Forum Thread: Choosing Your Hacking Platform

Several of you have written asking me questions regarding the best hacking platform. Should you use a USB flash drive, a DVD, a Virtual Machine or a dual boot system?

Here, I will attempt to clarify the differences and give you the advantages and disadvantages of each so that you can choose the right platform for your circumstances.


You can download and burn BackTrack or Kali to a DVD and then install it to your hard drive and run it as a dual boot. Both distributions will ask you whether you want to partition your hard drive or use the entire hard drive. Make certain you partition your hard drive or it will overwrite your Windows OS wiping out your OS and all your data. Not good.

In addition, you can run it as a Live CD. If you use it as a LiveCD , you will need to change your boot up sequence in you BIOS to boot from the CD/DVD first.


  1. You have the entire OS on a durable medium if your hard drive fails.
  2. It doesn't take up any hard drive space when using as a LiveCD.


  1. Running it as a LiveCD is slow.
  2. You can't save your files etc. to the OS.

USB Flash Drive

You can save your hacking system to a USB flash drive and use the flash drive like an external hard drive that you can boot from. You need software such as unetbootin to create a bootable flash drive that you find here. In addition, there are installation and troubleshooting pointers there.


  1. Doesn't take up any hard drive space.
  2. Faster than a LiveCD, but slower than a hard drive install.
  3. Unlike a LiveCD, you can save files to the flash drive.


  1. Runs a bit slower than a hard drive install.
  2. Need to reboot to use your hacking platform.

Virtual Machine

With a VM system such as VMWare Workstation or Oracle's Virtual Box, you can install your hacking system within Windows 7 or 8 or for that matter any OS. Great as a learning/training/testing environment.


  1. You can have many OS's running on one piece of hardware, so for instance, you could have BackTrack installed in one VM and a victim system installed in another VM, for practicing your hacks.
  2. You can set up virtual network.
  3. Saves money on hardware.


  1. Multiple VM's can chew up RAM making the overall system run slower. You will need at least 4gb and preferably 8gb for reasonable performance.
  2. Can't use your internal wireless adapter for wireless hacking.
  3. Sometimes the complexities of the virtual machine software can inhibit ease of use.

Dual Boot

In this configuration, you have the ability to boot to multiple operating systems. So, for instance, you could boot to Windows 7 when doing your work/school activities and then boot to BackTrack when hacking.


  1. You need fewer system resources than a VM.
  2. It runs faster than a VM , LiveCD or bootable flash.
  3. You CAN use your internal wireless adapter for wifi hacking.


  1. Need to reboot your system to get into your hacking platform.
  2. Doesn't allow you to set up a network of machines on the same physical machine like you can with a VM for testing and training.


Everyone is a little different, with different needs and resources. I'm hoping this list helps you choose the platform that is best for you. As for me, I prefer to use a VM on VMWare Workstation for testing/educational purposes and a dual boot system for actual hacking and penetration testing.

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22 Responses

So how can I target the other VM from my backtrack VM ? I looked at your recon tutorials, but still can't understand how to target a single PC. Is the victim VM's IP supposed to be 192.168.x.y ???


If you have a target VM on my virtual network, just type "ipconfig" at the command prompt of the virtual machine.

The victim's IP on your virtual network will likely be 192.168.x.y, but can be any private IP address.

Hope this helps.


Or yo can install whatever Linux distro you have as your primary OS... That's what i did.


Hello Master OTW:

On this subject, can you pls throw light on how easy it is to track an attack source based on whether the source used a USB v live DVD v dual boot (HD) v VM? And in which of these is it easier to cover tracks?



As for tracking the source of an attack, they are all just as vulnerable. None is better than the other.

On the other hand, if an attack is tracked to you, it is much easier to destroy the evidence if your hacking system is on a USB or DVD. Unfortunately, though, a good digital forensic investigator can still find evidence, but it will be much harder.

This is an interesting subject. The more you know about digital forensics, the better you cover your tracks and hide evidence. That's why I'm starting a new series on digital forensics in about a week. Look for it.


Thanks for your clarifications.

In this regard, if you have a hacking system on a USB and visit random internet hubs to launch the hacks, this should keep you away from trouble?

Virtual Box + Kali Linux, + Alfa network adapter


That's a good combination.


I am sorry but I am a newbie here. Virtual box + Kali + Alfa network adapter is good for what?


The intent of this article was to lay out possible hacking platforms. I have had many questions on this subject. Robin Hood suggested that he is using the Virtual Box, Kali, and Alfa wireless card combination for hacking. That would be Oracle's virtualization software, VirtualBox, Offensive Security's , Kali, and the Alfa external wireless card.

Is that clearer?


If u boot off a USB could people trace back to u.

Oh Thanks OTW. I thought he was responding to an earlier question.


The platform has nothing to do with traceability. There are a number of different things we can do to reduce or minimize traceability, but the platform makes no difference.


can i install backtrack as dual boot using my flash drive? or is it necessary that i use DVD/CD for dual boot installation?


You can use a flash drive as a dual boot.


Thanks master OTW!

Firstly happy new year and I can't wait for your 2014 articles :D

I have had some issues with Backtrack/Metasploit, and when you posted "2.Can't use your internal wireless adapter for wireless hacking." you got me wondering.

So if I had my Alienware laptop (with an Intel wireless card - only the inbuilt, no external ones) running W7 with BT5r3 as a VM in VMware Workstation and the NAT set to "bridged" in the VM settings, would this run Metasploit/Backtrack to hack over LAN and the internet ?

Thanks OTW,

Master OTW i would like to talk to you by PMs if it's possible. Thanks for all your awesome tutorials!


Welcome to Null Byte!

Please feel free to talk with me here on Null Byte.


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