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Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

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This article is a step-by-step guide on how to dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux on a single hard disk drive (HDD). Kali Linux is what used to be BackTrack Linux, a distribution designed for penetration testing and security professionals. It ships with about 300 penetration testing and hacking applications installed.

While BackTrack is based on Ubuntu, Kali Linux is based on Debian, and uses the complete Debian Installer. As a result, the installation process is different from that of BackTrack, which uses Ubuntu’s graphical installation program.

The objective here is to show how to install it on an HDD alongside an existing installation of Windows 7, with the Windows 7 boot manager as the “master” boot loader, so that at the end, when the computer is (re)booted, you will be presented with a boot menu that looks just like the one shown below. Selecting Windows 7 boots the system into Windows 7 and choosing Kali Linux will, by default, take you to the Kali Linux boot menu, which is the same thing as the GRUB 2 menu, the version of GRUB used by Kali Linux.
Windows 7 Dual-boot Menu

To bypass Kali Linux’s boot menu, simply edit the file named /etc/default/grub and change GRUB_TIMEOUT=5 to GRUB_TIMEOUT=0. Then run the update-grub command.
Kali Linux Windows 7 GRUB 2

Now that we know what to do, and what the result will be, let’s get it done. If you have not done so already, download an installation image of Kali Linux from here.

1. Shrink the Windows 7 C Drive: My test system has an existing installation of Windows 7 on a 500 GB HDD, with just two primary partitions. This is how they appear in Windows 7’s partition manager. The task here is to shrink the C drive to create room for installing Kali Linux. To do that, right-click on the C drive and select Shrink Volume.

Note: If you intend to install Windows 7 afresh, this process will be a lot easier if you set aside the free space that will be used for Kali Linux during the installation of Windows 7.
Windows 7 Partitions

If you have enough free space on the C drive, the system will suggest a 50-50 split of the free space. Which is just good enough for this test installation. Shrink.
Windows 7 Shrink Partitions

After the operation has completed, you should see the newly reclaimed space next to the C drive. You may exit the partition manager and reboot the computer. Be sure to have the installation disc of Kali Linux in the optical drive before rebooting.
Windows 7 Partitions

2. Install Kali Linux: The best option to select on Kali Linux’s boot menu is Graphical Install. It gives you a point-and-click installation process. Install works just as well, but the interface is ncurses-based.
Kali Linux Boot Menu

For installing Kali Linux, the following partitions will be created: /boot, /, /home, and Swap. In that order. The /home partition is optional. At the disk partitioning methods step of the installation process, you get a bunch of options. Because none of the guided options will create a separate /boot partition, creating the partitions will have to be done manually. So select “Manual” and click Continue.
Kali Linux Debian Installer

Here you can see the existing Windows 7 partitions, both of which are primary partitions. The free space, reclaimed from Windows 7 in the previous step is what will be used for creating the partitions for Kali Linux. To start creating the partitions, select the free space and click Continue.
Kali Linux Create Partition

Create a new partition. Continue.
Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

This shows the total amount of disk space available for Kali Linux. The /boot partition will be created first, so you need to specify the amount of disk space for it.
Kali Linux Create Partition size

For this test system, I assigned 300 MB to it. Continue.
Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

Because you still have two primary partitions to use, you can create the boot partition as a primary or logical partition. Either option will work, but the installer prefers creating it as a primary partition, if the boot loader is going to be installed in it. For this test installation, I chose to create it as a logical partition. Continue.
Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

Beginning. Continue.
Kali Linux Create Partition size

This step shows the details of the boot partition you just created. The only thing you need to change here is the mount point. Double-clicking on it will open another window where you can specify the correct mount point.
Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

Here’s what it should look like after the mount point has been specified. The other option you might want to change here is the Bootable flag.
Kali Linux

There is a good reason it should be enabled, but the system will boot even if it is disabled. It just depends on your BIOS version. For this test installation, it was disabled and the system still worked perfectly.
Dual-boot Windows 7 and Kali Linux

Here’s the final details of the boot partition. Scroll to “Done setting up the partition,” then click Continue. Note that the steps you used to create the boot partition will be repeated for the other partitions.
Kali Linux

Back to the main disk partitioning window, you can see the boot partition you just created, plus the remaining free space. Select, the free space, then click Continue.
Kali Linux

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59 Comments

  1. Frank says:

    Thanks, worked perfectly.

  2. siddarth says:

    hi, i have win 8.1 in my c drive , and i have 2 other partitions, i have installed kali in a 30gb(sda #7) partition , but at the last step of installation while we have to install grub , it says “no other operating system detected” so its not detecting windows , now i chose option “no” and gave /dev/sda7 . now i restarted and went into windows and with easybcd i added kali option in boot menu , but when i click on that option it doesnt boot into kali it says some files missing

    • finid says:

      I’m guessing that since you’re installing Windows 8.1, that the hardware has UEFI firmware. If true, this is not the right guide to use.

      Does you computer use UEFI firmware?

      • siddarth says:

        yes the bios mode is uefi , what is the correct way to do it?

        • finid says:

          Log into Windows and delete the partitions that were created when you attempt to install Kali. Then make sure that you have a single partition with enough space for Kali, so when you start the installation process, point the installer to that free space. I haven’t tried this with Kali, so I’m not sure, but it might be necessary to partition the space manually.

          Kali will install GRUB to the /boot/efi partition, so you will not need to use EasyBCD.

          I’ll try and write a detailed tutorial on this this week.

          by the way, what PC model are you using?

          • siddarth says:

            acer travelmate p643-m

          • siddarth says:

            u mean install kali on the same partition as windows?

          • finid says:

            No, install Kali on a separate partition. That will likely be space that you used in the previous attempt. I just wanted to make sure that that space will be in one partition, since from the previous installation attempt, the Kali installer had partitioned that space into at least 2 partitions

            If you’ve not done this before, you might want to hold on while I put together a detailed tutorial on how to do it.

            When you log into Windows, how many partitions do you see from the partition manager. If you can take a screenshot and post it at the forum. That will help me in getting the tutorial right.

          • siddarth says:

            where should i upload screenshot? btw i can see 5 partitions ,
            300 mb healthy(recovery partition),
            c drive has windows
            new volume d has other files
            and there is a 29.30 gb partition in which i hav installed kali its healthy(EFI partition),
            and 100mb healthy(EFI system partition)

          • finid says:

            No need to upload the screenshot.

            Ok, is D a partition that you made yourself, right?

            If you installed Kali, there should be more than 1 Linux partition for it, though Windows will only see then as “healthy primary partitions”. IF you want to retry the installation, delete the Kali partition, so it is blank. Then retyr the installation. The Kali installer will install GRUB in the EFI system partition. If it does not offer automatic disk partitioning and you have to create the partitions manually, do not create a boot partition. Only create a partition for root and Swap. Optionally, you may create one for /home.

          • siddarth says:

            what about the 100mb (efi syatem partition) is it related to kali , should i delete that too before re-installiing?

          • finid says:

            No, don’t touch that. That was created by Windows, but Kali will install GRUB there.

          • finid says:

            I have a solution, which I’ll publish in a detailed tutorial before noon today.

          • siddarth says:

            ok give me the link

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