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I've installed Kali Linux, or I'm trying to install it. Why is it so hard? Why doesn't it recognize my hardware? Why do I need to set up so many things manually? Why can't I install the applications I want to use? Why don't tutorials written for other distributions work?

Help! Why won't people help me? Why is Linux so hard?

Before you answer: There is a Meta question that complements this question: What should we do about Kali Linux questions?

closed as off-topic by terdon Apr 13 at 12:15

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    @Gilles Everyone talks about Kali Linux as if it is some kind of secret experts club, but it really is not. Nobody uses it for everyday things, not even security experts. It is an extremely stripped down version of Debian with a few security packages pre-installed. The package manager apt is not supposed to work. Unnecessary services are removed. This is a distribution for computer labs, virtual machines, and self contained boot cds/usbs. Start using Ubuntu or something where things are designed to work. – user146970 Oct 22 '17 at 21:28
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    @TimothyPulliam Neither. (This question summarizes the essence of many questions we get on this site: people who are trying to use Kali for something that it was absolutely not designed for, fail, and blame their failure on Linux being hard and Linux experts being unhelpful instead of their bad choice of tool for the job.) – Gilles Oct 22 '17 at 22:47
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    @MrLister It's supposed to sound like a whine. It's a fabricated question other equally whiny/naive questions can be closed to; its purpose is to contain the reference answer below. – user13757 Oct 23 '17 at 11:55
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    @JBentley If you wish to argue about the suitability of this question, please do so on meta. Before you do, please be aware that this is not Stack Overflow. Here, like on a majority of Stack Exchange sites, we tend to focus more on “is this question useful and on-topic?” and less about trying to apply “site rules” to the letter. We think about the objectives of the rules, rather than applying rules for the rules' sake. – Gilles Oct 24 '17 at 19:11
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Linux isn't hard, but Kali is!

If you need to ask, then Kali Linux is not the right distribution for you.

Kali Linux is a distribution for professional penetration testers who are already very familiar with Linux. It is meant to be used from a USB dongle for penetration testing. It can be installed, but it is not really meant to be. It is not meant for general use (even by professional penetration testers) such as Internet browsing, word processing, gaming, development, etc.

If you aren't already a Linux pro, don't use Kali. Use a distribution for ordinary people, such as Ubuntu, Fedora, elementary OS, Linux Mint, etc.

Even if you want to learn penetration testing, you need to learn the basics first! Do this on a “normal” distribution.

From the official Kali Linux documentation:

Should I Use Kali Linux?

(…) Kali is a Linux distribution specifically geared towards professional penetration testers and security specialists, and given its unique nature, it is NOT a recommended distribution if you’re unfamiliar with Linux or are looking for a general-purpose Linux desktop distribution for development, web design, gaming, etc. (…)

Even for experienced Linux users, Kali can pose some challenges. (…)

While Kali Linux is architected to be highly customizable, don’t expect to be able to add random unrelated packages and repositories that are “out of band” of the regular Kali software sources and have it Just Work. In particular, there is absolutely no support whatsoever for the apt-add-repository command, LaunchPad, or PPAs. Trying to install Steam on your Kali Linux desktop is an experiment that will not end well. Even getting a package as mainstream as NodeJS onto a Kali Linux installation can take a little extra effort and tinkering.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux generally, if you do not have at least a basic level of competence in administering a system, if you are looking for a Linux distribution to use as a learning tool to get to know your way around Linux, or if you want a distro that you can use as a general purpose desktop installation, Kali Linux is probably not what you are looking for. (…)

If you are looking for a Linux distribution to learn the basics of Linux and need a good starting point, Kali Linux is not the ideal distribution for you. You may want to begin with Ubuntu, Mint, or Debian instead. If you’re interested in getting hands-on with the internals of Linux, take a look the “Linux From Scratch” project.

But why won't people help me?!

Since Kali is for experts, if you ask about Kali, people assume that you're an expert.

If you ask a beginner question about Kali, many people will ignore you. Beginners and Kali are not compatible.

What should I use then?

“Which distribution is best for beginners?” is an endless debate.

If you want a distribution that is designed to be easy for beginners and where beginners can find a lot of help, use Ubuntu. You can ask for help on our sister site Ask Ubuntu or on the Ubuntu forums. (Do NOT ask for help on Ask Ubuntu or the Ubuntu forums if you're using a distribution that is based on Ubuntu, but is not one of the official variants of Ubuntu!)

Elementary OS is another Linux distribution designed to be easy to install and to use for people with no Linux experience. It also has a Stack Exchange site.

With any distribution, even distributions targeted for beginners, you can learn by looking under the hood. The difference is that with easy-to-use distributions, you can install first, and then explore to learn.

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    What should I use then: Maybe it can be useful to point to DistroWatch website, and in particular their list of Linux distributions tagged Beginners. – WhiteWinterWolf Oct 22 '17 at 8:20
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    I work on Fedora, so take this with that in mind, but note that Fedora has the Fedora Security Spin, which provides many security / forensic tools in combination with the general ease of use of Fedora. – mattdm Oct 22 '17 at 15:02
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    I find it to be a good answer because it is strict and discouraging. We don't want to give the wrong impression. Kali can be your first dive into Linux, but I find that your first impression is the lasting one. Your first endeavor into Linux ought to be on a solid foundation with resources to help you improve. – GuitarPicker Oct 23 '17 at 14:41
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    Kali isn’t hard, it’s a dump of tools into a debian distro. Some few driver patches. It’s the userbase that’s the problem. Is it somehow forbidden to point to the simplest explanation? The users are unprepared. Debian has a gigantic whopper of a book, for frig’s sake... – user2497 Oct 24 '17 at 0:02
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    @jdwolf Yes, we should. You can't learn network security if you're still struggling to install a video driver. – Gilles Nov 22 '17 at 7:53
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Kali Linux is not meant as a general purpose OS. It's meant to be a standardised platform for deploying specific scripts to do various tasks.

It's one of these:

screw propelled vehicle, Russian

Very good at what it does. Just not what you need when you want to go grocery shopping.

Kali Linux has a few quirks – being designed as a platform for launching tools, it's not really set up to be a general purpose OS, or as well-tested as other OSes. It sets you up with a root account (which most mainstream distributions discourage).

Kali is a fairly focused distro designed for penetration testing. It does have a few unique packages, but it's also set up in a somewhat strange way.

Using Kali does not make you a hacker! Too many people think so and are completely out of their depth, being unable to do basic tasks in some cases. If you wish to learn the fundamentals the right way, forget about Kali at first. Kali's a Debian fork, and a modern version of Ubuntu or Debian has better hardware support. You might also be able to find repositories with the same tools Kali does for these distros. That's for later though. Work through something like Linux the hard way or LFS101. Understand the basics. Learn Linux before you get yourself delusions of grandeur. You make yourself a hacker, not the distro.

Kali is a somewhat overrated distro that's specialised, attracts skiddies, and doesn't have anything special to offer to the newbie Linux user. You'll find that with a certain degree of hacking skill, you'd probably end up customizing your own environment anyway. Kali's really designed for the middle ground where one has basic-good skills but needs a standard, fairly substantial set of tools available. It is certainly a terrible distro for someone who isn't used to bash or the Linux environment.

In short, if you're a new user, getting used to Linux, people discourage you because it's the wrong choice, and do not wish to help you load your gun and shoot yourself in the foot.

(Significant portions of this answer have been derived from answers posted by this account on Super User – large portions are based off this and this.)

  • What hacking skill is required to customize one’s own environment? – user2497 Oct 24 '17 at 0:03
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    @user2497 Hacking skill is not required to customise one's environment. However people who regularly use hacking tools will probably add them to the environment they use regularly, or customise their environment to make the things they do regularly easy, rather than use an off-the-shelf environment with pre-installed tools like Kali. – James_pic Oct 24 '17 at 14:27
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    I laughed pretty hard at the picture and following sentence. Thanks for writing that :) – Mehrdad Oct 25 '17 at 19:55
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    "Screw-propelled vehicle" reminds me a lot of Hollywood lately... but that's just a little off-topic comment I find funny – Xen2050 Jan 13 '18 at 9:11
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    "Using Kali does not make you a hacker" +100 for this. Exactly like buying a full military gear set won't make you a Navy SEAL. – dr01 Apr 27 '18 at 10:00
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Kali Unofficial FAQ:

If you as an OP are trying to deal with Kali, and/or you got a question closed with this thread as a reason:

  1. If you are using Kali to learn/develop/use it as a desktop/notebook environment, select a more stable and user friendly distribution. Please take the time to have a look at the other answers on this thread.

  2. if you are unable to connect to the repositories/install Kali/install a package : Kali is a rolling release, and it gets signature updates frequently;

  3. Please see: Invalid signature for Kali Linux repositories : "The following signatures were invalid: EXPKEYSIG ED444FF07D8D0BF6 Kali Linux Repository"

  4. Kali also has a lot more services stopped by default than other distributions.

  5. These together with it being a rolling release drinking from Debian testing and mixing random packages from Debian unstable means you will get stranger problems than using another distribution when using it as a production system/desktop;

  6. Do not forget that before installing/upgrading packages, in Debian based systems such as Kali, you need to do sudo apt-get update;

  7. Due to the nature/instability of Kali, and being it a rolling release often it may make more sense reinstalling the latest version from scratch than upgrading/investing time into fixing it when you face update problems - and facing problems in updates is more the norm than the exception;

  8. If you are trying to setup an Wifi adapter in a VM, the adapter is in the physical machine and not in the VM machine, and as such has to configured as passthrough/captured by the hypervisor/Virtualbox/VMWare see How to use Wireless Network in Virtualbox? e.g. you can only configure it once, either in the host or in a VM;

  9. If you intend to place a wifi adapter in Monitor mode, you have got to have a primary network/Internet connection, either an ethernet adapter or another Wifi stick for both Internet access and not losing remote control of the VM/raspberry being it remote;

  10. Beware also that not all brand/models of wifi adapters support Monitor mode, and there is even less support for packet injection - see this thread for why you should not buy realtek, and for more general wifi advice Wi-Fi problems using ASUS USB-N13 adapter;

  11. Wifi drivers in source code might be outdated, and often only play well/are for specific versions of the kernel and/or hostapd;

  12. After having a successful setup of firmware/wifi interface, you need to setup it for it to appear in the ifconfig/ip command;

  13. The official package for Firefox is firefox-esr;

  14. If having problems of kernel vs headers - see Install Headers on Kali ;

  15. If installing Kali in an ARM/Raspberry pi, you have to expand/grow the last partition to use up all the SD card. See https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/46520/expand-file-system-kali-linux-on-sd-card-of-16gb

  16. If you've read this far and you still need Kali: "Try it first onto a fast USB stick and boot of that".

  17. Lastly, beware of following blindly online tutorials or compiling random things without understanding them. They might be outdated or have errors.

If you absolutely insist in using Kali: Kali also has a forum with several groups for their users at https://forums.kali.org

See also Free PDF Book - Kali Linux Revealed

Adenda:

Taken from official kali documentation:

Many new Kali users are tempted to add additional repositories to their sources.list, but doing so runs a very serious risk of breaking your Kali Linux installation.

....

Kali is a Linux distribution specifically geared towards professional penetration testers and security specialists, and given its unique nature, it is NOT a recommended distribution if you’re unfamiliar with Linux or are looking for a general-purpose Linux desktop distribution for development, web design, gaming, etc.

Even for experienced Linux users, Kali can pose some challenges. (...) Adding repositories to your software sources which have not been tested by the Kali Linux development team is a good way to cause problems on your system.

While Kali Linux is architected to be highly customizable, don’t expect to be able to add random unrelated packages and repositories that are “out of band” of the regular Kali software sources and have it Just Work. In particular, there is absolutely no support whatsoever for the apt-add-repository command, LaunchPad, or PPAs. Trying to install Steam on your Kali Linux desktop is an experiment that will not end well. Even getting a package as mainstream as NodeJS onto a Kali Linux installation can take a little extra effort and tinkering.

If you are unfamiliar with Linux generally, if you do not have at least a basic level of competence in administering a system, if you are looking for a Linux distribution to use as a learning tool to get to know your way around Linux, or if you want a distro that you can use as a general purpose desktop installation, Kali Linux is probably not what you are looking for.

If you are looking for a Linux distribution to learn the basics of Linux and need a good starting point, Kali Linux is not the ideal distribution for you. You may want to begin with Ubuntu, Mint, or Debian instead.

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Like the other posts have stated, Kali is a distribution with a very specific use case. It a toolbox with lots of tool that you will probably never use.

If you want to learn it, learn it in a virtual machine like VirtualBox, VMware, or use some KVM front end like gnomeboxes or libvert manager. Your hardware will not be an issue with a virtual machine. It will have diminished power when compared to installing it on your hard disk drive, but with snap shots you can restore it to the last known working configuration in about 2 seconds when you screw up... You will screw up. Look at the relatively new documentation from Offensive Security, the new book Kali Linux Revealed. It is a decent resource to get started with.

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    @Wildcard Actually, it does: if you want to learn Kali Linux, run it in a VM. That is in fact a good recommendation for someone who wants to learn Kali Linux (as opposed to someone who wants to learn Linux). – Gilles Oct 24 '17 at 21:47
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    What do you mean by "new documentation from opsec, the new book Kali revealed"? For instance: Is "opsec" an organisation, a website, a book publisher, or something else? What is the actual title of the book (if it is) - "Kali Revealed"? – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:14
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    Not "Kali Linux Revealed"? Book titles are not normally in sentence case. – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:17
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    In any case (no pun intended), do you have a reference for the book? – Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '17 at 0:21
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    @PeterMortensen I think this is a reference for the book: Kali Linux Revealed: Mastering the Penetration Testing Distribution. It's by the organization/company Offensive Security, the makers of Kali Linux. (Suggested edits to the answer.) – ShreevatsaR Oct 26 '17 at 23:15
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Kali and BackTrack are each more of a utility distro, like the GPARTED .iso, or Rescatux. You need to have a need to be using these. I'm not saying you are up to no good, but maybe later or with a mentor perhaps.

If you are an absolute beginner, and you have had some experience with Windows, then I suggest you try a number of distributions. It is very likely you will be installing any number of them any number of times. Indeed this is the upgrade path for many of them. The ones that may be easiest to cope with may not be the coolest. Zorin OS is friendly to Windows users, but it is Ubuntu underneath. Mint also has Ubuntu under the hood and also tries to have everything work out of the box, but can be quirky when it doesn't. CentOS is "Enterprise Strength" but may lag behind the bleeding edge, a plus is the Gnome desktop. And then there is Ubuntu/Kubuntu, lots of support but Unity desktop and Plasma respectively. Debian is a good choice, and relatively cool due to being upstream for the .deb distros and because people see Etch Raspbian.

All of these have some issues, and generally for installation it boils down to the package maintainer's lack of care. If you don't stray from the path too much you should be OK. Hardened professionals can spend a whole day wrestling with MariaDB and PHP7 say because the dependencies never seem to be quite right.

But Kali, keep it on a stick and get back to it. Assume you've been penetrated anyway or will be eventually.

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    This is a good try at an answer addressed to those migrating from Windows, but when you implicitly suggest that Gnome is unarguably better and Unity unarguably worse without the slightest explanation of the tradeoffs between them (nor of the fact that this is a "holy war" in itself), you do a disservice to the absolute beginners you're trying to address. – Wildcard Oct 24 '17 at 3:10
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    Adding to the above, I wouldn't consider Debian a good distribution for someone just getting started with Linux. When Debian works, it works wonderfully, and typically just keeps on working forever as long as you stay on the same major version; however, it's not really set up to be easy from the get-go. Nonfree firmware isn't in the base distribution, for example; this is a biggie with many wireless network adapters. Generally, it sort of expects you to already know your way around at least somewhat. Less so than perhaps Slackware, but more so than Ubuntu. To each their own. – a CVn Oct 24 '17 at 14:05
  • ...And move on to a system augmented by a distro-independent, source based package manager if you want a challenge - eg, setup portage or pkgsrc on top of an existing system ... a lot to learn that way. – rackandboneman Oct 26 '17 at 23:11
  • I was really driving at "whatever you do" you will be doing it over a few times, so don't be discouraged when the upgrades fail or the alternate desktops clobber each other or the drivers are suddenly broken. The best install script by far was for Mepis, but that is water under the bridge now. – mckenzm Oct 31 '17 at 4:22
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    The most important question - Why can't I h4ck the world with Kali like MR.Robot does?! – fugitive Jan 25 '18 at 2:24

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