Kali Linux

Kali Linux Installation – Virtual Machine VS Dual Boot VS Live Boot

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Kali Linux

Kali Linux Installation

Kali Linux is the best hacking OS. If you are yet to have a Kali instance running on your machine, then you have quite a dilemma ahead of you. There are three ways to go about running Kali, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, I’ll tell you what exactly the terms Dual Boot, Live Boot, and Virtual machine installation mean, how easy/difficult these are to perform, and what are the advantages/disadvantages of each of them. In the end, I’ll tell you how to find guides for doing all of these.

PS: This guide (and the blog) is focused on Kali, but everything in this post is applicable to Linux in general. Certain parts are related to hacking, but you can take networking lessons from them regardless, even if you aren’t interested in hacking per se.

Dual Boot

Most of you would be running a single operating system on your system right now. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. We can partition our hard disk, and install multiple operating systems alongside each other.

Think of how you have multiple partitions in your Windows (C,D,E,F drives). All your Windows system files would usually be in C (local disk). What if you let go of drive F (copy it’s content to C,D,E first), and decide to install Kali’s system files on it (you can install Kali’s system files on your computer using the .iso file of Kali that is available for download). Now, you will have 3 drives of Windows format (NTFS), and one drive with Linux format (ext4). C drive (NTFS), will have Windows installed, and F drive (ext4, and it’s name isn’t really F drive anymore), has Linux.

But since your computer loads the system files during bootup, it needs to know whether to load files from C drive or from the “formerly F” drive. This is handled by the bootloader.

This was a gross oversimplification. Here’s a nice article on HowToGeek that explains stuff in more details.
This is when Kali installer asks where it should install the OS.
In the sample explanation, you should install it where the “F” drive of
Windows is. If you instead install it over the “C” drive, you’ll lose
Windows, and will only have Kali in your system.
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Once you have installed Kali on a system which already had Windows,
the bootloader (GRUB) will ask you which of them to boot from.

 USB Boot

In the above example, we had Windows on our C,D,E,F partitions. The C partition had the system files, while D,E,F had other files. We decided to overwrite F and install Kali’s system files over there. When we wanted to run Windows, we booted from C, and when we wanted to run Kali, we booted from the “former F drive” (of course we didn’t know what exactly we are booting for, GRUB handles that for us, we just have to choose).

So, can we, instead of installing Kali on our F drive, install it on an external Hard Disk, and then boot from that external hard disk? The answer is yes. Well, you may ask, the size of Kali’s ISO is <4 GB. What if I have a 16 GB USB flash drive. Surely, the installed OS will not take more than 16GB. Why use a hard disk, let me just install the OS on a USB flash drive.

Well, the answer to that is yes too. You can but 10 USB flash drives, and install 10 different operating systems on each of them, and then plug in whichever one you want, boot from it, and if your OS supports the filesystem of your hard disks, you can use your computers hard disks as well.

Kali Linux

However, remember how I said install the OS on the USB flash drive. Turns out, you don’t even have to install the OS. For example, take a simple game. Suppose it has a setup.exe file on the CD drive you bought. When you run that, you can’t yet play the game, and you instead need to install it on your hard disk, after which it can be played. This is true for operating systems as well. If you plug in a Windows installation CD/DVD/USB into your computer, it will do what the name says, install Windows on your computer. Upon installation, you can run Windows.

Kali Linux Installation

But with some Linux distributions, we have the ability to run the OS without installation(live boot). You can take the ISO, burn it to a DVD drive, and “live boot” it. It will not touch your hard disk, and everything will run directly on your primary memory (RAM). Hence, the installer also acts as the installed software.
So, simply download Kali Linux’ iso, and copy it to a USB, and you are done. Except for a little problem, USB drives are not bootable by default. So you need a little software which will properly perform the copying of the iso to the USB drive, such that it can be booted from. Kali Linux.
In summary, download the ISO, use a tool to intelligently copy the ISO to a flash drive, plug in the flash drive, and boot from it. It will ask you whether you want to Install the OS, or start running it right away (live boot). Just select the live boot option, and Kali is up and running, without any installation. However, since everything happens in volatile primary memory (RAM), changes are lost. So, everytime you boot into the live USB, it would be like running a fresh install (which can be both a good and a bad thing). With persistence mode, even this limitation is overcome, and you can have changes which persist across boots. Kali Linux.
These are the choices offered when you boot from Kali’s installer on a USB
You can run it live, run it live with persistence, or install the OS.
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Virtual Machine

Suppose you only have Windows on your machine. How do you go from a powered off system to having a fully functional Windows running on your machine. Actually, a more useful question is, what all do you need to go from nothing to functional OS running. Here are a few things I can think of-
  • System files that run the OS (or in other words, system files that basically the OS).
  • A small core utility which can load the system files into memory from the hard disk (bootloader) when the computer is presently in a void like situation.
  • Memory where the system files are loaded.
  • Processing power which runs the OS.
  • Hard Disk space, where you can store stuff, Networking so that you can access the internet, and so on.
So, from a powerless state, in the presence of all the above, we can move to a state where we have a functional Windows instance running on our system. The question I want to ask you is, from a state where we have a functional Windows instance running on our system, can we move to a state where we have two functional OSs running on our system?

Kali Linux

  • System files that run the second OS
  • A different core utility which can load the system files into memory from the hard disk (bootloader) when we have an OS running on the system already (as opposed to being in  a void like situation)
  • Memory, separate from the already runnning OS’s memory, where the system files of this OS are loaded.
  • Processing power, separately for this OS, which runs the OS.
  • Hard Disk space, separately for this OS, where you can store stuff, Networking so that you can access the internet, and so on.
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The above discussion should tell you that it would indeed be possible to run multiple OSs together. Also, by somehow dividing the memory, hard disk space, processor power, etc. into two, and letting both OSs run on their share.

hypervisors is used to  achieve and now we can run multiple OS inside one OS, given that there are enough resources to sustain. Also, the needs of all the simultaneously running OSs. VMware is the pioneer in this technology and they only offer limited capability VMWare player for free, while VMWare workstation will cost you. On the other hand, VirtualBox provides free open source products.

Live Boot VS Dual Boot Comparing Installation of Kali Linux

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