Install Kali Linux – WSL 2 KEX GUI hacking setup

I recently started to discover some hacking and penetration testing challenges. Therefore, I’ve spent some time setting up my environment properly. I’ll show you how to install Kali Linux WSL 2 on Windows 10 via the Windows Subsystem for Linux. And of course, we also will set up our graphical user interface with KEX.

Install Kali Linux in WSL 2

First, install the Windows Subsystem for Linux by executing the following two commands. Alternatively, you can also search for “Turn Windows Features on or off”. Then you click on “Windows Subsystem for Linux” and “Virtual Machine Platform”.

dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux /all /norestart
dism.exe /online /enable-feature /featurename:VirtualMachinePlatform /all /norestart

Windows want’s you to restart your PC. After you did that you can now download the WSL 2 Kernel Modules and install the package:

Also, don’t forget to set WSL 2 as your default version with the following command:

wsl --set-default-version 2

Now, you’re ready to install Kali Linux from the Microsoft Store:

Open the Kali Linux App, this will present you a console window, where you set up your username and password. You can also hide the welcome message by executing the following command in the terminal.

touch ~/.hushlogin

Make your terminal awesome

Kali Linux is now installed and you can use it to configure the system. However, the default console window doesn’t look nice. To change this you should use the “Windows Terminal”, which is a nice open-source project of Microsoft. I’ve recently made a video about how to make your WSL 2 terminal look awesome in Windows by setting up the Windows Terminal with zsh and a custom template, but only with Ubuntu WSL. However, this will also work exactly the same with Kali Linux. Check out my article, if you want to know how to set up this.

Install Kali Linux Desktop and tools with Kex

You should now have a cool Kali Linux terminal running in your WSL 2. But what about all the cool penetration testing tools? Because, the Kali Linux WSL version doesn’t come with any of these and doesn’t have any graphical user interface.

There is a pretty easy and quick solution to set up this in WSL, that is called Kex. Let’s install this in our Kali Linux and set up a Desktop environment and install the Kali Linux tools.

First, let’s update the package sources and install the newest distribution version of Kali Linux.

sudo apt update && sudo apt dist-upgrade

Then, you can install the Kali Linux Kex extension.

sudo apt install kali-win-kex

At least, you should also install the Kali Linux tools. There are different variants of tool-sets existing. I’ve chosen the “large” environment, so that you have all the tools.

sudo apt install kali-linux-large

Use the desktop environment in Kali Linux WSL 2

We now have all necessary tools installed and you can simply run your desktop environment in Kali Linux WSL2. There are three different modes existing and I’ll show you them one by one.

Window Mode with VNC

kex -s

Window Mode with RDP

kex --esm -s

Seamless Mode

kex --sl -s