Cheatsheet of Useful Commands Every Kali Linux User Needs To Know

This cheatsheet includes a list of basic and advanced useful Linux commands that every Kali Linux user must know.

Mastering the command line is critical for every Kali user. There are many things you can do via command line that cannot be done in a standard GUI environment. Tasks that take minutes or even hours to do on a desktop environment (GUI) can be done in a matter of seconds from the command line. 

To give you an example, here's a one line linux command to download an entire website:

wget -r

If you tried the same on a desktop environment, you'd have to save each page of the site, one by one.

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This is only one of many examples as to how powerful the command line truly is. There are many other tasks on Linux that can only be done from the command line.

To put simply, knowing your way around a command line will make you a more efficient and effective. You'll be able to get shit done faster by automating repetitive tasks. 

If you're new to Unix/Linux operating systems, this cheatsheet also includes the fundamental linux commands such as jumping from one directory to another, as well as more technical stuff like managing processes.

Keyboard Shortcuts


Clear terminal screen


Log out of current session


Stop (halt) currently running command/processes


Suspend (pause) currently running command/processes


Delete the last word/argument


Jump (skip) to the very LAST line


Jump (skip) to the very FIRST line


Move cursor one letter forward


Move cursor one letter backward


Cut (copy) everything BEFORE the cursor


Cut (copy) everything AFTER the cursor


Paste previously copied text


Clear terminal screen


Fix display errors


Exit (log out) current session




Repeat last command

sudo !!

Repeat last command as sudo (admin/root) user

man <cmd>

Read the manual page of a command

which <cmd>

Locate the path name of a command

Important Tips:
Everything inside "<>" should be replaced with a name of a file, directory or command.

Bash = A popular command-line used in Unix/Linux operating systems.
dir = directory/folder
file = file name & type (e.g. notes.txt)
cmd = command (eg. mkdir, ls, curl, etc)
location = path/destination (e.g. /home/Desktop)

File & Directory Manipulation

pwd: Display path of current directory you’re in

ls: List all files and folders in the current directory
ls -la: List detailed list of files and folders, including hidden ones

Change to a specific directory

cd: Change to home directory
cd /user/Desktop: Change to a specific directory called Desktop
cd .. : Move back a directory

Create a directory/folder

mkdir <dir>: Create a new directory
mkdir /home/Desktop/dir: Create a directory in a specific location

Create and edit files

touch <file>: Create an empty file
nano <file>: Edit an existing file or create it if it doesn’t exist.
Alternatives to nano text editor: vim, emacs

Copy, move and rename files and directories

cp <file1> <file2>: Create a copy of a file
cp -r <dir1> <dir2>: Create a copy of a directory and everything in it
cp <file> /home/Desktop/file2: Create a copy of a file in a different directory and name it file2.

mv <file> /home/Desktop: Move a file to a specific directory (overwrites any existing file with the same name)
mv <dir> /home/Desktop: Move a directory to another location
mv <dir1> <dir2>: Rename a file OR directory (dir1 -> dir2)

Delete files

rm <file>: Delete a file
rm -f <file>: Force delete a file
Careful now..

rm -r <dir>: Delete a directory and its contents
rm -rf <dir>: Force delete a directory and its contents
Careful when using this command as it will delete everything including the directory itself

Output and analyze files

cat <file>: Display/output the contents of a file
less <file>: Display the contents of a file with scroll (paginate) ability (press q to quit)

head <file>: Display the first ten lines in a file
head -20 <file>: Display the first 20 lines in a file
tail <file>: Display the last ten lines in a file
tail -20 <file>: Display the last 20 lines in a file

diff <file1> <file2>: Check the difference between two files (file1 and file2)

System & User Information

cal: Display monthly calendar

date: Check date and time
uptime: Check system uptime and currently logged in users

uname -a: Display system information.
dmesg: Display kernel ring buffer

poweroff: Shutdown system
reboot: Reboot system

View disk and memory usage

df -h: Display disk space usage
fdisk -l: List disk partition tables
free: Display memory usage

cat /proc/meminfo: Display memory information
cat /proc/cpuinfo:
Display cpu information

View user information

whoami: Output your username
w: Check who’s online
history: View a list of your previously executed commands

View last logged in users and information

last: Display last login info of users
last <user>: Display last login info of a specific user
finger <user>: Display user information

Installing & Upgrading Packages

Search for packages

apt-cache pkgnames: List all available packages
apt search <name>: Search for a package and its description
apt show <name>: Check detailed description of a package Install packages

apt-get install <name>: Install a package
apt-get install <name1> <name2>: Install multiple packages

Update, upgrade & cleanup

apt-get update: Update list of available packages
apt-get upgrade: Install the newest version of available packages

apt-get dist-upgrade: Force upgrade packages.
apt-get autoremove: Remove installed packages that are no longer needed
apt-get clean: Free up disk space by removing archived packages

Delete packages

apt-get remove: Uninstall a package
apt-get remove --purge: Uninstall a package and remove its configuration files

Processes & Job Management

top: Display running processes & system usage in real-time.

ps: Display currently running processes
ps -u <user>: Display currently running processes of a user

kill <PID>: Kill a processes by PID #.
killall <processes>: Kill all processes with specified name.

Start, stop, resume jobs

jobs: Display the status of current jobs
jobs -l: Display detailed info about each job
jobs -r: Display only running jobs

bg: View stopped background jobs or resume job in the background
fg: Resume recent job in the foreground
fg <job>: Bring specific job to the foreground.

Networking Utilities

ping <host>: Ping a host
whois <domain/IP>: Get whois information about a domain or IP.
dig <domain/IP>: Get DNS information
nslookup: <NS>: Get nameserver information

ifconfig: Configure/display network interfaces
iwconfig: Configure/display wireless network interfaces

netstat -r: Display kernel IP routing tables
netstat -antp: Check for established and listening ports/connections

arp -a: Display ARP cache tables for all interfaces

Secure File Transfer (SCP)

Transfer files FROM the local system TO a remote host
scp /path/to/file user@host:/path/to/dest

Transfer files FROM a remote host TO the local system
scp user@host:/path/to/file /path/to/dest

Transfer directories and everything within it
scp -r /path/to/dir user@host:/path/to/dest

Transfer all files that match a specific filetype
scp /path/to/*.txt user@host:/path/to/dest

Transfer local public SSH public key to remote host
cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh user@host 'cat >> .ssh/authorized_keys'

Am I forgetting something? Let me know in the comments below. I'll continue to update this when I get a chance. 

Looking for a PDF version? Use this Linux commands cheat sheet. I recommend printing it out and hanging it next to your computer.

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