Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox

We will install the latest version of Kali Linux on VirtualBox. The host machine in this scenario is a MacBook Pro – MacOS Sierra. My personal preferance is to install Linux or Unix like systems on a MacBook where possible as it seems to work better in my opinion.

Kali Linux shouldn’t need any introduction – it is the “go to” distro for many security researchers and ethical hackers. Kali Linux comes from Offensive Security and it is a well established distro. For those of you that have been using Kali Linux for a while would have noticed how much work has gone into improving Kali. If we compare the current release which is version 2021.2 (VirtualBox OVA) vs the version last year we can easily identify so many changes. You no longer have to fiddle around with connecting network adapters when installed on a virtual machine, the downloads page is much more user friendly and supports more platforms – this includes WSL, ARM, containers and Mobile! In summary Kali Linux was already amazing but now…it is very slick and absolutely stunning on an OLED sceen/MacBook Pro – Offensive Security you are doing an amazing job! Anyway, I digress – back to the install.


Start downloading the above as needed – downloads can be executed simultaneously. VirtualBox literally needs to be downloaded as the configuration will be done once Kali Linux is ready. We’ll jump to Kali Linux – assuming you are on the downloads page now. Click on Virtual machines (Recommended), then VirtualBox. Note that if you prefer to use VMware then you will have this option too.

Click on the download icon and this will begin. The download is in OVA format and is close to 4GB in size so speed of download depends on your internet throughput. Once all your downloads are complete, move onto the next section.

Once downloaded, you could be really lucky and you get a automated message where VirtualBox picks up the Kali appliance and will simply set all the suggested settings so all you have to do is click Import! If this works in your case then skip onto Settings configuration below. for everyone else, continue to the next step.

Open VirtualBox if it isn’t already and click on “New” for new machine. Next you’ll be asked to name your virtual machine as you see fit. Some options may already be picked up by VirtualBox so don’t worry if options are pre-selected for you. Just check the following are true;

  • Name & Operating system type: Linux
  • Memory size: the default is set to 2GB but the more the better. Example on my setup I have 16GB and I’ll allocate 4GB if you’ll be using low performance tools, ideally 8GB if your system permits
  • Hard Disk: Create a virtual hard disk now
  • Hard Disk file type: VDI (VritualBox Disk Image)
  • Storage on physical hard disk: Dynamically allocated
  • File location & size: 80GB for VM’s

Now click on “Create” to complete the intial setup. We have essentially configured the environment in which our Kali Virtual machine will operate within. You will now see your new Kali Linux VM populate on the left hand side of VirtualBox.


Now we need to complete some basic settings on this Kali machine. You can go through and match the following;

  • Ensure your Kali Linux machine is highlighted/single clicked and select Settings
  • General: leave defaults
  • System – Motherboard: ensure you have Hard Disk and Optical selected only. Extended features: ensure Enable I/O APIC and Hardware Click in UTC time selected
  • System – Processor: Processor count of 2 should be sufficienct. Enable PAE/NX
  • Display – Screen: Video memory should be cranked up to 128MB. Graphics controller select VMSVGA (you may need to play around with this on a Windows host machine, but there’s only 3 options so trial and error will not take long if you encounter an issue). I’d advise to deselect/disable 3D acceleration as it can cause problems for some users

Extension Pack

The VirtualBox Extension pack will prevent basic problems from occuring before they happen and I have not encoutered an issue by having the pack on the system so I’m going to advise you install it now. On VirtualBox, click on Tools > Preferences > Extensions. Now select the Extension pack you installed earlier and hit OK – job done!

Ready to fire up Kali!

We should now be ready to go. Click on your Kali Linux machine and click Start. You will get a prompt each timetelling you that you’ll be switched to full screen mode and how to get out of it should you need.

You’ll be presented with the login screen. Unless Offensive Security change this then it’ll be kali for both username and password. Ok this isn’t very secure but it’s meant for convenience!

On some setups you might find the screen resolution is not ideal. You can change this within VirtualBox settings or your host machine. In most cases, I find it better to use the host settings options to configure the screen however the clarity can drop. On a 13″ laptop then select 175% screen size and see how it works for you – this is going to be a matter of personal choice.