Thursday, 19 May 2011

Overcoming problems installing Backtrack 5 on a system

I had a challenging couple of hours today getting Backtrack 5 running on my main Desktop system.

Having tried the VMs, and and also installed the 32bit KDE version on one of my laptops (both of which were very straight forward) I thought I would bite-the-bullet, backup the data from my main research system, blow it away, and install Backtrack Linux 5 on that as well.

Unfortunately I ran into a few issues, with installation drives, and graphics drivers.

So here are some notes on solutions (more for me to remember than anything, but may be helpful to someone else?)
Boot-loader issues

There seems to be something odd about the partitioning and boot-loader installation in Backtrack 5. I have multiple drives, one of which is a striped-pair. It didn't seem to be writing the boot-loader to the correct drive. Not sure why, but to work around this, I popped out the cables for my RAID array disks, and installed on the single 500GB OS disk (with no other live disks in the chassis at the time) and that seemed to resolve it.

Graphics-driver woes

I have an on-board Nvidia card, which I know has produced some issues before, with my Backtrack 4 R2 install. No surprise, I needed to do some extra fiddling again to get this to work.

After the install, "startx" was crashing-out with various errors telling me that there were no suitable devices for X to run on.

(This was despite the fact that graphics drivers on the live DVD were working fine)

The solution to this was to use a proprietary Nvidia driver-installation script. This also requires the kernel-sources to be downloaded and unpacked as follows:


(If you need to do this, go and make a cup of tea while this downloads and unpacks)

cd /usr/src/linux
cp -rf include/generated/* include/linux/

However, the configuration script I had previously used with Backtrack 4 R2 ( did not work, but luckily a more recent script did (
(I hadn't been able to get that one working with Backtrack 4 R2)

I then ran the Nvidia driver install as follows, and bingo, it worked:

./ --kernel-source-path='/usr/src/linux'

You can get the latest drivers from here:

Setting up the rest of my lab

The VMWare-player install went seemlessly (just using the "VMware-Player-3.1.4-385536.i386.bundle" script file from the VMware website) and I have copied on my archived virtual-victim-lab.

So now I have a working online Backtrack 5. Hurrah!

Here are a few extras I have installed:

apt-get -y install gns3 tftp vlc gimp vsftpd xchat kcalc mplayer kate okular uml-utilities ktorrent k3b kmag ksnapshot

Now it's just a question of getting used to KDE 4.5 (which seems quite different to KDE 3.x).

Missing things

There seem to be some other things that I am used to seeing on Backtrack 4, that are either not there, or have changed significantly, I guess I will figure those out my immersing myself with some exploit development over the next few days.

Anyway, time for some pwnage...


  1. Thanks alot was needing a little help with the nvidia drivers on my alienware.ohh nice blog will be visiting again for future updates.

  2. Thanks CR1P70
    I probably have some other tweaks and changes to update on here at some point - based on my recent use of BT5.

    Also, it is possible to do a headless install of backtrack, by using ssh -X and running the install UI from another system.

    BTW - I still have issues with the 64bit of my drivers.

  3. Hello.

    Check out this script, it would be helpful for fresh installations:


  4. nice work very simple way to get fingers on bt5
    i litteraly learn lot linux tricks with all the bt community since auditor days

    keep it up ans thanks lot
    can you do a favor ut theme on the forum if not do yet please :)

  5. I have sucessfully installed backtrack 5 on my MacBook. Thanks for share anyway ..

    "Try harder" :D

  6. i have tryed to install backtrack side by side with windows 7 i came with a problem that i dont have the resize option so i can reize the windows 7 partition only FORMAT THE WHOLE DRIVE or do a MANUAL INSTALL.

  7. Try a DVD boot, or USB with persistent changes instead, until you get familiar with Backtrack.

  8. Ok - you rock - Thanks for the video driver tips. I have a Dell D860 that has been giving me fits trying to get the nvidia drivers loaded on Backtrack 5. Thanks.

  9. How can you use this if on a live dvd or USB with Backtrack 5 R2 if the black screen appears after using startx?

    I don't even get to see the desktop to make a hard drive install.

  10. Rob,
    You have a couple of choices; do a headless install using SSH from another system, or just run backtrack with VMware from Windows (I recommend you use the second option if you don't understand what the first one is).

    (On my main system I run Backtrack as a VM, which is handy for various reasons, including snapshots for example)

    I had a couple of other systems running backtrack natively (mainly because they had a weak processor).