For anyone looking to protect their privacy online, Tor is an invaluable tool. It is both one of the most reliable ways to hide your identity and one of the easiest to use.

There are multiple different ways to use Tor, but the simplest and quickest is the Tor Browser bundle. It is a self-contained Tor installation coupled with a specially configured Firefox installation designed to get you up an running with as few hassles and as little configuration as possible.

Despite its out-of-the-box nature, there are also some configuration changes and additions that you can make to further improve the capabilities of the Browser Bundle.

Getting the Tor Browser Bundle

The Tor Browser Bundle is freely available from the Tor Project's website. In fact, they encourage new users to use it above all other possible Tor configurations.

To get the bundle, head over to the website and download the Tor website and download the tar file.
Download the Tor Browser

You can either use the graphical archive manager of your choosing or the command line. This guide will cover the command line.

Choose a directory where you want your Browser Bundle to be located. It doesn't really matter because the whole thing is self-contained, so the home directory will work just fine. cd into that directory and untar the file.
$ cd ~
$ tar xJpf Downloads/tor-browser-linux64-6.5.1_en-US.tar.xz
You should now have a folder in your home directory called, tor-browser_en-US. If you're not located in the US, the language code at the end will probably match your location.

First Run/Configuration

Now, you can open up your file manager and browse to your newly unpacked Tor directory. Within that directory, you'll find a file labeled, "start-tor-browser" Click on that file to execute. Alternatively, execute from a command line:
$ ./start-tor-browser.desktop 
Launching './Browser/start-tor-browser --detach'...
A window will pop up asking you if you are in a situation where connections to the Tor network could be blocked. Chances are, you aren't, but if you are in a country where such connections are blocked, have an overly restrictive ISP, or are at a university with strict policies, additional configuration may be necessary, and you should select this option. Otherwise, just select "Connect."

First Run Configuration of the Tor Browser

The Tor Browser will take a few seconds to connect to the network, and you will be presented with the startup page.

Tor Browser Home Page

To make sure that everything is working properly, click the link that says, "Test Tor Network Settings," on that page. If your Browser Bundle is working properly, you will see a message congratulating you and telling you the IP that it appears that you have through Tor.

Configuration and Add-Ons

Once you have the Tor Browser running, you may want to make some tweaks to the configuration, and there are settings that allow you to adjust the level of security that the browser provides. Additionally, you can install Firefox add-ons to add more protection and functionality.

Configuration Options

You are actually prompted to adjust the first security setting when you first start up the Tor Browser. However, it's easy to miss. So, if you click on the onion icon on the upper left side of the browser, you will see a new menu. Click on "Security Settingsā€¦" By adjusting the slider on the menu that pops up, you can adjust how restrictive the Tor Browser is. High security will completely disable JavaScript, and make the browser difficult to fingerprint. Low security more-or-less just tunnels your traffic through the Tor network.

The next options are the same as a regular Firefox installation. You can click on the three lines to open up the menu, then click on "Preferences." On the side of the new menu tab, select "Privacy." Then, you can check off "Request that sites not track you."

You can customize anything on the Tor Browser that you can in Firefox, so you can have a look around for more. It's not a great idea to mess around with too much, though, because it is already pre-configured for privacy and security. By default, Tor Browser comes with both NoScript and HTTPS Everywhere installed. These are excellent add-ons, and you shouldn't remove or deactivate them. There are two more add-ons that you can add to help improve your Tor Browser experience.

First, you should add Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation(EFF.) It helps to block tracking code running on the sites that you visit and enforces "Do Not Track" much more rigorously. It's readily available in the Firefox add-on repos, so you can gust do a search in the "Add-ons" section of the menu.

The other add-on that you should install in your Tor Browser is uBlock Origin. It is a great ad blocker, and it will also prevent additional code from being run on your browser from ads. Like Privacy Badger, it's readily available in the add-on repositories.

Keeping Up-To-Date

The Tor Browser will check for updates every time you open it up. If there is an update available, you will see a big black arrow on the home tab pointing up to the onion icon. You can click on the icon to run the update.

If you leave your browser open, you can click on the onion and select "Check for Tor Browser updates." The browser will automatically check for updates and provide you with the option to run them.

Identities and Circuits

The Tor Browser allows you to restart it and change your "Identity" or just request a new Tor circuit. Both of these options are available through the onion icon menu.

Your "Identity" is your current browser session. Since the Tor Browser doesn't save any cache or cookies once it's been closed, it simply restarts itself to wipe out all memory of what you've done, allowing you to start fresh.

A Tor circuit is the path that your traffic takes around the Tor network to eventually reach its target. If you click on the onion icon while you're on a site, you can see four nodes that your connection passes through to reach that site.

Sometimes, you may want to change this circuit. This could be for any reason, but most commonly, it's because one or more parts of that chain are slow. You can select the option in the onion menu, and you will reconnect through a new circuit.

Closing Thoughts

Tor is an excellent tool for protecting your privacy online. The Tor Browser Bundle is probably the easiest way to get running with Tor with as little hassle as possible.

Of course, no privacy tool is perfect on its own, and you should always exercise caution and common sense when browsing the Internet.
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