I am currently operating Kali Linux on a virtual machine with windows 10 as host, and would like to switch to a USB boot.

Problem: I understand that Kali usually operates on root, and to perform various attacks, most of the time root access is required. Now this could potentially brick the whole machine if accidents/mistakes were made while having this root privilege, if Kali installed through dual boot (windows) Question: Does the above problem exist if Kali were booted via Live Persistent USB, or Fully installed USB.

Main Concern: I don't mind backing up my standard devices and their partitions on my machine prior to the Live USB boot, or full installation. However I find it quite time consuming if I have to back up my machine every time I boot Kali due to the damage root privilege can cause (as recommended if I were to do a dual boot). Now the problem stated does not exist with the VM, and I would like to do the same with a USB on my machine instead because I would like to fully utilize my machine's RAM, CPU, and to update the OS if necessary; but I don't want keep backing up my drives every time I boot Kali.

So ultimately: which method should I go with Live Persistent USB boot Fully Installed USB boot

  • 1
    I believe you are confusing concepts with your question. "Operates on root"... don't confuse the "root" of the filesystem with the privileged administrative account "root". In either case, the operating system loaded into RAM and running has full access to the hardware it controls (caveat, unless there are physical impediments such as a write-blocker, etc. not valid for this scenario). Yes, with kali I believe the default user is the "root" user and thus, using kali in this manner can expose your hard-drive. @user285259 has given you a good concise answer to your actual question. Good luck!
    – 0xSheepdog
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 23:07
  • thank you @0xSheepdog for the comment. Yes, I apologize, it seems like there were a mix up with the two concepts. Yes I meant root user with all admin privlieges. so with any of those two methods, as long as I am loading Kali via a USB, the Operating System gets loaded onto the RAM?
    – 0x5929
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 0:36
  • 1
    RE: "the operating system gets loaded into the ram" is kind of a simplification. This is not the normal case, but it can be done in some circumstances. However, we are still missing the point of your question. Once the kernel is loaded and the OS is running, it has complete control and privileged access over the ENTIRE set of hardware (minus any specialty devices such as hardware-write-blockers etc.) It doens't matter where the OS loaded from. Once the OS is running, it has access to the hardware based upon its internal rules and controls.
    – 0xSheepdog
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Booting a system from a USB stick is generally useful for having a mobile system (if you need to boot from another computer) as well as for erasing your traces on shutdown. It does not protect your system any differently than a dual boot.

While others partitions are not mounted, the risk of incidentally corrupting their data is minor. Do not play with /dev/sd* and you should be fine. A malicious software can effectively corrupt all your drive, but this is not riskier than on Windows. You only login to Windows with an unprivileged account, correct?

Actually, even a VM is not 100% safe.
The part "Usually you have them networked, so any malware with a network component (i.e. worms) will propagate to wherever their addressing/routing allows them to." also apply if you disconnect all your hard drives and boot from a USB stick. The worm can come back later to infect your habitual system.
Your processor neither is 100% safe.

It is only a matter of probability and threat model.

  • Thank you for the answer @user285259 So just to clarify, you're saying that both live persistent usb boot and fully installed usb boot will give access to all of my internal drives and partitions ie. windows system files? Would definitely operate with care, and never messing with nor mount the standard devices while in Kali as root. Thanks again.
    – 0x5929
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 0:30
  • If above were the case, then to fully utilize my machine, and not to care about mobility, I think might as well just dual boot kali on my SSD; the only reason I wanted to choose full installed usb over live boot usb was to be able to utilize my machine fully and quicker boot time and log in security.
    – 0x5929
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 0:31
  • @KevinRen Yes, whatever the system you boot (live usb, fully installed usb, or hard drive), the root account has exactly the same power. If you are more cautious, even on Kali you can create a normal user for graphical login, and use sudo -i in your terminal.
    – user285259
    Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 1:52
  • @Rennitbaby I updated my answer.
    – user285259
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 9:55

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