These instructions require:

  • macOS 10.10 (Yosemite) or later

Start in macOS.

Install Tails using Etcher

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 Tails

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

    All the data on this USB stick will be lost.

  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 Windowsdownload step for installing 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
  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!

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

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 Menu of Tails:

Black screen with Tails artwork. Boot Loader Menu with two 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
    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. 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

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.

Search for the user manual of the computer on the website of its manufacturer to learn how to edit the BIOS settings:

In the BIOS settings, try to apply the following changes one by one and restart the computer after each change. Some changes might not apply to certain computer models.

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.

  1. Edit the Boot Order. Depending on the computer model 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.

  2. Disable Fast boot.

  3. If the computer is configured to start with legacy BIOS, try to configure it to start with UEFI. Else, if the computer is configured to start with UEFI, try to configure it to start with legacy BIOS. To do so, try any of the following options if available:

  4. Try to upgrade the BIOS to the latest version provided by the 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 the computer starts on Tails, the Boot Loader Menu appears and Tails starts automatically after 4 seconds.

    Black screen with Tails artwork. Boot Loader Menu with two options 'Tails' and 'Tails (Troubleshooting Mode)'.

If your computer displays the Boot Loader Menu 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 :)

Tails Greeter

  1. One to two minutes after the Boot Loader Menu, another screen called Tails Greeter 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 Tails Greeter, refer to the troubleshooting section about Tails not starting entirely.

    Troubleshooting

    Tails does not start entirely

    The following section applies if the Boot Loader Menu appears but not Tails Greeter when starting Tails.

    1. Restart the computer on the first USB stick.

    2. In the Boot Loader Menu, 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. In the Boot Loader Menu, press TAB. A command line with a list of boot options appears at the bottom of the screen.

      Black screen with Tails artwork and list of boot options

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

    6. If Tails previously failed to start and displayed the Probing EDD (edd=off to disable)... error, then type edd=off to add this option to the command line.

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

    8. To start Tails, press Enter.

    9. Hopefully, 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.

    Tails Greeter: 'Welcome to Tails!'

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

  3. Após 15–30 segundos, a área de trabalho do Tails aparece.

    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 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 an encrypted 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 encrypted persistent storage:

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

The encrypted persistent storage is not hidden. An attacker in possession of the USB stick can know whether it has an encrypted persistent storage. Take into consideration that you can be forced or tricked to give out its passphrase.

It is possible to open the encrypted 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 assistant shows a list of the possible persistence features. Each feature corresponds to a set of files or settings to be saved in the encrypted persistent storage.

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

  6. Click Save.

Restart and activate the persistent storage

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

  2. In Tails Greeter:

    Tails Greeter: '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 activate the encrypted 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 :)