Kali Light vs. Kali

Kali Light vs. Kali

Kali is the ultimate operating system for penetration testing, ethical hacking, and security uses. Since there are various uses for Kali, there are different versions. Among these “flavors” are the Kali Light (aka Kali Undercover). So, what’s the difference?

The main difference between the original version of Kali and Kali Light is that Kali is the complete package. Kali Light contains the bare minimum tools for people transitioning from other operating systems. Therefore, Kali is much more complex than Kali Light because it has a grander scope.

So, when you want to learn the basics of pentesting and ethical hacking, go with Kali Light. When you’ve mastered the basic skills, you can move to the full version of Kali.

If you want to get a complete comparison, keep reading.

Introduction To Kali

  • Kali is free Debian-based open-source distribution of Linux with a focus on security.
  • Devon Kearns and Mati Aharoni are the founders of Kali.
  • Kali started as a security project called BackTrack Linux.
  • In 2013, Kali was rebuilt into a fully developed Linux distribution.

Why Use Kali Instead Of Kali Light?

Kali is a security platform to the core. It’s the go-to operating system for ethical hackers, pentesters, and security professionals. For some good reasons:

  • Kali contains 600+ penetration testing tools, including information gathering, vulnerability analysis, and wireless attacks.
  • Kali is free to use, modify, and share.
  • You can adapt it to do specific tasks. It’s open-source, and the codes are available online in case you want to modify it.
  • Kali supports several languages, and you can use it in your native language.
  • With an active community, Kali is constantly updated to adapt to a fast-changing world.

Kali’s availability makes it accessible to cybersecurity experts everywhere.

It’s the first step you need to take to become an ethical hacker. Total mastery is a must when you want to perform highly-paid penetration testing for international organizations.

You can think of Kali Light as the watered-down version of Kali. It’s perfect for complete beginners who feel uncertain about learning Kali.

It’s less intimidating, which is suitable for someone looking to test the operating system before committing.

You can skip Kali Light if you feel confident in your desire to learn penetration testing.

Installing Kali And Kali Light

You can install both Kali and Kali Light using the same methods. There are no big differences because they’re essentially the same operating system:

  • Download the ISO image of your preferred version of Kali.
  • Burn the ISO image on a Live CD (Cheapest way to run Kali from a CD without installing it on your PC)
  • Create a bootable USB drive to run Kali (The Second cheapest way to run Kali without installation)
  • Install Kali using VMware or VirtualBox (Install a virtual machine on your PC, and install Kali on it)

It’s also possible to install Kali alongside Windows and switch between the two operating systems when needed.

If you want to test the waters, you can use the live CD or USB methods to try Kali. That way, you can run Kali and see how it’s like without installing it on your PC.

You’ll just need to download the version you want to test from Kali.org for free.

Is Using Kali Or Kali Light Illegal?

Kali is only a tool. How you use that tool determines whether it’s illegal.

Essentially, Kali is a hacking tool that specialists use to test system vulnerabilities.

For example, a bank might hire you to hack their system legally. The purpose is to find vulnerabilities and patch them before cybercriminals can exploit them and cause real damage.

In that case, you need written permission that determines the scope of the test. Consent is vital because it protects you from unforeseen consequences.

However, when you use Kali to hack the bank and steal the money, then you’re breaking the law. And you’ll most likely go to jail for it.

So, it’s legal to use Kali when you have permission. Anything else will get you in serious trouble.

And the same applies to Kali and Kali Light. You must always use these tools responsibly. Plus, when you do a good job, there’s no need to steal any money.

Ethical hackers are among the highest-paid security specialists in IT.

So, if you want to learn Kali, consider using Kali Light as your training ground. Use it to learn the tools, principles, and concepts of ethical hacking.

Use Kali to do professional work once you have earned your stripes.

Technical Differences Between Kali And Kali Light

The most notable difference between Kali and Kali Light comes in the specifics. Mainly, the differences are in the default packages, meta-packages, and user interface.

Here’s how Kali and Kali Light are different:

The Standard Kali:

  • Live desktop with all the themes, icons, and user-friendly interface.
  • The core Linux tools, which contain remote file systems, wireless access, and partition management.
  • The default Kali selection, which contains the standard tools that come with Kali, like forensic tools, stress testing, exploitation tools, etc.
  • The GNOME graphical interface.

Kali Light:

  • Only contains the essential Linux tools.
  • Xfce desktop, which is a stripped-down graphical interface.
  • The light Kali selection, which contains the core Kali tools, and Firefox.

In other words, Kali Light provides enough tools and user interface to try Kali. Kali contains all the bells and whistles of the complete operating system.


You can think of Kali as the ultimate ethical hacking operating system. It has a large supportive community that works on improving it every day.

While you can find a lot of Linux distributions, Kali is the best for learning security.

Keep your eyes on Kali.org because you’ll always find a new updated release. You must keep your operating system up-to-date with the latest packages.

When you’re starting from scratch, it’s best to start with a relatively more manageable distribution. That’s why Kali Light is best for you when you’re starting your journey.

Feel free to learn Kali when you’ve mastered the basics.

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