Tails USB stick

Congratulations, you have installed Tails on your USB stick!

You will now restart your computer on this USB stick. It can be a bit complicated, so good luck! But it might not work on your Mac model, so good luck!

Open these instructions on another device

In the next step, you will shut down the computer. To be able to follow the rest of the instructions afterwards, we recommend you either:

  • Open this page on your smartphone, tablet, or another computer (recommended).

  • Print the rest of the instructions on paper.

  • Take note of the URL of this page to be able to come back later:

    https://tails.boum.org/install/clone?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/install/win/usb?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/install/mac/usb?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/install/mac/clone?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/install/expert/usb?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/install/linux/usb?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/upgrade/clone?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/upgrade/tails?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/upgrade/win?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/upgrade/mac?back=1 https://tails.boum.org/upgrade/linux?back=1

Restart on the intermediary Tails

Restart on the other Tails

Restart on Tails

USB stick plugged on the left Computer restarted on USB stick Computer restarted on USB stick on the left USB stick unplugged on the right and computer restarted on USB stick on the left

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 Mode)'.

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:

    ManufacturerKey
    AcerEsc, F12, F9
    AsusEsc, F8
    ClevoF7
    DellF12
    FujitsuF12, Esc
    HPF9, Esc
    LenovoF12, Novo, F8, F10
    SamsungEsc, F12, F2
    SonyF11, Esc, F10
    ToshibaF12
    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 sajolida@pimienta.org (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 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 :)

  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 possible 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 the same USB stick works on a different computer, please report the problem to our help desk.
  4. Reporting 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 :)

  5. 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:

  6. 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)'.

    The Boot Loader on Mac is always GRUB. It might be different on PC.

    If your computer displays the Boot Loader but then fails to start on the USB stick, it might currently be impossible to start Tails on your Mac model.

    Please report the problem to our help desk.

Reporting 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 :)

Welcome Screen

  1. One to two minutes after the Boot Loader, the Welcome Screen appears.

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

    If the computer stops responding or displays other error messages before getting to the Welcome Screen, refer to the troubleshooting section about Tails not starting entirely.

    Troubleshooting

    Tails does not start entirely

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

    1. Restart the computer on the first USB stick.

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

    3. If the Troubleshooting Mode does not work better, restart the computer again on the first USB stick.

    4. 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-options.png

      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 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-options.png

      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.

    Welcome to Tails!

  2. In the Welcome Screen, select your language and keyboard layout in the Language & Region section. Click Start Tails.

  3. After 15–30 seconds, the Tails desktop appears.

    Tails desktop

Verify that the other Tails is up-to-date

To prevent installing upgrading to an outdated version of Tails with known security issues, make sure that the Tails you are installing upgrading from is up-to-date:

  1. Choose Applications ▸ Tails ▸ About Tails.

  2. Verify that you are running Tails 4.7 released on 2020-06-02:

    a. If you are running 4.7 then you can continue with the next step.

    b. If you are not running 4.7 then connect to the Internet and wait until Tor is ready. After a minute or two, Tails Upgrader appears with instructions on how to upgrade. Apply all upgrades as requested.

    If at some point it is impossible to do automatic upgrades, then we recommend you choose a different installation method. choose a different installation method. upgrade from Tails instead.

Install Tails

Upgrade your Tails

In this step, you will upgrade your Tails from the other intermediary Tails using Tails Installer.

Second USB stick plugged on the right
  1. Plug the new your Tails USB stick in the computer.

    All the data on this USB stick will be lost.

  2. Choose Applications ▸ Tails ▸ Tails Installer to start Tails Installer.

    Tails Installer: 'Clone the current Tails' Tails Installer: 'Clone the current Tails'

    Tails installed on USB stick on the right
  3. Choose the new your USB stick in the Target USB stick drop-down list.

  4. To start the installation, click on the Install button. upgrade, click on the Upgrade button.

    The Persistent Storage of your Tails USB stick will be preserved.

    The Persistent Storage of the other Tails will not be copied.

  5. Read the warning message in the confirmation dialog. Click Yes to confirm.

    The installation upgrade takes a few minutes.

    The progress bar usually freezes for some time while synchronizing data on disk.

  6. After the installation finishes, close Tails Installer.

You are done upgrading Tails. You can now shutdown and restart on your Tails USB stick.

Thank you for staying safe!

Restart on the new Tails

  1. Shut down the computer.

    USB stick unplugged on the left and computer restarted on USB stick on the right
  2. Unplug the other USB stick and leave the new USB stick plugged in.

  3. Switch on the computer and start on your new Tails USB stick.

  4. The Boot Loader appears and Tails starts automatically after 4 seconds.

  5. After 30–60 seconds, the Welcome Screen appears.

  6. In the Welcome Screen, select your language and keyboard layout in the Language & Region section. Click Start Tails.

  7. After 15–30 seconds, the Tails desktop appears.

Test your Wi-Fi

Problems with Wi-Fi are unfortunately quite common in Tails and Linux in general. To test if your Wi-Fi interface works in Tails:

  1. Open the system menu in the top-right corner:

  2. Choose Wi-Fi Not Connected and then Select Network.

  3. After establishing a connection to a network:

    • If you can already access the Internet, Tor is automatically started.

    • If you need to log in to a captive portal before being granted access to the Internet, see our documentation about logging in to captive portals.

If your Wi-Fi interface is not working, either:

  • There is no Wi-Fi option in the system menu:

  • The interface is disabled when starting Tails or when plugging in your USB Wi-Fi adapter:

    Notification about network card being disabled

    In this case, you can disable MAC spoofing to get your Wi-Fi interface to work in Tails. Disabling MAC spoofing has security implications, so read carefully our documentation about MAC spoofing before doing so.

To connect to the Internet, you can try to either:

  • Use an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi if possible. Wired interfaces work much more reliably than Wi-Fi in Tails.

  • Buy a USB Wi-Fi adapter that works in Tails:

VendorModelSizeSpeedPriceBuy offlineBuy online
EdimaxEW-7811UnNano150 Mbit/s$10NoAmazon
Panda WirelessUltraNano150 Mbit/s$12NoAmazon
Panda WirelessPAU05Small300 Mbit/s$14NoAmazon

If you find another USB Wi-Fi adapter that works in Tails, please let us know. You can write to sajolida@pimienta.org (private email).

Yay, you managed to start your new Tails on your computer!

If you want to save some of your documents and configuration in an encrypted storage on your new Tails USB stick, follow our instructions until the end. Otherwise, have a look at our final recommendations. final recommendations. final recommendations. final recommendations. final recommendations. final recommendations.

Create a Persistent Storage (optional)

You can optionally create an encrypted Persistent Storage in the remaining free space on your new Tails USB stick to store any of the following:

  • Personal files
  • Some settings
  • Additional software
  • Encryption keys

The data in the Persistent Storage:

  • Remains available across separate working sessions.
  • Is encrypted using a passphrase of your choice.

The Persistent Storage is not hidden. An attacker in possession of your USB stick can know that there is a Persistent Storage on it. Take into consideration that you can be forced or tricked to give out its passphrase.

It is possible to unlock the Persistent Storage from other operating systems. But, doing so might compromise the security provided by Tails.

For example, image thumbnails might be created and saved by the other operating system. Or, the contents of files might be indexed by the other operating system.

Other operating systems should probably not be trusted to handle sensitive information or leave no trace.

Create the Persistent Storage

  1. Choose Applications ▸ Tails ▸ Configure persistent volume.

  2. Specify a passphrase of your choice in both the Passphrase and Verify Passphrase text boxes.

    We recommend choosing a long passphrase made of five to seven random words. Learn more.

  3. Click on the Create button.

  4. Wait for the creation to finish.

  5. The list of features of the Persistent Storage appears. Each feature corresponds to a set of files or settings that can be saved in the Persistent Storage.

    We recommend you to only turn on the Personal Data feature for the time being. You can turn on more features later on according to your needs.

  6. Click Save.

Restart and unlock the Persistent Storage

  1. Shut down the computer and restart on your new Tails USB stick.

  2. In the Welcome Screen:

    Welcome to Tails!

    • Select your language and keyboard layout in the Language & Region section.

    • In the Encrypted Persistent Storage section, enter your passphrase and click Unlock to unlock the Persistent Storage for the current working session.

    • Click Start Tails.

  3. After 15–30 seconds, the Tails desktop appears.

  4. You can now save your personal files and working documents in the Persistent folder. To open the Persistent folder choose Places ▸ Persistent.

Tails USB stick with Persistent Storage

You now have a complete Tails, congrats!

Final recommendations

Tails does not protect you from everything! Have a look at our warnings.

If you face any problem, use the Report an error launcher on the Tails desktop or visit our support pages.

We hope you enjoy using Tails :)