What is Tails?
When going about your daily not especially nefarious business online a normal VPN like Private Internet Access on Windows or Mac OS is fine. But if your freedom is on the line, you need to gear up and load the big guns.
If you aren’t already familiar with Tails you don’t have to read more than the next couple of lines to understand the basics.
Tails is a complete, secure operating system built for the purpose of safeguarding your privacy online and upholding your anonymity.
- Browse the Internet anonymously and bypass censorship.
- All online activity runs through TOR.
- Leaves no trace on the computer it is run on – unless you actively set it to (or if you’re running it in virtualization software which we don’t recommend – unless you really know what you’re doing)
- Contains the newest and best cryptographic tools for encrypting your files and communications such as PGP-tools.
- Includes lots of Open Source software such as sound and video editing, emails, office suite and a Bitcoin transfer/storage and much more.
Any software in Tails that connects online will automatically to so through TOR. If an application attempts to access the Internet around TOR will be automatically shut down.
Tails is a “plug-in” OS in the sense that it boots from a flash drive or CD-rom outside the OS your PC is already running.
Tails isn’t optimal on Mac. Some make it work, others can’t, which is why we’ll assume you have a Windows-based device for the purpose of this guide.
For good measure – and because we’re too lazy to type in the contents of the article – you can read more about the do’s and don’ts on using Tails here: https://tails.boum.org/doc/about/warning/index.en.html
How do I install Tails?
You’ll need two flash drives, min. 8 GB each, and a couple of hours for downloading to install Tails. Keep a smartphone or extra computer at hand so you can follow the steps of this guide while you use your primary computer (or one you’ve acquired for the purpose) to install Tails with. Tails itself will be stored on a flash drive.
Why do I need two flash drives?
Because… safety. The reason for creating the final version of Tails from a temporary version of it is safety. Tails is without a doubt more secure than Windows and other operating systems. When you install Tails from Tails you can be sure that it won’t be riddled with malware contaminating the version of Tails you’ll later use to remain anonymous.
The two flash drives are formatted when installing so don’t forget to save the files you want to keep.
1. Installing a temporary version of Tails to USB
Download Tails from here: https://tails.boum.org/install/win/usb-download/index.en.html
- Click the green download button. If you’re feeling extra cool, select “torrent download” and you won’t strain the Tails servers.
- When you’ve done this, install the browser add-on to verify you’ve downloaded the original version of Tails, which hasn’t been tainted by malware and what-else the NSA and their friends might concoct. SUPER IMPORTANT!
When you’ve downloaded Tails, you need to download and install Universal USB Installer.
You can either do that from the own website of the software:
Or directly from the Tails website:
Run Universal USB Installer, select Tails in step 1, select your downloaded Tail ISO in step 2, and the port which you’ve plugged in your USB in step 3.
Now you’ll be able to choose your format in Fat32. You’ll need this.
Tick the box and click “create”. Boom! In the park!
Once the installation is completed, click “close” to exit Universal USB Installer.
Congrats, you’re now a PC super-user! Well, at least you’ve created the temporary version of Tails you’ll need to create the final version of it.
2. Open this guide on another device
If you’re reading this from the PC you’re going to use to create and use the final version of Tails from, it’s time to open this guide on another device.
Alternatively you can print this guide if you’re a wasteful bastard that doesn’t are about the rainforest and its critters.
3. Reboot your PC in Tails
- Shut down your computer and leave the flash drive in.
- Turn on your computer.
- If it doesn’t automatically reboots in Tails, you’ll need to reconfigure the boot order in BIOS on your PC. If you don’t know how to do this, google the brand of your PC (Acer, Lenovo, Samsung etc.) with “change boot order”, e.g. “Lenovo change boot order”, and follow whatever guide pops up.
The Freedom Activist assumes no responsibility of what you might fuck up messing about in BIOS so stick to the guides and browse other user comments for errors they might have run in to and how they solved it.
If all goes well, you’ll see this screen:
- Allow 30-60 seconds for “Tails Greeter” to appear. It’s the first screen you’ll see when your Tails installation is running successfully.
- Select your preferred language and click “start Tails” at the top right.
- Allow 15-30 seconds for Tails to open the desktop:
The hard part is over and we can move on to installing the final version of Tails that you’re storing and using from your second flash drive.
4. Installing the final version of Tails
- Plug in your second flash drive (you’ve left your first flash drive in!).
- Go to Applications ▸ System Tools ▸ Tails Installer to run the software for installing Tails from Tails.
- Select “Clone the current Tails”.
- Select which USB drive you want it installed on.
- Click “Install” to start the installation.
- Read the “warning message” that pops up (if you feel like it) and click “yes” to confirm the installation.
- Close “Tails Installer” when the installation is complete.
5. Reboot your PC on the final version of Tails
- Shut down your computer.
- Remove the first flash drive (the one with the temporary version of Tails).
- Turn on your computer!
- Some computers are able to run the temporary version of Tails but not the final one. If this is the case, see point 3.3 on changing the boot order in BIOS.
- The boot load menu appears and Tails will start in 4 seconds.
- After 30-60 seconds you’ll be met by the “Tails Greeter” again which is the first screen.
- Select language and keyboard layout and click “start Tails”.
- Allow 15-30 second for the Tails desktop to load.
Good job, you’re now done installing Tails and ready to go.
If you want to save documents, PGP-keys, Bitcoins and so on in Tails, you’ll need to create an encrypted, persistent file container that only you know how to open. Continue reading for that part.
6. Create an encrypted, persistent file container (optional)
You can use the remaining storage space on your Tails flash drive to store different information and data so you don’t have to remember it with your brain whenever you boot Tails.
If you’re only planning on using Tails to browse the Internet anonymously, there’s no need to create and encrypted storage space.
If you’re using Tails for PGP-communication and/or various darknet markets on TOP, you’ll benefit from creating an encrypted storage space for storing your data.
Data in the encrypted “container” can be opened across different installations of Tails and other operating systems but only by the passphrase you’ve set.
- Go to Applications ▸ Tails ▸ Configure Persistent Volume.
- Enter your passphrase in both “Passphrase” og “Verify Passphrase“.
- We recommend using a passphrase from at least 5-7 random words, read more at The Intercept: PASSPHRASES THAT YOU CAN MEMORIZE — BUT THAT EVEN THE NSA CAN’T GUESS!
- Click “Create”.
- Wait for the installation to complete. If you shut down the assistant before it’s done, you won’t be able to run Tails again and have to restart the entire installation process.
- The assistant will show you a list of what kinds of data you want to store. You can always add more at a later time even if you don’t select them now. Options include:
- Personal Data (storing files and such). Find the folder in: Places ▸ Persistent.
- GnuPGP (storing your PGP-keys).
- Thunderbird (saves in- and outgoing mail from your email client).
- Bitcoin Client (saves data about your wallet on the pre-installed Electrum Wallet that comes with Tails).
- Click “Save”.
7. Restart and activate “Persistent Storage”
- Restart your computer. Leave the flash drive in.
- If you’ve followed the steps correctly, the Tails Greeter will have added a new option, “Encrypted Persistent Storage”:
- Select language and keyboard layout.
- Enter your passphrase in the “encrypted persistent storage” bar and click “unlock” to activate the encrypted storage you’ve just created.
- Click “Start Tails”
- Tails will run in 15-30 seconds and you’re now able to save documents and whatever else you selected when creating the encrypted storage space in step 6.
- High-five yourself!
- Create a text file or another cool thing and dump it in to Places ▸ Persistent.
- Reboot tails and remember to unlock the encrypted persistent storage.
- Check for your text file or whatever you dumped in there in Places ▸ Persistent.
- If the file is still there, get someone to high-five you and tell you you’re smart and pretty.
If you’re planning on going from Internet Shitlord to Deepweb Druglord, read the “WARNING” on using Tails on the official Tails website! https://tails.boum.org/doc/about/warning/index.en.html
Tails will not protect you from thoughtlessness and bad passphrases!