Backtrack 3 – USB/Persistent Changes/Nessus/Firefox 3/Latest nmap

This how-to will show you a method for building a usb thumbdrive with the following features:

  • Persistent Changes - Files saved and changes made will be kept across reboots.
  • Nessus and NessusClient installed - Everybody needs Nessus ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Firefox 3 - Much better than Firefox 2
  • Nmap 4.76 - There are a number of very neat things available in the latest release of Nmap.

Table of contents:

Assumptions, Tools and Supplies
Bootable Backtrack 3 USB thumbdrive
Persistent Changes
Install Nessus
Install Firefox 3
Install Latest Nmap

Assumptions, Tools and Supplies

This guide is written with the following assumptions:

  1. You know how to partition and format disks.
  2. You are familiar with Backtrack.
  3. You are familiar with Nessus.
  4. You are familiar with Linux.
  5. You are familiar with Windows.

Tools and supplies:

  1. A USB thumbdrive - minimum capacity 2GB
  2. A Backtrack CDROM - Used during to partition the thumbdrive.

So, without further adieu, let's get started!

Bootable Backtrack 3 USB thumbdrive

First let's partition our thumbdrive. I used a 4 GB drive as I read that we would need 1.2 GB for persistent changes. After I got everything working, it looks to me like we can get away with a 2 GB stick if we are careful about regular cleanup of log files. Nessus tends to be the main culprit here.

Regardless of the size thumbdrive we use, we need to partition and format the drive as follows:

  1. The first partition needs to be a primary partition of at least 1 GB and formated as FAT32.
  2. The second Partition can be the rest of the thumbdrive. It needs to be formatted as ext2.

If you try to use Windows to re-partition the drive, you will likely run into some problems. Windows sees most USB thumbdrives as removable media and does not support multiple partitions on them. It also does not allow us to delete the existing partition from the drive. This is because most thumbdrives have the 'Removable Media Bit' set. This blog post describes the situation very well.  I would not recommend trying their suggestion since it really isn't necessary.

The easy way to get around the problem is to re-partition the drive using Linux. That's why we need the Backtrack CDROM although any Linux system will work. So go ahead and partition and format the drive according the layout above. Once I was done with this step, I switched back to a Windows system for the next few steps.

Now we need to download the USB version of Backtrack 3. This is an extended version with a few more tools.

From the Remote-Exploit website:

Description: USB Version (Extended)
Name:: bt3final_usb.iso
Size: 784 MB
MD5: 5d27c768e9c2fef61bbc208c78dadf22
SHA1: 3aceedea0e8e70fff2e7f7a7f3039704014e980f
Download: Click here

Once you have the iso save on your system, you need a method to copy the files from it to the usb drive. If you are using a Windows systems for this part of the process like I did, you will need a way to access the files in the iso images. There are several ways to do so.

This page has several free options that can be used to mount the iso as a virtual CDROM. An even easier way is to install the freeware archive manager 7-Zip. 7-Zip can open a iso file as if it was an archive. You can then copy files from the archive to the USB thumbdrive. If using *nix, you can use the loop feature of mount to get to the files.

So now we have a usb thumbdrive with at least one 1 GB FAT32 partition on it. Copy the /bt3 and /boot directories from the iso to the first partition of the usb thumbdrive.

Next we need to open a shell or command window and make the thumbdrive bootable. Here is how I did it in on a Windows XP machine:

  1. Open a command windows.
  2. Change to the drive letter that my thumbdrive is mounted on.
  3. cd /boot
  4. execute bootinst.bat

Ta da, we should now have a bootable Backtrack 3 thumbdrive. I did the rest of my configuration from the booted thumbdrive.

Persistent Changes

Let's configure persistent changes while booted to Backtrack 3. I chose Backtrack 3 with KDE for my operating environment. Once we have booted into Backtrack we need to configure the rest of the thumbdrive if we haven't already done so. I used fdisk to create a second partition from the remainder of the drive and formatted it with mkfs.ext2. In my case my usb drive was /dev/sda.

Once we have a formatted second partition, mount it and create a changes directory in the root of the file system.

  1. open a terminal windows
  2. mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/sda2
  3. cd /mnt/sda2
  4. mkdir changes

Next we need to make some changes to how the system boots. Execute the following:

  1. cd /boot/syslinux
  2. chmod +Xx lilo
  3. chmod +Xx syslinux

Open syslinux.cfg with your favorite editor and make the following change. Note: I copied the boot definition I wanted to change and created a new entry so I would have a fall back option if something became broken. Again, I booted to KDE.

  1. Find the line "LABEL xconf1".
  2. Copy that line and next 3 and paste them right below the existing line.
  3. Change the "LABEL xconf1" to something you want like "LABEL xconf1-persist" and description to something like "MENU LABEL KDE with persistent changes"
  4. Change the line that begins with APPEND in your copied section by adding "changes=/dev/sdx2" immediately after "root=/dev/ram0 rw" where the x is the drive appropriate for your system. In my case it looks like this, "....root=/dev/ram0 rw changes=/dev/sda2...."
  5. Save your changes and exit the editor.

That should do it. Reboot and select the option you setup configured. To test it, create a file and reboot again. If your file is still there, everything is golden.

Install Nessus

Now that our changes are saved from boot to boot, we can install things and they won't disappear on us ๐Ÿ™‚

Download the Fedora 8 Nessus and NessusClient rpms from I have heard that the Fedora 9 rpms cause problems, so stick with version 8 for now. As of this writing, Nessus is at version 3.2.1. Make sure to change the version numbers below if you have downloaded a different version.

Convert them to tgz files.

rpm2tgz Nessus-3.2.1-fc8.i386.rpm
rpm2tgz NessusClient-3.2.1-fc8.i386.rpm

Install both packages. You can use either installpkg or pkgtool. I use installpkg.

installpkg Nessus-3.2.1-fc8.i386.tgz
installpkg NessusClient-3.2.1-fc8.i386.tgz

Now we need to make some adjustments to the system for things to work. Execute the following:

cd /opt/
export PATH=$PATH:/opt/nessus/sbin:/opt/nessus/bin:
cp /usr/lib/ /lib
cp /usr/lib/ /lib
cp /opt/nessus/lib/ /lib
cp /opt/nessus/lib/ /lib
cp /opt/nessus/lib/ /lib
cd /lib

We also need up update file.

echo "/opt/nessus/lib" >> /etc/

Finally it's time to configure Nessus. Execute each of the following and follow the prompts.


You need to go here and request a key so you can get your feed. That is a link to the free feed for home use. Use appropriately.

Once you have your key. Execute the following to update your plugins.

cd /opt/nessus/etc/nessus
nessus-fetch --register [you feed code here]

When that is done and it is going to take a few minutes, you are ready to start the server and client.

/opt/nessus/sbin/nessusd -D

Woohoo, time to find those vulnerabilities.

I know you're tired, but there are only a couple more things to do.

Install Firefox 3

This is really easy. One note however, there are two plugins that will not be automatically updated, XSS-me and SQL Inject-me. There are updated versions that work with Firefox 3 available here. Just manually install them after updating Firefox. To install Firefox 3, do the following:

cd ~


installpkg mozilla-firefox-en-us-3.0.1-i686-1sl.tgz

And finally let's get latest version of nmap.

Installing Nmap

Nmap 4.76 stable has been released with some great features.

cd ~


tar xjf nmap-4.76.tar.bz2

cd nmap-4.76



make install

There you have it. A bootable USB thumbdrive with Backtrack 3, persistent changes, Nessus, Firefox 3 and the latest nmap from Fyodor as of this writing.

Please let me know of any corrections or changes that should be made. You can leave a comment or send me a note at kriggins [at]


[1] Persistent changes - post by Deathray on backtrack forums here:
[2] Nessus - post by Wouter Veugelen here: who gives credit to williamc from this thread
[3] Firefox 3 - Post by hawaii67 here
[4] Nmap - Post by Daniel Miesler here

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

robdew September 8, 2008 at 8:48 am

Kevin a couple of things:

in the second list of references at the top, can you make the URLs links?

“I have heard that the Fedora 8 rpms cause problems, so stick with version 8 for now.” <— Is one of these version #’s wrong?


Kevin Riggins September 8, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Thanks rbodew.

I meant to make those references links and forgot to. I also corrected the Fedora rpm version confusion.



David Holtkamp September 16, 2008 at 3:26 pm

I think the line
echo “/opt/nessus/lib” > /etc/
should really be
echo “/opt/nessus/lib” >> /etc/

Not doing so overwrites the files and causes a major headache (believe me, I did it).



Kevin Riggins September 16, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Thanks David.

I apologize for the grief that mistake caused. I have updated the how-to.



David Holtkamp September 16, 2008 at 6:48 pm

No problem, everyone makes a mistake. It was a very useful tutorial. I hadn’t even heard about the new version of nmap before reading it. One other small typo I foud was that the flag on nessus-fetch is –register not -register.

thanks again,



Kevin Riggins September 16, 2008 at 8:27 pm

–register error fixed too.

Thanks again.



SixV1c10uS March 22, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Ahh persistent changes! Very good post.


Mattias April 24, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Excellent guide! Thanks for taking the time to make it.


Sammy April 29, 2009 at 6:03 pm

But how do you get from customized usb back to ISO?


kriggins April 29, 2009 at 8:05 pm


I have not experience any significant performance issues running from a USB drive. Sure there is some impact, but not excessive. Sorry I don’t have any answers for you.


You’re welcome!


I am sure there is a way to get back to iso or a non-persistent mode that still has some changes saved, but I have not explored doing so.



raz May 10, 2009 at 5:28 pm

Guyz after creating your backtrack 3 usb persistent intall and working ok etc…

Is there any method or app to backup or image the USB…preferable all the partitions…

Apps like Acronis trueimage doessnt do it properly!

Any suggestions will be most welcome!



Evilo Nod August 6, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Great tutorial but looks like NessusClient-3 isn’t available anymore and the NessusClient-4 won’t work since there are some missing libraries. Does anyone have a link to the older NessusClient-3?


kriggins August 6, 2009 at 3:09 pm

@Evilo Nod

Have you checked out the new how-to for Backtrack 4? It supports Nessus 4.



Tim January 4, 2011 at 1:58 am

I tried this and it works great even on a 2GB flash drive, but I can’t seem to connect to the internet on my desktop. I don’t use wireless internet and I’ve tried “ifconfig eth0 up” and it says it can’t find an interface. However in Backtrack 4 R2, I can connect to the wired internet using “/etc/init.d/networking start”.

How would I go about connecting to a non-wireless internet in BackTrack 3? It’s the only version that can fit on the tiny 2GB flash drive I have available.


kriggins January 4, 2011 at 11:15 am


It is very likely that the driver for the network adapter in your computer is not available in Backtack 3. If you computer is newer than 3 years or so, it is very likely. You can try to track down the linux drivers for the adapter and install them, but I have had mixed results getting that to work.



Tim January 4, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Thanks! I’ll try connecting to the internet through a laptop which uses wireless internet later. I’ll post the results too.


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