These instructions require:

  • macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or later

Start in macOS.

Install Tails using Etcher

Install an intermediary Tails using Etcher

In this step, you will install an intermediary Tails using the Tails USB image that you downloaded earlier.

Install Etcher

  1. Click on the following link to download Etcher:

    Download Etcher for macOS

  2. Open the Etcher download (DMG disk image).

  3. To install Etcher, drag the Etcher icon onto the Applications icon.

  4. Close the installation window of Etcher.

    Optionally, eject the Etcher disk image from the desktop.

Instead of installing Etcher, you can also install Tails using dd on the command line.

  1. Make sure that your USB stick is unplugged.

  2. Open Terminal from Applications ▸ Utilities ▸ Terminal.app.

  3. Execute the following command:

    diskutil list

    It returns a list of the storage devices on the system. For example:

    /dev/disk0 #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER 0: GUID_partition_scheme *500.1 GB disk0 1: EFI 209.7 MB disk0s1 2: Apple_HFS MacDrive 250.0 GB disk0s2 3: EFI 134.1 GB disk0s3 4: Microsoft Basic Data BOOTCAMP 115.5 GB disk0s4

  4. Plug your USB stick in the computer.

  5. Execute again the same command:

    diskutil list

    Your USB stick appears as a new device in the list. Check that its size corresponds to the size of your USB stick.

    /dev/disk0 #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER 0: GUID_partition_scheme ∗500.1 GB disk0 1: EFI 209.7 MB disk0s1 2: Apple_HFS MacDrive 250.0 GB disk0s2 3: EFI 134.1 GB disk0s3 4: Microsoft Basic Data BOOTCAMP 115.5 GB disk0s4 /dev/disk1 #: TYPE NAME SIZE IDENTIFIER 0: FDisk_partition_scheme *8.0 GB disk1 1: Apple_HFS Untitled 1 8.0 GB disk1s1

  6. Take note of the device name of your USB stick. In this example, the USB stick is 8.0 GB and its device name is /dev/disk1. Yours might be different.

    If you are unsure about the device name, you should stop proceeding or you risk overwriting any hard disk on the system.

  7. Execute the following commands to copy the USB image that you downloaded earlier to the USB stick.

    Replace:

    • tails.img with the path to the USB image

      If you are unsure about the path to the USB image, you can insert the correct path by dragging and dropping the icon of the USB image from Finder onto Terminal.

    • device with the device name found in step 6

      You can try adding r before disk to make the installation faster.

    diskutil unmountDisk device

    dd if=tails.img of=device bs=16m && sync

    You should get something like this:

    dd if=/Users/me/tails-amd64-3.12.img of=/dev/rdisk9 bs=16m && sync

    If no error message is returned, Tails is being copied on the USB stick. The copy takes some time, generally a few minutes.

    If you get a Permission denied error, try adding sudo at the beginning of the command:

    sudo dd if=tails.img of=device bs=16m && sync

    If you get an invalid number ‘16m’ error, try using 16M instead:

    dd if=tails.img of=device bs=16M && sync

    The installation is complete once the command prompt reappeared.

Install the intermediary Tails

USB stick plugged in the computer
USB stick plugged on the left
  1. Plug in the USB stick on which you want to install Tails the intermediary Tails.

    All the data on this USB stick will be lost.

    The Persistent Storage of your Tails USB stick will not be copied to the temporary Tails.

  2. Open Finder and choose Etcher in Applications.

    Open the Etcher download.

    At the security warning, confirm that you want to open Etcher.

    Etcher starts.

  3. Click the Select image button.

    Choose the USB image that you downloaded earlier.

    Make sure that the USB image has an .img file extension.

    If the image has an .iso file extension, it is not the correct image. Please go back to the download step for installing from Windows. download step for installing from macOS. download step for upgrading from Windows. download step for upgrading from macOS.

  4. Etcher should automatically select your USB stick. Otherwise, click the Change link to choose a different USB stick.

    USB image installed on USB stick
    USB image installed on USB stick on the left
  5. Click Flash.

    Enter your password if you are asked for it.

    The installation takes a few minutes.

    After installing Tails, Etcher verifies the installation.

    If the verification of Etcher fails, try to install again or to use a different USB stick.

  6. Close Etcher.

    If a notification about the USB stick not being readable appears, click Eject to eject the USB stick.

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!

If you are already in Tails, go directly to step 3: Verify that the other Tails is up-to-date.

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

  1. Click on the Start button.

  2. Press and hold the Shift key while you choose Power ▸ Restart.

  3. In the Choose an option screen, choose Use a device.

    If the Choose an option screen does not appear, refer to the instructions on starting Tails using the Boot Menu key.

  4. In the Use a device screen, choose Boot Menu.

    Windows shuts down, the computer restarts, and a Boot Menu appears.

    Plug in your Tails USB stick shortly after choosing Boot Menu and while Windows is shutting down.

    In the future, we We recommend that you only plug in your Tails USB stick while Windows is shutting down. Otherwise, a virus in Windows could infect your Tails USB stick and break its security.

    Such an attack is possible in theory but very unlikely in practice. We don't know of any virus capable of infecting Tails. See our warning on plugging Tails in untrusted systems.

    The Boot Menu is a list of possible devices to start from. The following screenshot is an example of a Boot Menu:

  5. In the Boot Menu, select your USB stick and press Enter.

  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)'.

Most computers do not start on the Tails USB stick automatically but you can press a Boot Menu key to display a list of possible devices to start from.

If Windows 8 or 10 is also installed on the computer, you can refer instead to the instructions on starting Tails from Windows 8 or 10. Starting Tails from Windows is easier than using the Boot Menu key.

The following screenshot is an example of a Boot Menu:

This animation summarizes how to use the Boot Menu key to start on the USB stick:

The following instructions explain in detail how to use the Boot Menu key to start on the USB stick:

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

    Shut down the computer and plug in the Tails USB stick.

    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).

  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)'.

  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

Starting the computer using a Boot Menu key can be faster than starting the computer on Windows first and then on Tails. We recommend you learn how to start Tails using the Boot Menu key if you use Tails regularly.

Welcome Screen

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

    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

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:

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

  • Share the Wi-Fi or mobile data connection of your phone using a USB cable. Sharing a connection this way is called USB tethering.

    See instructions for:

    Tails cannot hide the information that identifies your phone on the network. If you connect your phone to:

    • A Wi-Fi network, then the network will know the MAC address of your phone. This has security implications that are discussed in our documentation on MAC address spoofing. Some phones have a feature to hide the real MAC address of the phone.

    • A mobile data network, then the network will be able to know the identifier of your SIM card (IMSI) and also the serial number of your phone (IMEI).

  • 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 :)