Backtrack 4 Pre-Release: Old Version

This is the old version of the Backtrack 4 Pre Release How-to.

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 🙂

Table of contents:

Assumptions, Tools and Supplies
Partition the USB thumbdrive
Make a bootable Backtrack 4 USB thumbdrive
Persistent Changes
Install Nessus

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 4GB
  2. A Backtrack 3 CDROM, Backtrack 4 DVD or an additional USB thumbdrive  (minimum 2GB) - Used to partition the thumbdrive.
  3. UNetbootin - A tool to transfer an iso image to a USB drive.

Let's get started!

Partition the USB thumbdrive

If you have a Backtrack 3 CDROM or Backtrack 4 DVD, you are in good shape, if you don't and are using an additional USB thumbdrive, skip to here and then return once you have a bootable Backtrack 4 device. I know this seems convoluted, but it's the easiest and most sure way I know to get us where we want to go.

First let's partition our thumbdrive. With the release of Backtrack 4 Final, a 4 GB drive is required.  For Backtrack 3 and Backtrack 4 Beta, we could get away with a 2GB drive. Another note, we need to format the partitions under Linux. There may be a way to do this in Windows and make it work, but I haven't researched that yet.

We need to partition and format the drive as follows:

  1. The first partition needs to be a primary partition of at least 1.5 GB and set to type vfat. Also remember to make this partition active when you are creating it. Otherwise you might have some boot problems.
  2. The second Partition can be the rest of the thumbdrive.

Now we need to format the partitions. To do so, execute the following. Make sure you select the correct drive as picking the wrong one could be disastrous. In my case, the drive was enumerated as sdb.

mkfs.vfat /dev/sdb1
mkfs.ext3 -b 4096 -L casper-rw /dev/sdb2

Two things to notice above, 1) we are using ext3 instead of ext2 and 2) you must include the -L casper-rw portion of the command. Being able to use ext3 is great because of journaling. The -L casper-rw option helps us get around the problem we had where we had to enter the partition name in order to get persistence working. As you will see, that is no longer necessary. WooHoo!

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.

Make a bootable Backtrack 4 USB thumbdrive

Now you need to have a copy of Backtrack 4 Final or Backtrack 4 pre-final.

The pre-final can be grabbed from here:

You can check the md5sum and sha256sums here:

So now we have a usb thumbdrive with at least one 1.5 GB FAT32 partition on it.

The next step is to make it a bootable USB thumbdrive. There is a much easier way now. We are going to use the UNetbootin tool mentioned above. It is super easy to use. Just start UNetbootin, select the Backtrack 4 ISO, select the USB drive and click okay. You may get a warning that files exist on your USB drive. After making sure you picked the right one, tell it to go ahead and replace the files. It'll chug along and before you know it you will have a bootable thumbdrive. Much easier than the rigmarole we had to go through before.

Persistent Changes

This is done much differently and more easily than it was in Backtrack 4 Beta or Backtrack 3. First of all, for basic persistence, we don't have to do anything at all. There is already a menu option that takes care of it for us. Unfortunately, it is only for console mode so we need to make a couple changes. One thing, since we used unetbootin to create our thumb drive, the instructions below are a little different than those in the video referenced at the end of this post.

This change needs to be made when we are not booted to Backtrack 4 Final.

Open the syslinux.cfg file that is in the root of the first partition of your USB drive in your favorite editor.

  1. First find the line the says "menu label Start Persistent Live CD"
  2. Append "vga=0x317" without the quotes to the next line which starts with kernel.
  3. Next add "Default <label>", where <label> is the text after the 'label' statement for the menu item in the syslinux.cfg file right after the timeout line near the top of the file. In my case this is ubnentry5, but it could be different in your case.
  4. Save the file and exit the editor.

When you are done, you should have something very similar to this. My changes are in bold text. Note: In most cases the append lines below have wrapped. They should be on one line.

default vesamenu.c32
prompt 0
menu title UNetbootin
timeout 100

default ubnentry5

label unetbootindefault
menu label Default
kernel /ubnkern
append initrd=/ubninit BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent rw quiet vga=0x317

label ubnentry0
menu label Start BackTrack FrameBuffer (1024x768)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent rw quiet vga=0x317

label ubnentry1
menu label Start BackTrack FrameBuffer (800x600)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd800.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent rw quiet vga=0x314

label ubnentry2
menu label Start BackTrack Forensics (no swap)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrdfr.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent rw vga=0x317

label ubnentry3
menu label Start BackTrack in Safe Graphical Mode
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper xforcevesa rw quiet

label ubnentry4
menu label Start BackTrack in Text Mode
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper nopersistent textonly rw quiet

label ubnentry5
menu label Start Persistent Live CD
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper persistent rw quiet vga=0x317

label ubnentry6
menu label Start BackTrack Graphical Mode from RAM
kernel /boot/vmlinuz
append initrd=/boot/initrd.gz BOOT=casper boot=casper toram nopersistent rw quiet

label ubnentry7
menu label Memory Test
kernel /ubnkern
append initrd=/ubninit

label ubnentry8
menu label Boot the First Hard Disk
kernel /ubnkern
append initrd=/ubninit

Reboot and either select "Start Persistent Live CD" or just wait since we set it to auto-boot to persistent mode. 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 🙂

Download the Ubuntu Nessus and NessusClient packages from I used the 32-bit 8.10 version which worked fine for me.

Again, with Backtrack 4 things are little easier. To install the Nessus server, simply execute the following command to install the package.

dpkg --install Nessus-4.0.1-ubuntu810_i386.deb

Things used to be a little bit more complicated for the client, but with the release of the pre-final version, it is just as easy to install as the server.

dpkg --install NessusClient-4.0.1-ubuntu810_i386.deb

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. Please note that there are two dashes before register in the nessus-fetch line below. They can display as one sometimes.

cd /opt/nessus/etc/nessus
/opt/nessus/bin/nessus-fetch --register [your 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. Be aware that with version 4.0, while the command to start returns quickly, the actual starting of the service may take a minute or two. You can use netstat -na to check that the server is listening on port 1241.

/etc/init.d/nessusd start

Woohoo, time to find those vulnerabilities.

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]


references: The persistent configuration information was taken from a video on that I will reference once the Final is released.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ronan September 30, 2009 at 8:26 am

Thanx , but one question , why we made the ext3 partition ??? i didn’t get it :S


kriggins September 30, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Hi Ronan,

I suggest you check out the latest version of the how-to. It covers things in pretty good details. The short answer is that you needs the ext3 partition for persistence.

Latest how-to:



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