How to get started with Kali Linux in 2020

How to get started with Kali Linux in 2020

Kali Linux has been developing since BackTrack, and is still considered the main Linux distribution for penetration testing. This system has undergone considerable transformation since the past and includes an updated look, performance improvements, and some significant changes in its use.

Offensive Security is the team behind Kali Linux, a Debian based system. This time is the weapon of choice in Null Byte, and you can install it as your main system (not recommended), use it with dual boot, use it in a virtual workstation, or make a portable live version on a USB flash drive. .

We will guide you through a very basic installation today, enough to get you up and running to follow the Null Byte guide. Actually there are many things that can be done to adjust the installation, but we just want a fast and dirty process.

What’s New in Kali Linux?

In Kali Linux version 2019.4, released at the end of 2019, Offensive Security made a significant change to how Kali looked and felt. And the 2020.1 update, released in January 2020, is built on a new foundation.

Perhaps the most significant update is the default desktop environment, which is now Xfce, a change that was mostly made for performance-related issues. For most users, GNOME is redundant, and a lightweight desktop environment such as Xfce provides lower overhead, which leads to faster and faster performance. For all the big fans of GNOME out there, the previous desktop environment is still supported and even comes with an updated GTK3 theme.

Other new features include the introduction of incognito modes, new public packaging and documentation processes, updates to Kali NetHunter, the addition of PowerShell, non-root users now the default, and bug fixes and other updates.

Choosing the Right Kali Kali

To get started, navigate to and open the download page, where you can choose from a variety of images.


Available images include Kali Linux for 64-and 32-bit architecture (via Installer), Lite edition (via NetInstaller), and Live version, and there are links to downloads for the ARM architecture and VMware and VirtualBox virtual machines. How you want to use Kali is entirely up to you.

  • The “Installer” link is for Intel-based computers and includes a copy of the default package. You can install Kali later to use it without an internet connection. This is great if Kali will be your main OS or part of a dual-boot system. For the best performance without sacrificing the primary system of your choice, dual-boot is the best.
  • The “Installer” link is much smaller than the Installer because it does not contain a copy of the package to be installed. This is only recommended if you don’t have enough bandwidth to download the full version, because you might want to install the missing package at a later time.
  • The “Live” link is to run Times from a USB flash drive or disk. This is great if you want a portable hacking machine installed on any computer.
  • The “VM” link is for installing Kali as a virtual machine on your main system. The two virtual environments are compatible with VirtualBox (free) and VMware Workstation (not free). This is a good option for Null Byte readers, because you can practice hacking between systems on one computer, which can prevent you from violating cyber security laws. But keep in mind that a decent amount of RAM is needed so that everything can run smoothly, and to do any wireless hacking, you will need an external wireless adapter, which can be put into monitor mode, preferably.
  • The “ARM” link is only for devices such as devices that use the ARM architecture, such as Pinebook, Raspberry Pis, and CuBox-i.
  • Not listed is the Kali NetHunter image for mobile devices, but you can find it on the Offensive Security website. They work on various Android devices, such as OnePlus, Sony Xperia, and Nexus models.

If you want to run an older version of Kali, you can visit the older version of the image index. While Kali 2020.1 replaces root users with non-root users by default, you might want to install the latest 2019 version, which will still give you most of the latest features offered. In this guide, I will install version 2019.4 as my main system because I want to keep the root user default.

After you decide how you want to run Next, click the name of the image to download it. You can also press the “Torrent” link instead if it will complete the job better.

Install Kali Linux

The process for installing Kali Linux will be different depending on what version you choose. For help installing Kali on VirtualBox, see our previous article about using Kali on VirtualBox on a Mac; the article is a bit long, but the process is generally the same and works the same in Windows. For help in installing Live images, a guide by Kitten, a Null Byte reader, can help, as well as Kali’s own documentation.

I downloaded the 64-Bit Installer image 2019.4 times and burned the ISO to disk, and that’s what I’m going to show off today. After opening the installer, the boot menu offers several options. We will keep it simple and do a graphical installation. A minimum recommended disk space of 20 GB. But just so you know:

  • The “Live (amd64)” option will boot you directly into Kali, but anything saved saves RAM, not your hard drive, so when you turn off Kali, everything disappears.
  • The “Live (amd64 failafe)” option is the same as above, only if the host computer shuts down suddenly, your device will not be harmed. If you solve a buggy computer problem, that’s a good option.
  • The “Live (forensic mode)” option is used mainly to recover files, gather evidence, etc. On the host machine. “The internal hard disk is never touched,” and “if there is a swap partition it will not be used and no internal disk will be installed automatically.” Also, automatic installation of removable media is disabled. You can read more about that on the Kali website.
  • The “Live USB Persistence” option is when you want to install Kali on a USB flash drive, which allows you to check the host system without worrying about running or locked processes. Every file saved on your desktop, such as reports, logs, dumps, etc., will be saved to your thumb drive and will be available the next time you boot Kali. You can read more about that on the Kali website.
  • The “Live USB Encrypted Persistence” option is the same as above, only the drive is also encrypted using LUKS encryption. If you are using Live USB, why not make it safe? You can read more about that on the Kali website.
  • The “Install” option is to install Kali on your internal hard drive, but you will only get the classic text mode installer to guide you through the process.
  • The “Graphic Installation” option gives you the Kali installer with a graphical user interface, which is a little easier to follow. This is what I say
  • The “Install with speech synthesis” option is just like the Install one, only the text on the screen is also read out loud to you. This is useful if you have a hard time seeing what’s on the screen.
  • The “Advanced options” menu item contains options for the “Hardware Detection Tool” and “Memory Diagnostic Tool,” which are useful for diagnostics only.


Next, select the language and keyboard layout options.


Then, enter the host name for the system.


Then, set a password for the root user. Remember, if you install 2020.1 or higher, by default there are no root users, only non-root users, but you can set a special password for users too.


Now, set the time zone you want to configure the clock:


After that, we can start partitioning the disk. We will keep it simple again and use the “Guided” method. In my case, the “whole user disk” method.


After everything is configured, changes will be written to disk.


And the installation will begin. Maybe it takes time to do it.


A network mirror can be used to update software during installation. If you are connected to a network, it usually makes sense to do it.


The GRUB bootloader also needs to be installed so that the operating system can boot.


Finally, the installation is complete. Now we can restart the machine and boot into the new system.


After Kali boots, we will be presented with a new login prompt, which looks much different from Kali 2019.3 and earlier. If you install 2019.4, the credentials will be the hostname you chose and the root password that you created, or the non-root user and password that you created. For 2020.1 and newer, “Kali” and “Kali” are standard user credentials for certain installations such as in VirtualBox. (Default root user credentials are used to be “root” and “toor.”)


Now we can see the newly redesigned desktop, which uses the Xfce environment.


Icons, file systems and terminals all come with new themes. You might want to take the time to find a way in a new environment. Also, there are tools that we recommend that you install immediately on your Kali build, including Git, terminal multiplexers, Tor, code editors, and so on.


The application menu at the top left, illustrated by the Kali icon, is where all your tools and settings are stored. Hacking tools are categorized by topics ranging from social engineering to post-exploitation and password attacks. Although the graphical user interface menu for applications is good, you can also start these tools from the command line interface in the terminal window.


How the New Incognito Mode Works

Times now comes with an incognito mode, which is designed to look like Windows for ordinary viewers. This is useful if you need to look less suspicious, whether in public or during a professional pentest. Just enter Kali-undercover in the terminal to run the script and change the environment.


Even the menu and file manager are designed to look like Windows.


To change back to the normal desktop environment, just enter the command in the terminal again.

How PowerShell Works in the New Age

This time including PowerShell, makes it easy to use and runs PowerShell scripts right on the system. It can be installed with the package manager. If you are not a root user, add sudo to the beginning of the command below.

~# apt install powershell

Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done


To run it, simply enter pwsh in the terminal, and we enter the PowerShell prompt.

~# pwsh

PowerShell 6.2.3
Copyright (c) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
Type 'help' to get help.

PS /root>

Public Docs & Packaging

This time it puts more power into the hands of the community by enabling the community to be more involved. All documentation is now available for price reductions in the public Git repository – anyone can contribute via a merge request. There are also plans for all documentation to be included in each Kali image, making it possible to access them offline.

Another change involves how new packaging equipment takes place. Now there is documentation on how to create a new package to be included with Kali. After the new tool is packaged, it can be submitted for approval.

Default Non-Root Users in 2020.1 & Above

If you install 2020.1 or higher, you must create an admin user versus a root user. To use Kali at the root level, you can use sudo -s or sudo -i or sudo su to get it in your current shell. You can also create a password for root once you have a root prompt; use the root passwd and create a password. After that, you can use su to open root access in your shell.

Or, you can set permissions without a password when using sudo with the following command.

~$ sudo apt install -y kali-grant-root && sudo dpkg-reconfigure kali-grant-root

Other features

Kali has several other new features too. The kernel has been updated to version 5.3.9 in 2019.4, but now at 5.5.17 on May 13, 2020. Another addition is the use of BTRFS (b-tree file system), which allows the ability to roll back changes to bare metal installations, similar with the snapshot feature used in the VM.

Version 2019.4 of Kali is also the latest release that supports 8GB SD cards for ARM, so if you want 2020.1 or higher, you need a 16GB card. Kali NetHunter gets an update too. With the new NetHunter Kex, HDMI output can be connected to Android devices, plus a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. – this basically creates the full Kali desktop experience directly from your mobile.

Building 2020.1 introduces three regular versions of Nethunter, one for devices rooting with custom recovery and patched kernels, one for devices that are rooted with special recovery and without special kernels, and one for devices that are not rooted.


In this article, we discuss the latest Kali Linux releases, their new features, and walk through basic installations that can be done by beginners. For further installation, for example, if you want to verify the checksum, Kali dual-boot with Windows, Mac, or Linux, encrypt the disk, and so on, check the official Kali document.

This is the same old time that you know and love, but with a new look and better performance. With this exciting new change, one thing is certain – Kali Linux remains the enchanted distro king.

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