS. In the current example, a host machine with 16 GB of RAM is used, which provides enough memory left for a host OS.

Hard disk: Create a virtual hard disk now.

Hit Create to continue and configure a new virtual hard disk.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – creating a new virtual hard disk

Set the virtual disk file location, for example C:\Virtual\VirtualBox\Kali_x6Kali_x64.vdi

It is recommended that you store virtual disk files in the VM folder (such folder is selected by default).

Set the virtual disk file size. It should be at least 20 GB.

Hard disk file type: VDI. A native VirtualBox format is selected.

Storage on physical disk: Dynamically allocated (the analog of thin provisioning in VMware).

Click Create to finish creating a new VM.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring virtual disk settings for a new VM

After creating a new VM, some additional settings must be configured. Select your recently created virtual machine and open the VM settings.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox Windows 10 – starting a new VM created before

Display options

Go to Display > Screen and set Video Memory to 128 MB. It will prevent installer hanging.

Next, tick the checkbox Enable 3D acceleration (optional). It will be useful for applications that need 3D acceleration.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring display settings for the VM

Network options

Next, go to the network settings and select the networking mode of the virtual network adapter of the VM. Let’s select the Bridged mode to use the VM network adapter much as you would for a physical network adapter of the host machine. In this case, the VM network adapter is connected to the same physical network as the host machine. You can set additional options such as network adapter name, type, MAC address etc.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring VM network settings

Boot options

You have to insert your virtual ISO DVD image to a virtual DVD drive of the VM and then boot a virtual machine from that ISO disk. In the VM settings, go to Storage, select an IDE controller of your virtual optical drive (it is empty by default). Click the empty status, then click the disc icon near IDE Secondary Master and in the opened menu, select Choose Virtual Optical Disk File. Browse the Kali Linux installation ISO image that you have downloaded from the official site before (kali-linux-2019.2-amd64.iso). Hit OK to save settings.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – selecting the ISO installation image to boot from

The Step-By-Step Process of Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox

Now you can start your new VM (Kali_x64 in this case) and begin the Kali installation.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – starting a new VM for Kali Linux installation

After booting from a virtual DVD, you will see a boot menu where you can select boot options for Kali Linux such as Boot from Live DVDInstall, Graphical Install etc. Let’s select Graphical Install. Press Enter to continue.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – select Graphical install

Select a language. Choose the language you wish to use for the installation process and the installed system. English is selected for the current installation. Click the Continue button on each screen to move forward.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – selecting the language

Select your location. This option is used to set your time zone, time format, etc. United States has been selected in the current example.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – select your location

Configure the keyboard. Select your keyboard layout. American English is used for the current installation.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox Windows 10 – configuring the keyboard

Configure the network. Enter the hostname for your Linux system, for example, kali-virtualbox.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring the hostname

Configure the domain name. If you don’t use a domain in your network, you may leave this field empty.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring the domain name

Set up users and passwords. Read the useful tips on this screen and enter the password for root.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – setting up users and passwords

Configure the clock. Now you can select a precise time zone for your country.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring the clock

Partition disks. You can use manual and guided partitioning of disks. For the first time, you can select Guided – use entire disk. The entire disk will be used for creating one big partition.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – partitioning a disk for a VM on which Kali will be installed

Confirm that you want to erase the disk. There is no reason to worry, as in this case, the empty 20-GB virtual disk is used for partitioning.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – disk partitioning

Select a preferred partitioning scheme for your virtual disk. Let’s select All files in one partition.

Kali Linux disk partitioning – all files in one partition

Check the overview and select Finish partitioning and write changes to disk.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – finishing disk partitioning

Select Yes and confirm that you would like to write changes to the disk.

Installing Kali on VirtualBox – confirmation of writing changes to the disk after creating partitions

Wait for the system to be installed. As Kali Linux is being installed, the files are being copied to the virtual disk of the VM.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox

Configure the package manager. Click Yes if you would like to use a network mirror. Selecting this option will allow you to install or update application packages from online software repositories.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring a network mirror

Enter the information about your proxy server if you use a proxy server for internet access from your network. There is no proxy server in this example; so this field is left empty.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – configuring HTTP proxy for the package manager

Install the GRUB boot loader on a hard disk. Since there is no other operating systems and boot loaders on a virtual disk, it is necessary to install GRUB in this case. Select Yes to install GRUB.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – installing the GRUB boot loader

Select a disk to which GRUB must be installed. In this case, /dev/sda is the necessary disk and is the only disk connected to a VM.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox - installing GRUB on /dev/sda

Finish the installation. When the installation of Kali Linux on VirtualBox is complete, you will see a notification message. Now you can reboot the virtual machine to boot the Kali Linux installed on the VirtualBox VM.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – installation is complete

After the reboot, you will see a login screen of Kali Linux. Enter root as a user name, then enter the password set during installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox to sign in.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – enter credentials to log in

Now you should see the Gnome desktop of Kali Linux installed on your VirtualBox virtual machine.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – Gnome desktop of Kali Linux

Installing VirtualBox Guest Additions on Kali Linux

You can install VirtualBox guest additions by inserting the ISO image located in the VirtualBox installation folder by default, or you can install Guest Additions from online Linux repositories by using your Linux package manager.

Update the package repositories tree.

apt-get update

Install VirtualBox Guest Additions with the command:

apt-get install -y virtualbox-guest-x11

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – installing VirtualBox Guest Additions with the package manager

After that, you should reboot the machine.

init 6

Verify that VirtualBox Guest Additions have been installed successfully. Check the VirtualBox Guest Additions version by getting information about the appropriate Linux kernel module. In order to see general information about the vboxguest module, use the command:

modinfo vboxguest

If you want to see the version of VirtualBox Guest Additions only, use:

lsmod | grep -io vboxguest | xargs modinfo | grep -iw version

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – Checking the version of VirtualBox Guest Additions

After installing VirtualBox Guest Additions on a VM, go to VM settings > General > Advanced and enable shared clipboard and Drag n Drop in the bidirectional mode.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – enabling shared clipboard and Drag n Drop features after installing Guest Additions

Connecting the USB Wi-Fi Adapter to the Kali Linux VM in VirtualBox

After making the general VM configuration, let’s connect an external USB Wi-Fi network adapter to the VirtualBox VM running Kali Linux. You will be able to use all the advantages of the physical USB Wi-Fi adapter in the VM running Kali to make the audit of wireless networks. VirtualBox Extension Pack must be installed to continue configuring the VM.

Insert your USB Wi-Fi adapter to the USB port of your physical computer. Open VM settings and go to the USB section. Tick the checkbox Enable USB Controller, Select USB 2.0 (EHCI) Controller (the Wi-Fi adapter used in the current example has USB 2.0 interface). Then, add the plus icon and select the necessary USB device from the list of USB devices connected to your host machine. Later, you can untick the checkbox near the added USB device if that device does not need to be attached to the VM.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox – Enabling a USB controller and connecting a USB Wi-Fi adapter to a VM with Kali Linux

Start your Kali_x64 VM and login to Kali Linux. Open console (Terminal) and run the command to check your network interfaces and their configuration.


Checking network configuration of Kali Linux on VirtualBox

The USB Wi-Fi adapter is connected and the name of its interface is wlan0. Let’s change the MAC address to go unnoticed.

Shutdown the Wi-Fi network interface.

ifconfig wlan0 down

Change the MAC address of the wireless network adapter – set the random MAC address with macchanger.

macchanger -r wlan0

Enable the wlan0 network interface.

ifconfig wlan0 up

Check whether the MAC address of your Wi-Fi network interface has been changed.

macchanger -s wlan0

ifconfig wlan0

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – changing the MAC address of USB Wi-Fi adapter connected to the VM

The MAC address has been changed successfully.

Enable the monitor mode for your wireless network interface with airmon-ng (by default a Wi-Fi adapter works in the managed mode). The monitor mode is required for security testing of Wi-Fi networks.

airmon-ng start wlan0

If there are any processes that could cause trouble, kill them with the command:

airmon-ng check kill

After that run the airmon-ng start wlan0 command once again.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – starting airmon-ng to enable the monitor mode for the Wi-Fi adapter

After starting the monitoring mode, a virtual wlan0mon network interface is created. You can also change the MAC address of the wlan0mon network interface to a random MAC address.

ifconfig wlan0mon down

macchanger -r wlan0mon

ifconfig wlan0mon up

Now run the airodump-ng utility to view the networks which signal level allow to test them.

airodump-ng wlan0mon

As you can see on the screenshot below, a physical USB Wi-Fi adapter connected to the virtual machine running Kali Linux works fine. Wi-Fi access points and associated clients are displayed in the console.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – the Wi-Fi adapter is configured to monitor Wi-Fi networks

Now that you know how to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox manually and how to configure a wireless network adapter for using it in Kali Linux, you can continue testing Wi-Fi networks but further configuration of Kali Linux for testing wireless networks is out of scope for today’s blog post.

How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox with an OVA Template

In the sections above, manual installation of Kali Linux on VirtualBox VMs was explained. There is one more method you can use to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox VMs – deploying an OVA template. Deploying VMs from VM templates has a list of advantages – you can deploy multiple similar pre-configured VMs from the template and save the time otherwise needed to install an operating system and applications. There are official pre-configured OVA images (templates) of Kali Linux created by Offensive Security team (Kali development team) for VirtualBox and VMware virtualization platforms.

Download the appropriate OVA template from the official Offensive Security web site. In this example, the Kali Linux VirtualBox 64-bit OVA image is downloaded.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox by using an OVA VM template

Open VirtualBox, open Tools and click Import.

Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox from the OVA template – importing the VM template

The Import Virtual Appliance wizard is opened. Browse your downloaded OVA template. In this case the name of the template file is kali-linux-2019.2-vbox-and64.ova. Hit Next to continue.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox with the OVA template – importing the virtual appliance

Set the virtual machine parameters by double-clicking the necessary parameter. The default VM name is Kali-Linux-2019.2-vbox-amd64 in the current example.

Define the directory in which a VM must be deployed from the template.

Select Generate new MAC addresses for all network adapters.

Tick the checkbox Import hard drives as VDI. When all VM parameters are set, click Import.

How to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox – importing the OVA template to deploy KALI Linux

Wait for a while until the VM is imported. Then select your Kali VM deployed on VirtualBox from the template and hit Start.

Kali Linux on VirtualBox - a VM has been deployed from the OVA template successfully

The default login is root and the default password is toor for Kali Linux installed on VirtualBox from the template. VirtualBox Guest Additions are pre-installed in this case. You can use a VM with Kali Linux deployed from a VM template similarly as you use the Kali Linux VM you have created and configured manually on VirtualBox.


Installing Kali Linux on VirtualBox is not a difficult process, but does include a set of crucial features that you need to know. Today’s blog post has explored how to install Kali Linux on VirtualBox as a VM manually and by using an OVA VirtualBox VM template. Manual installation allows you to select your favorite Linux graphical user interface (GUI) as well as configure all necessary parameters such as virtual disk size, disk partitioning etc.

Semi-automatic installation of Kali on VirtualBox by using the VM template helps you save time, allows you to set the main VM options and deploy multiple similar VMs in a short time. You can install Kali Linux on VirtualBox on your laptop, attach an external USB wireless network adapter to the VM, and perform security testing, auditing Wi-Fi networks, and many other penetration testing tasks. You can easily switch between your host OS and Kali Linux (guest OS). Kali Linux on VirtualBox VM is isolated, meaning that you can have an adequate level of security and never need to worry about your host OS being accessible from the outside during penetration testing with Kali. You are welcome to continue learning about this topic by reading our blog post about installing Kali Linux on VMware VMs.

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