I know the Kali is based on Debian, but if I install Debian and download all of the related kali packages, is there even a difference?


Adding to @EightBitTony's answer:

Kali is a special distro aimed at pentesting, and as such is quite different from a standard Linux distro. For instance:

  • System is supposed to be used as root and in a single-user environment

  • Network services are disabled by default and will not persist across reboots

  • Custom kernel

So, assuming you manage to download and install all Kali packages on your Debian, you'll have something that still is significantly different, in essence and in behavior, than a standard Kali install.

My humble advice would be not to mix the two and use the real thing (Kali) if/when you really need it.


Kali is based on Debian, but includes,

  • some forked packages which aren't in Debian
  • packages combinations from multiple Debian repositories, which is non-standard behaviour
  • packages which aren't (currently) in any Debian repositories

You can read more about this here.

The net result is that you would need to install Debian, and then modify the package repositories, do some back-porting yourself from other Debian respositories, and download additional packages from other sources, and potentially back-port them into Debian. You can't just run Debian and download the Kali packages.

You would, in essence, have to duplicate the work of the Kali team.


The list of what Kali considers the distinguishing features are set out here. Flexibility, customisation, portability and security all balanced on an unstable Debian Kernel.

The differences.

Kali is intended to be a Swiss army knife (often booted from USB) with a very specific intent for specialist users, while Debian is intended to be a reliable permanent install for everyday armchair use by Joe/Jane Public.

Kali includes tools which are meaningless to Joe and Jane, and "bleeding edge" updates which may break certain things which Kali considers unimportant to the target user base (like LibreOffice?). If this happens on a machine running mission critical tasks for Joe or Jane in the office then they will just panic and (quite rightly) wonder which idiot installed Kali instead of Debian for them.

The Kali tools can be installed on a civilised Debian machine to "weaponise" it, or a Kali install can be "tamed" to become a more civilised animal by anyone with the interest, experience and time to do so, but you will retain the kernel of your original choice.

FYI I have tried both ways (taming Kali and corrupting Debian). Tamed Kali works for me.

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