Kali Linux is a powerful Linux distro for penetration testing and ethical hacking. It's not meant as an everyday operating system, so most Kali users will utilize the distro by running it temporarily from a USB drive, or opt for a persistent installation in a virtual machine.

Installing Kali in VMware gives you easy access to the hundreds of security and hacking tools that are included with Kali. Any time you need to do some packet sniffing, password cracking, etc. you can simply fire up the virtual machine and get to work. It's also a great way to test out hacking applications without having to install software on your host system.

In this tutorial, we'll show you how to install Kali Linux in a VMware virtual machine. You'll be able to follow along with this guide regardless of your host operating system, so both Linux and Windows users will find these step by step instructions to be applicable.

In this tutorial you will learn:
  • How to configure VMware to host Kali Linux
  • How to create a Kali Linux virtual machine
Running Kali Linux inside a VMware virtual machine
Running Kali Linux inside a VMware virtual machine
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Kali Linux
Software VMware
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

Getting Started

This tutorial assumes that you already have VMware installed. If not, you can head over to the VMware website to download VMware Workstation for free.

The other thing you need to have in order to get started is the Kali Linix install image. This comes in the form of an ISO file. Check out our guide on downloading Kali Linux ISO image to get a copy. Once VMware is installed and you have your ISO file downloaded, you're ready to follow the steps in the next section.

Install Kali Linux in VMware

  1. Get started by opening VMware and clicking on "Create a new virtual machine."

    Create a new virtual machine
    Create a new virtual machine

  2. SUBSCRIBE NEWSLETTER & RSS
    Subscribe to RSS and NEWSLETTER and receive latest Linux news, jobs, career advice and tutorials.


  3. Next, you'll need to point VMware to the Kali ISO file you downloaded earlier. Click on "Browse" to locate it. Once it's open, VMware might say that it can't detect the type of operating system - this is no problem and you can proceed by clicking "Next."

    Click browse and navigate to where your Kali Linux ISO file is saved
    Click browse and navigate to where your Kali Linux ISO file is saved
  4. We need to tell VMware about our operating system. Kali is a derivative of Debian Linux, so it's safe to fill in the latest version of Debian from the selection menu. Then, proceed by clicking "Next."

    Select Linux and Debian as the operating system type
    Select Linux and Debian as the operating system type
  5. Choose a name for the new virtual machine. "Kali Linux" would be appropriate, or whatever you like. You can also change the save location of the VM if you prefer, or simply leave it at the default, then click "Next."

    Fill out a name for the VM and select a different location if you want
    Fill out a name for the VM and select a different location if you want
  6. Next, we need to specify the hard disk size for our virtual machine. Something 20 GB or more should be enough to run Kali optimally. But if you plan to save a lot of files onto the system, or install a lot of software, then you should adjust this value accordingly. Splitting the hard disk into multiple files (the default setting) is the best option for performance, so unless you have a specific reason not to, just leave this setting at the default. Then, click "Next."

    Select a size for the hard disk and whether to split files - default values are fine
    Select a size for the hard disk and whether to split files - default values are fine


  7. You'll now have the chance to review your VM's settings. Click "Finish" to get started with installing Kali onto the VM.

    Review settings and click finish to create the VM
    Review settings and click finish to create the VM
  8. The virtual machine has been created, and now it's time to install Kali onto it. Highlight your newly created virtual machine and select "Play virtual machine." This will boot the VM to Kali's installation media that we selected earlier.

    Play virtual machine to launch the Kali Linux installer
    Play virtual machine to launch the Kali Linux installer

From this point, you'll be installing Kali Linux just like you would on a physical machine. We have another guide on how to install Kali Linux if you need some help with that.

When starting your Kali VM, if you receive a notification about installing "VMware Tools for Linux," this is a good time to go ahead and install it, as it will enable advanced features for your virtual machine.

Download and install the Linux Tools for VMware for an improved experience
Download and install the Linux Tools for VMware for an improved experience

Also note that you can send mouse and keyboard output back to your host operating system by pressing Ctrl + Alt at the same time on your keyboard.

Closing Thoughts

Virtualization is a great way to run a second system without needing extra hardware. VMware makes this easy with its sleek interface and extensive configuration options. Having a virtualized version of Kali Linux gives you a lot of flexibility to run penetration testing software or maintain a separated hacking environment from your host system.

FIND LATEST LINUX JOBS on LinuxCareers.com
Submit your RESUME, create a JOB ALERT or subscribe to RSS feed.
LINUX CAREER NEWSLETTER
Subscribe to NEWSLETTER and receive latest news, jobs, career advice and tutorials.
DO YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP?
Get extra help by visiting our LINUX FORUM or simply use comments below.