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
    HPEsc, F9
    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. 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 3.16 released on 2019-09-04:

    a. If you are running 3.16 then you can continue with the next step.

    b. If you are not running 3.16 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.

     <div class="bug">
     <p>If at some point it is impossible to do automatic upgrades, then
     we recommend you
     <span class="install-clone"><a href="../../install/index.en.html">choose a different installation method</a>.</span>
     <span class="mac-clone"><a href="../../install/mac/index.en.html">choose a different installation method</a>.</span>
     <span class="upgrade-clone"><a href="../tails/index.en.html">upgrade from Tails instead</a>.</span>
     </div>
    

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!