How to Install Kali Linux on VMware: The Ultimate Guide

How to Install Kali Linux on VMware

Having trouble getting Kali Linux installed on VMware? We understand; it can be a little tricky. VMware is a very popular choice when it comes to running Kali in a hypervisor, but there are multiple versions of the program and more than one way to install Kali on it.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps to get Kali up and running on VMware. We will discuss what VMware is, the difference between Workstation Player and Workstation Pro, the system requirements, and how to download both VMware and Kali.

We will then show you how to install Kali Linux on VMware as both a .iso file and a VMware image file.

Lastly, we'll talk about adjusting different settings, such as RAM allocation and taking snapshots to get Kali running optimally for you.

Without further ado, let’s get your virtual environment up and running.

What Is VMware?

VMware is a virtualization software, meaning it lets you run multiple “mini” computers (called virtual machines or VMs) inside your main computer, allowing you to test different operating systems and applications separately. It's a way to make the most of your computer's resources. 

Running Kali Linux inside a VM offers several advantages. Using a VM, you can isolate Kali Linux from your main operating system, preventing potential conflicts and security risks. Moreover, it allows you to experiment and learn without causing any harm to your primary system.

VMware offers a free and paid version, catering to different users' needs. The free version, known as VMware Workstation Player, provides basic features for personal use, including the ability to run a single VM. 

On the other hand, the paid version, VMware Workstation Pro, offers advanced features which we will go into detail about later, such as running multiple VMs simultaneously, cloning VMs, and taking snapshots for easy recovery.

For macOS users, VMware provides a dedicated virtualization solution called VMware Fusion. Similar to Workstation Pro, Fusion offers both a free and paid version, with the latter unlocking more advanced features tailored to macOS users.

Please note that in this article, we will be walking through the installation of Workstation Player and Workstation Pro on a Windows system.

Installation of any software on a Linux or macOS system will be different than on Windows and may also have somewhat different system requirements.

Once a version of VMware is installed, adding Kali Linux or any other virtual machine will be very similar (though not exact) regardless of your host operating system.

System Requirements

The requirements for VMware Player and VMware Workstation Pro are very similar, as detailed below.

  • CPU: You'll need a 64-bit processor with a core speed of at least 1.3 GHz.
  • RAM: A minimum of 2 GB of memory is necessary, but we recommend 4 GB or more.
  • Disk Space: Workstation Player only requires 150 MB of free disk space for installing the software. If you install Workstation Pro, you'll require approximately 1.2 GB of free disk space for the application installation.

Here are the minimum system requirements for installing Kali Linux on VMware:

  • At least 2 GB of RAM, although we recommend 4 GB or higher.
  • At least 20 GB of free hard disk space.

See our choices for "Best Laptop for Kali Linux" here.

Downloading and Installing VMware

Before we show you how to install Kali Linux on VMware, you need to have VMware installed on your system. There are two types of VMware Workstation available, including a free and a paid version.

Free Version (Player)

The free version of VMware is called VMware Workstation Player. It is a basic version of the software that is suitable for personal use. With VMware Workstation Player, you can create and run virtual machines on your desktop or laptop. It supports a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, Linux, and macOS. However, it has limited features compared to the paid version.

Paid Version (Pro)

The paid version of VMware is called VMware Workstation Pro. It is a more advanced version of the software that is suitable for professional use. With VMware Workstation Pro, you can create and run virtual machines on your desktop or laptop, as well as on servers. It also supports the same operating systems as the free version.

Additionally, it has advanced features, such as the ability to create snapshots, clone a VM, and change the virtual network settings.

At the time of writing, VMware Worskstation Pro retails for $199 USD.

VMware also has an academic discount which will cost you $119 USD. To take advantage of this, you need to be a student, faculty member, staff member or administrator at an educational institution, such as a college, university, or public or private K-12 school. Additionally, parents or legal guardians purchasing on behalf of a child who is a student also qualify.

To download and install VMware, follow these steps:

Go to the VMware Workstation Player or VMware Workstation Pro website (also linked above).

Click the "Download Now" button for the version you want to download. The installation process is identical for both the Player and Pro version.

VMware Download

Download the installer, and when completed, double-click on the VMware installer file from the folder you saved it to and start the installation process. Click Next.

UnVMware Setuptitled

Accept the license agreement and click Next. Click Next three more times, and finally, click Install. Once VMware is installed, click Finish, and you can proceed to install Kali on VMware.

VMware Installation Complete

Downloading Kali

There are two ways we can download and install Kali on VMware, using the .iso or the VMware image file. We recommend using the prebuilt VMware file, which is completely configured and ready to go. It’s a much easier process and takes little time to get it up and running.

Alternatively, if you want to download the .iso file, head over to the Kali website and download the Kali installer image.

VMware - ISO Download

 We will walk through setting up the .iso file in a section below.

Using a Virtual Machine Image

To download the Kali VMware image, follow these steps:

1. Go to the official Kali Linux website (Download Kali).

2. Scroll down to the "Virtual Machines" section.

Choose Kali Image

3. Choose the VMware platform and click on the download link.

Kali - Download VMware Image File

How to Install Kali Linux on VMware

Once the download is complete, you will notice it saved as a .zip file. Double-click on the downloaded file to open it with your default zip program. If you need a zip program, we recommend 7Zip.

Set where you would like the file to be extracted and click OK.

Extract Kali Zip File

We will show you how to Install the image on both the Player and Pro versions, which are very similar.

VMware Workstation Player

Open Vmware Workstation Player and click on “Open a Virtual Machine.”

VMware - Open Virtual Machine

Locate the folder where you extracted the file and click on it. The file you are looking for is called VMware virtual configuration file. Click Open.

VMware - Import File

And just like that, the Kali image file is ready to go. To start Kali, click on “Play virtual machine.”

VMware - Play Virtual Machine

The default login credentials are

  • Username kali
  • Password kali
Kali Linux Desktop

VMware Workstation Pro

Here is how to install Kali Linux on VMware Workstation Pro, which is very similar to how we installed it on VMware Workstation Player. Open VMware Pro and click on “Open a Virtual Machine.”

VMware Pro - Open a Virtual Machine

Locate the extracted Kali VMware virtual configuration file and click Open.

VMware Pro - Import File

Click on “Power on this virtual machine” and Kali will load.

VMware Pro - Power on Machine
VMware Pro - Kali Desktop

Installing Kali Linux From an ISO File

Installing the Kali Linux .iso file on VMware is identical whether you use the free Workstation Player or the paid Pro version. The only difference is that the Pro version allows you to customize the installation with advanced options such as SCSI controller type, virtual disk type, and compatibility with older VMware products.

Unless you absolutely need to use these options, we suggest installing Kali on Pro using the typical install.

Open either version of VMware and select “Create a New Virtual Machine.”

VMware Player  - Create Virtual Machine

Browse to the location where the .iso is saved, then click Next.

VMware - Import iso

In the dialogue box, you will be prompted to choose the Guest Operating System. Please select Linux as the Guest operating system and Debian 10.x 64-bit as the Version.

VMware - Select OS

Next, set a name for your virtual machine and decide what folder you would like to use as the location of your virtual machine. You can choose whatever you would like in this step.

VMware - Name Virtual Machine

Next, you will be asked to allocate disk space for your Kali virtual machine. Kali calls for 20 GB minimum, but if you have room suggest setting this to about 35 GB.

Select the option to Split the Virtual Disk into multiple files, which is the default choice. By doing this, the 20 to 35 GB you specify will not be used or reserved immediately.

Instead, these Virtual Disks will expand based on usage, up to the maximum size you've set as the disk capacity.

With a new installation, it typically takes up 10 GB of space, and this will grow as you install additional software within Kali.

VMware - Disk Capacity

At this point, you can click finish to complete the installation.

VMware - Create Virtual Machine

Once booted, the installation of Kali is identical whether you are installing it directly to your hardware (bare metal) or through a hypervisor like VMware. For a step-by-step guide on installing Kali once the iso has been set up, please see How to Install Kali Linux on VirtualBox & Start Hacking Now where we do a full walkthrough on the .iso installation.

Performance and Setup

VMware allows you to adjust many settings in your virtual machine, such as RAM allocation, processors used, taking snapshots, making a clone of a VM, and changing network configurations.

However, some features are only available in VMware Pro, including the snapshot feature and VM cloning, as well as the ability to change network configurations.

Changing the RAM and processors are features available in either setup. To access the settings menu in either edition, you need to click on "Edit virtual machine settings" from the main screen of VMware.

VMware - Edit Settings

Increase RAM Allocation

To allocate more RAM to Kali Linux, click the "Memory" option and use the blue slider to adjust the size.

VMware provides a recommendation for the optimal RAM allocation. The slider allows you to assign anywhere from 4 MB to a maximum of 64 GB (assuming your host system has that much).

While we suggest allocating 4 GB of RAM for a smooth experience, Kali Linux can still function effectively with just 2 GB.

VMware - Allocate RAM

Creating Snapshots

One useful feature in VMware, although limited to the paid version, is the ability to create snapshots.

A snapshot is essentially a way to capture the current state of your VM. It captures all of your settings and data at a point in time. This allows you to revert back to this saved state if anything goes wrong.

If you are using Workstation Pro, we recommend creating a snapshot as soon as you finish your initial installation of Kali. You can call it something like “fresh install.”

Going forward, we recommend creating a snapshot before any significant changes, such as updates or system configuration changes.

Creating a snapshot in Workstation Pro is straightforward. Head to the VM menu, select Snapshot, and then “Take Snapshot.”

VMware - Take a Snapshot

Give your snapshot a name referencing why you are taking it, and give it a short description.

VMware - Name Snapshot

If you need to revert back to your snapshot. Head to the VM menu, select Snapshot, and then select “Revert to Snapshot.”

VMware - Revert to Snapshot

Cloning a VM

Another great feature included in VMware Pro is the ability to clone a VM. Now why would you want to do this? Put simply, it allows you to create numerous base systems where you can then test out different configurations.

Unlike VM snapshots, where the original and new states cannot function at the same time, VM clones enable you to run multiple clones simultaneously.

Cloning will take up more disk space as it creates another VM, so please make sure you have sufficient space if you plan on using this feature.

To create a clone in VMware Pro, open the VM menu, next click on Manage, and finally click on “Clone.”

VMware - Clone a VM

Click Next to start the Clone Virtual Machine Wizard.

VMware - Clone Virtual Machine Wizard

Choose where you want to clone from and click Next.

VMware - Clone From

Choose “Create a full clone” (recommended) and click Next.

VMware - Create a Full Clone

Finally, name the new clone and decide where you would like it to be saved.

VMware - Name of The New Clone

The cloning process will take a few minutes to complete.

VMware - Cloning

You now have a cloned VM.

VMware - New Clone

Change Network Settings

VMware allows you to change Network Settings. However, you are fairly limited in the free Player version, as you can only change whether you use NAT, host, or bridged mode.

In the Pro version, you have the same options as well as the added benefit of creating new virtual networks, which can be useful if you are running a lab with numerous machines and you want certain ones on a separate network, such as when practicing pivoting.

You can learn how to set up your own lab with our How to Create a Virtual Hacking Lab: The Ultimate Hacker Setup.

To create a new network, select the Edit menu and then “Virtual Network Editor.”

VMware - Edit Network Settings

Select Change settings. You will need Administrator privileges to make these changes.

VMware - Virtual Network Editor

Click add network and select a network to add. We chose VMnet7, but you can choose any available network.

VMware - Add a Network

You can leave the subnet IP as is, but we changed ours to 10.10.10.0. If you change your subnet IP, ensure you have the correct subnet mask.

If you are looking for a subentting cheatsheet, we have you covered. Check out our The Only IPv4 Subnetting Cheat Sheet You’ll Ever Need blog post now.

Select the VMnet7 network and change the subnet IP. Click Apply. It will take about a minute or two to create the network. Once completed, you will have a new subnet to which you can assign your Kali Linux in VMware.

VMware - Change Subnet IP

To add our Kali Linux VM to the created VMnet7 network, we need to add a second network adapter. Select “Edit virtual machine settings”, select add, select the network adapter, and finally, select Finish.

VMware - Add a Network Adapter

Once we have the new network adapter added to Kali, we can assign it to the new subnet we created.

VMware - Assign New Network

You should now have Kali with two network adapters, also known as dual-homed, each connected to different subnetworks. You can confirm this by starting Kali and opening a terminal. In the terminal, type: ip a

Kali - Check Adapter Status

Conclusion

As you’ve seen, VMware is a very efficient and powerful piece of software that provides a streamlined process and offers free and paid versions depending on your needs.

With our step-by-step guide on how to install Kali Linux on VMware, you should be well on your way to setting up and optimizing your virtual environment and start hacking. Just follow the instructions, and you'll have Kali Linux running smoothly on VMware in no time.

Check out our member section for a massive selection of courses on hacking using Kali.

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  • Richard Dezso

    Richard is a cyber security enthusiast, eJPT, and ICCA who loves discovering new topics and never stops learning. In his home lab, he's always working on sharpening his offensive cyber security skills. He shares helpful advice through easy-to-understand blog posts that offer practical support for everyone. Additionally, Richard is dedicated to raising awareness for mental health. You can find Richard on LinkedIn, or to see his other projects, visit his Linktree.

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