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09 - How to make a bootable BACKTRACK 4/5 (linux) USB drive

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BackTrack is a Linux-based penetration testing arsenal that aids security professionals in the ability to perform assessments in a purely native environment dedicated to hacking. BackTrack has been customized down to every package, kernel configuration, script and patch solely for the purpose of penetration testing. Backtrack also includes some web browsers, and wireless network, video and audio drivers which means on some systems you can boot from your USB stick and have a fully functioning PC/netbook even if you don't use the testing tools.



Type startx to start the GUI...



BackTrack 4 can be used to check the security of your wireless network. It also contains FireFox and many other useful tools such as wireshark for tracing PXE boot issues.

WARNING: It is illegal to attempt to hack someone's network/computer unless you have their permission!

This tutorial uses grub4dos and extracted files from the BackTrack ISO file - you cannot easily boot BackTrack directly from a BackTrack ISO file (see the end of this page for details of a commonly suggested method that DOES NOT WORK!).

  1. Download BackTrack ISO from here 
  2. Mount the ISO using SlySoft Virtual CloneDrive from here (or extract the files from the ISO file to a folder on your hard drive) - right-click on the downloaded ISO file and click Mount (Virtual CloneDrive I:) - this will mount the whole ISO file as drive I: (or whatever letter it says)
  3. Run RMPrepUSB with settings as below (or try WINPE+ NTFS) and click on Prepare Drive (drive letter should be same as used by CloneDrive)





  4. Click on Install grub4dos button and answer OK to all default questions
  5. Create a menu.lst file on the USB drive with the following contents (see section below for BT5 menu.lst)

      title BackTrack 4 (1024x768)\nType startx to run GUI once booted
      kernel /boot/vmlinuz BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent rw quiet noprompt vga=0x317
      initrd /boot/initrd.gz

    The casper parameters are detailed here (use this if you want to modify any folders, etc.). e.g. live-media-path=BT5/casper  locale=en_GB.UTF-8  keyb=uk textonly noprompt.

    Contents of USB drive should now be:
    \boot
    \casper
    boot.catalog
    md5sum.txt
    grldr
    menu.lst


  6. (optional) - If you have RMPrepUSB v2.1.605 or later, click on the Create Ext2 FS button and create a file called casper-rw of at least 1000MB (as large as you have space for). This will create a mountable volume for persistent changes.

  7. Click on Eject button and go try it!
    Once booted - type startx to start the GUI portion of the OS (if required).
    To start the network, click on the bottom left icon and then choose Services - Network - Start Network
    Change the keyboard locale by clicking on the flag symbol in the bottom task bar.
    Change the resolution by clicking on the screen+double-arrow icon on the task bar.
    You can browse the web using FireFox or Konqueror.
If you want to make a USB pen that is persistent (keeps any changes you make) and has a separate partition rather than the mountable file used in step 6 - see here (you will need to boot from the USB pen made above and then use a 2nd 16GB+ USB pen, or boot from a BT4 CD and follow the instructions to make a persistent USB pen on your16GB USB pen. 

If you want to encrypt the USB pen at the same time - follow this video here.

Troubleshooting: If the persistent filesystem is damaged, it may not boot -->  EXT2-fs (loop 1 error).  In that case delete the casper-rw file and re-make it using RMPrepUSB again.


PLEASE NOTE: Booting BackTrack4/5 as an ISO - DOES NOT WORK!

You cannot boot BT from an ISO (unless you modify files inside the ISO - which I have not tested)!

The directions below do NOT work - backtrack starts to boot but then you get an (initramfs) shell error

1. Create a folder called BT4 containing ONLY the ISO file which must be named as bt4-final.iso
2. Create a menu.lst file in the same folder containing the following lines:
          title BackTrack 4
find --set-root /bt4-final.iso
map /bt4-final.iso (hd32)
map --hook
root (hd32)
chainloader (hd32)
3. Run RMPrepUSB and set the Copy Files folder path to the BT4 folder path you created in step 1 - click Prepare Drive
4. After the ISO file and menu.lst file has copied, click the Install grub4dos button


Try FlashBoot for 99% Bootability!

 RMPrepUSB can make a USB drive bootable, but some BIOSes may have problems. I recommend FlashBoot if you need to create a USB drive that will boot on 99% of systems. Please click here to test a trial version and see if it works for you.
\.disk              (must be in root of drive - must NOT be moved or 'Identifying CDROM' will fail)
README.diskdefines
\casper           (can be moved - e.g. \BT5\casper)
\isolinux
md5sum.txt
\preseed         (can be moved - e.g. \BT5\preseed)
ubuntu
menu.lst         (must be in root of drive)
grldr               (must be in root of drive)
casper-rw       (must be in root of drive for persistent fs)




Note: KDE 64-bit BT5 has a problem when startx runs and bombs out! There are some workarounds here.

Type Startx to start the Desktop - username=root password=toor  ('root' backwards)





WEP key security check






Another WPA2 security check video





Updated on Sep 9, 2011 by Steve Si (Version 73)


Attachments (5)

bt5startx.jpg - on Jun 13, 2011 by Steve Si (Version 1)

bt5splash.jpg - on Jun 13, 2011 by Steve Si (Version 1)

aircrack.png - on Oct 9, 2010 by Steve Si (Version 1)

baktrak4boot.png - on Oct 9, 2010 by Steve Si (Version 1)

baktrak4.png - on Oct 9, 2010 by Steve Si (Version 1)