Make the computer start on the USB stick

This step is the most complicated one as it depends a lot on the model of the computer:

  • On most computers, our basic instructions to get to the Boot Menu work fine.
  • On some computers, you might have to do more advanced techniques, like editing the BIOS settings.
  • On a few computers, it might currently be impossible to start Tails. But, it is very hard to know without trying.

The goal is to reach the Boot Loader of Tails. Depending on the computer, the Boot Loader might be either GRUB or SYSLINUX.

This is what GRUB looks like:

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

This is what SYSLINUX looks like:

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

Getting to the Boot Menu

On most computers, you can press a Boot Menu key to display a list of possible devices to start from. The following instructions explain how to display the Boot Menu and start on the USB stick. The following screenshot is an example of a Boot Menu:

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

    Shut down the computer.

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

    Unplug your Tails USB stick while leaving the intermediary USB stick plugged in.

  2. Identify the possible Boot Menu keys for the computer depending on the computer manufacturer in the following list:

    AcerEsc, F12, F9
    AsusEsc, F8
    FujitsuF12, Esc
    HPF9, Esc
    LenovoF12, Novo, F8, F10
    SamsungEsc, F12, F2
    SonyF11, Esc, F10
    others…F12, Esc

    On many computers, a message is displayed very briefly when switching on that also explains how to get to the Boot Menu or edit the BIOS settings.

  3. Switch on the computer and immediately press several times the first possible Boot Menu key identified in step 2.

  4. If the computer starts on another operating system or returns an error message, shut down the computer again and repeat step 3 for all the possible Boot Menu keys identified in step 2.

    If a Boot Menu with a list of devices appears, select your USB stick and press Enter.

    If the Boot Menu key that works on your computer is a different one than the first in the list, please let us know so we can improve the list. You can write to (private email).

This animation explains how to use the Boot Menu key:

Check our list of known issues

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

Edit the BIOS settings (advanced users)

If none of the possible Boot Menu keys from the previous technique work, or if the USB stick does not appear in the Boot Menu, you might need to edit your BIOS settings. To learn how to edit the BIOS settings, search for the user manual of the computer on the support website of the manufacturer.

Take note of the changes that you apply to the BIOS settings. That way, you can revert the changes if they prevent the computer from starting on its usual operating system.

In the BIOS settings, try to apply the following changes. Some changes might not apply to certain computer models.

  • There might be an option in your BIOS to enable the Boot Menu key. Make sure that the Boot Menu key is enabled. This option might be called Boot Device List or differently depending on the computer.

  • Edit the Boot Order. Depending on the computer, you might see an entry for removable devices or USB media. Move this entry to the top of the list to force the computer to try to start from the USB stick before starting from the internal hard disk.

  • Disable Fast boot.

  • Enable CSM boot.

  • Enable Legacy boot in addition to UEFI. The computer might not start anymore on its regular operating system if you disable UEFI completely or if you only enable Legacy boot.

  • Try to upgrade the BIOS. To do so, refer to the support website of the computer manufacturer.

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.

Reporting the problem to our help desk

Please send the following information to

  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
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  • Italian

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