Kali Linux USB With Persistence On Mac

Getting Kali Linux, or any other Linux distribution, up and running on your Mac can sometimes be problematic. Although things have gotten easier with some new tools. As a Macbook Pro user (mid 2014 model) I wanted to be able to use Kali Linux on my Macbook in a USB liveboot mode, with persistence. One primary reason for wanting to maintain persistence is that there is quite a bit of setup involved to get all the drivers working, and I didn’t want to have to go through all of that each time I booted into Linux.

I tried many methods of getting things working, even following the instructions on the Kali Linux website didn’t work exactly. I ended up with a strange occurrence when rebooting that I had to select the windows partition for boot rather than the mac EFI. Below are my instructions on how I set up this live USB with persistence, it’s produced reliable results and hopefully it will do for you to. The process was done using my Macbook Pro mid 2014 model, running OSX El Capitan.

There’s a few things you will need in order to get started.

  1. A USB stick with minimum of 8GB storage (I’m using a 16GB scan disk USB3.0 thumb drive)
  2. Download the free software “Mac Linux USB Loader” from here https://sevenbits.github.io/Mac-Linux-USB-Loader/
  3. Download the latest build of Kali Linux (I use the amd64 version) and keep the .iso file in your downloads folder

STEP 1

  • First we need to prepare the USB stick. We will use the MAC OSX native disk utility tool for this. Open the Disk utility tool, and select the correct USB device (in my case SanDisk Cruzer…..)
    step1
  • Click on “Erase” and choose the following options
    • Name – Kali Linux
    • Format – MS-DOS (FAT)
    • Scheme – Master Boot Record
      step1_2
  • Press the “Erase” button. The Disk Utility will then run through it’s formatting process. When finished click on “Done“. You should now have a single clean partition on your USB drive as shown below.
    step1_3

Now the USB disk has been prepared we can move onto the next step, which will be to setup the drive using the “Mac Linux USB Loader“.

STEP 2

  • Open up the Mac Linux USB Loader software and select “Create Live USB“. This will bring up a finder window, where you can navigate to your downloaded Kali Linux.iso disk image. Select the Kali Linux disk image that you downloaded earlier.
    step2
  • On the next screen you will see your USB thumb drive listed with he name “kali Linux” (if you named it that when formatting). Select this USB drive and click “Next
    step2_2
  • On this screen click on “Begin Installation“.
  • Once this has completed, you should now find a directory structure on the USB disk like this :-/efi/boot inside the boot folder there will be a couple of .efi files and a “boot.iso” disk image.
    step2_3

STEP 3

  • There’s one final step we need to take in order to ensure that Kali Linux boots in persistence mode every time. We need to edit the enterprise configuration file. Open up the Mac Linux USB Loader again, and select the option “Setup USB Device“.
    step3
  • In the new window, select the Kali Linux USB drive from the left side. This is a list of the various available bootable USB drives. Once the correct drive is selected click on “Edit Enterprise Configuration File“. This will open a text edit window with the configuration file. You need to change the “hostname” from “kali” to “kali persistence“. Save this file, and close.
    step3_2
    step3_3
  • Your USB bootable disk is now ready. Reboot your Macbook Pro while holding down the “alt / option” key. You will be presented with a boot option list, select the “EFID” boot option. This will present another menu where you can select the boot mode, and the available Linux Distributions. Kali Linux should then boot up and now you have a Linux Live session running on your machine. There’s now just one more thing we need to do in order to setup persistence and make it work correctly.

STEP 4

  • We will use Linux tools to resize the partition. You can use the GUI tool “GParted” or it can be done through the terminal. Here’s the terminal commands :-
    • end=7gb
    • read start _ < <(du -bcm kali-linux-1.0.8.amd64.iso | tail -1); echo $start
    • parted /dev/sdb mkpart primary $start $end
  • after the parted process has finished there will be a new partition created at /dev/sdb3. You can verify this with the “disk -l” command to list all available drives.
  • Next we wil create a ext3 filesystem in the new partition. the filesystem will be labeled “persistence”. The terminal commands are as follows :-
    • mkfs.ext3 -L persistence /dev/sdb3
    • e2label /dev/sdb3 persistence
  • Next we will create a mount point for the new partition and then create the persistence configuration file, finally we will then unmount the partition. Here’s the terminal commands :-
    • mkdir -p /mnt/my_usb
    • mount /dev/sdb3 /mnt/my_usb
    • echo “/ union” > /mnt/my_usb/persistence.conf
    • umount /dev/sdb3
  • We are pretty much done! All that remains now is to reboot (using the option key again to boot into Linux). Once into Kali Linux create a new folder on the desktop, or a file in the documents folder. Reboot again, and check that it’s still there. If so then congratulations you’ve done everything right and you now have a live bootable USB drive running Kali Linux in persistence mode on your Macbook Pro.

Now all that remains is to get the Wireless adapter working. This is by far the most difficult part of the whole process, the broadcom drivers for Linux aren’t well supported, and depending on the model year of your Macbook Pro will depend on what chipset version and driver you need.

References :-

https://studyblast.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/guide-mac-os-x-lion-how-to-boot-a-linux-live-system-from-a-usb-drive-how-to-update-any-ocz-ssds-firmware/

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/how-to-boot-a-linux-live-usb-stick-on-your-mac/

http://docs.kali.org/downloading/kali-linux-live-usb-install

http://docs.kali.org/downloading/kali-linux-live-usb-persistence

13 thoughts on “Kali Linux USB With Persistence On Mac

  1. When creating an bootable USB stick like you say here, the whole space is being taken up by the image leaving not free partitionable space left behind, rendering the step 4 not applicable.

    Like

  2. I am getting an error while booting up.
    mount: mounting /dev/sdb on /live/persistence/sdb failed: No such device
    and then a line later:
    /init: line 230: can’t open /tmp/custom_mounts.list: no such file

    Any suggestions? Perhaps I need to create a file called custom_mounts.list ?

    Like

  3. I’m at step 4 under the second command. The response i get is “du: cannot access ‘kali-linux-1.0.8.amd64.iso’ : No such file or directory 0” Any help here would be great I’m not sure how to create that directory and I need to enable persistence on my usb so that I can complete my network security labs. Please any feedback is greatly appreciated.

    Like

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