This page describes the technique to start Tails from a USB stick on Mac.

Starting on Mac

  1. Shut down the computer while leaving the USB stick plugged in.

    Plug in the other Tails USB stick that you want to install from.

  2. Switch on the computer and immediately press-and-hold the Option key (Alt key) until a list of possible startup disks appears.

    'Option' or 'alt' key in the bottom left of Mac keyboard

  3. Choose the USB stick and press Enter. The USB stick appears as an external hard disk and might be labeled EFI Boot or Windows like in the following screenshot:

    Screen with the logo of an internal hard disk labeled 'Macintosh HD' and an external hard disk labelled 'Windows' (selected)

    If the USB stick does not appear in the list of startup disks:

    1. Make sure that you have verified your download of Tails.
    2. Try installing again on the same USB stick.
    3. Try installing on a different USB stick.
    4. Try using the same USB stick to start on a different computer.

    If your computer still does not display the Boot Loader, it might currently be impossible to start Tails on your computer.

  4. If your Mac displays the following error:

    Security settings do not allow this Mac to use an external startup disk.

    Then you have to change the settings of the Startup Security Utility of your Mac to authorize starting from Tails.

    To open Startup Security Utility:

    1. Turn on your Mac, then press and hold Command(⌘)+R immediately after you see the Apple logo. Your Mac starts up from macOS Recovery.

    2. When you see the macOS Utilities window, choose Utilities ▸ Startup Security Utility from the menu bar.

    3. When you are asked to authenticate, click Enter macOS Password, then choose an administrator account and enter its password.

    Startup Security Utility

    In the Startup Security Utility:

    • Choose No Security in the Secure Boot section.

    • Choose Allow booting from external media in the External Boot.

    To still protect your Mac from starting on untrusted external media, you can set a firmware password, available on macOS Mountain Lion or later. A firmware password prevents users who do not have the password from starting up from any media other than the designated startup disk.

    If you forget your firmware password you will require an in-person service appointment with an Apple Store or Apple Authorized Service Provider.

    Read more on Apple Support about:

  5. If the computer starts on Tails, the Boot Loader appears and Tails starts automatically after 4 seconds.

    Black screen ('GNU GRUB') with Tails logo and 2 options: 'Tails' and 'Tails (Troubleshooting Mode)'.

Troubleshooting Tails not starting at all

This section applies when the computer does not start on the USB stick and the Boot Loader is not displayed:

Black screen
('GNU GRUB') with Tails logo and 2 options: 'Tails' and 'Tails
(Troubleshooting Mode)'.

Verify your Tails USB stick

  1. Make sure that you have verified your download of Tails.
  2. Try installing again on the same USB stick.
  3. Try installing on a different USB stick.
  4. Try using the same USB stick to start on a different computer.

Check our list of known issues

Similar problems might have been reported already for your model of computer in our list of known issues.

Report the problem to our help desk

If none of these options work, we are sorry but you might not be able to use Tails on this computer. Feel free to report the problem to our help desk.

Please send the following information to tails-support-private@boum.org:

  1. Which version of Tails are you trying to start?

  2. How did you verify the USB image?

  3. What is the brand and model of your computer?

  4. What exactly happens when trying to start? Report the complete error message that appears on the screen, if any.

  5. What program did you use to install your USB stick?

  6. Does the USB stick start successfully on other computers? If so, what are the brands and models of those computers?

  7. Have you been able to successfully start another version of Tails on this computer before? If so, which version?

We answer requests in:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian

Requests not in English might take longer to answer. Imperfect English is welcome :)

Troubleshooting Tails not starting after the Boot Loader

The following section applies when the Boot Loader appears but not the Welcome Screen when starting Tails.

Verify your Tails USB stick

  1. Make sure that you have verified your download of Tails.
  2. Try installing again on the same USB stick.
  3. Try installing on a different USB stick.
  4. Try using the same USB stick to start on a different computer.

Check our list of known issues on graphics cards

If the computer displays the error message Error starting GDM with your graphics card, refer to our list of known issues with graphics cards.

Try the Troubleshooting Mode

  1. In the Boot Loader, choose the Troubleshooting Mode which might work better on some computers.

  2. If the Troubleshooting Mode does not work better, restart the computer again on your Tails USB stick.

Add boot options

  1. Depending on whether the Boot Loader is GRUB or SYSLINUX:

    If the Boot Loader is GRUB:

    1. Press e when GRUB appears.

      A new screen appears with more options.

      GRUB with a list of
 options starting with 'setparams Tails'

      If your Boot Loader looks different, refer to our instructions below on adding a boot option using SYSLINUX.

    2. Navigate with the arrows of the keyboard to the end of the line that starts with linux. The line is most likely wrapped and displayed on several lines on the screen but it is a single configuration line.

    3. Press the Backspace key several times to remove the quiet option from the command line.

    4. Type debug nosplash to add these options to the command line.

    5. If Tails previously failed to start and displayed the following error:

      Probing EDD (edd=off to disable)...

      Then type edd=off to add this option to the command line.

    6. Press Ctrl+X, F10, or Fn+F10 to start Tails.

    7. Hopefully, new error messages now appear when starting Tails. You can send them to our help desk by email, for example by taking a picture of the last screen and error messages.

    If the Boot Loader is SYSLINUX:

    1. Press Tab. A command line with a list of boot options appears at the bottom of the screen.

      SYSLINUX with
 a list of options starting with '/live/vmlinuz' at the bottom

      If your Boot Loader looks different, refer to our instructions on adding a boot option using GRUB above.

    2. Press the Backspace key several times to remove the quiet option from the command line.

    3. Type debug nosplash to add these options to the command line.

    4. If Tails previously failed to start and displayed the following error:

      Probing EDD (edd=off to disable)...

      Then type edd=off to add this option to the command line.

    5. Press Enter to start Tails.

    6. Hopefully, new error messages now appear when starting Tails. You can send them to our help desk by email, for example by taking a picture of the last screen and error messages.