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 on Linux.

Tor works by routing your computer's internet traffic through their own network. This way, you can still access online resources as usual, but your network traffic appears to originate from the Tor network, your IP address remains hidden, and your data is encrypted in the process. With Tor, you can also access .onion domain names, and access the infamous dark web.

In this guide, we'll show you how to download, install, and configure Tor on a Linux system. This will get you up and running in a few steps so you can anonymize your traffic and access Tor-specific websites.

In this tutorial you will learn:
  • How to download and install Tor on Linux
  • How to configure Tor
  • How to keep Tor up to date
  • How to install new addons in Tor, and should I?
Using Tor to browse anonymously on Linux
Using Tor to browse anonymously on Linux
Software Requirements and Linux Command Line Conventions
Category Requirements, Conventions or Software Version Used
System Any Linux distro
Software Tor
Other Privileged access to your Linux system as root or via the sudo command.
Conventions # - requires given linux commands to be executed with root privileges either directly as a root user or by use of sudo command
$ - requires given linux commands to be executed as a regular non-privileged user

How to download and install Tor on Linux


SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
Subscribe to our NEWSLETTER and receive latest Linux news, jobs, career advice and tutorials.


We will start by downloading the Tor installation files from the official website, then go through the step by step instructions of installing the Tor browser from command line. It's also possible to use the GUI to install Tor, but the instructions may vary across Linux distributions and desktop environments.

  1. Start off by heading over to Tor's download page and grabbing the Linux version of the program. Save it in a notable location because we will be accessing the downloaded file in the next steps.
  2. Next, open a terminal and extract the contents of the tar archive.
    $ cd ~/Downloads/
    $ tar -xpf tor-browser-linux64-10.0.15_en-US.tar.xz
    
  3. Change directories into the newly created folder, then execute the start-tor-browser.desktop file as your normal user (don't run it as root).
    $ cd tor-browser_en-US
    $ ./start-tor-browser.desktop
    
  4. 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."


  5. Click the connect button to activate the Tor network
    Click the connect button to activate the Tor network
  6. The Tor Browser will take a few seconds to connect to the network, and you will be presented with the startup page. It's now recommended that you click the "Let's get started" link in the upper left corner. This will take you through some very quick tips and essential information about the Tor browser and its settings.
  7. Click the link to go through first settings and essential tips
    Click the link to go through first settings and essential tips
  8. As you're clicking through all the information, you'll have a chance to adjust any settings that you need, such as Tor network settings, connection circuit, and security level. For most situations, you are probably fine just using all the default settings.


  9. Tor welcome menus
    Tor welcome menus
  10. After that, you're ready to start using Tor. Note that some websites offer a .onion alternative, and this will be shown in the URL address bar of the browser.
  11. Click the .onion link to open the Tor verion of the website
    Click the .onion link to open the Tor verion of the website

How to configure Tor


SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER
Subscribe to our NEWSLETTER and receive latest Linux news, jobs, career advice and tutorials.


Open the settings menu (three stacked lines) to further tweak configuration or to quickly get a new identity or Tor circuit.

Open all the configuration options by clicking the three stacked lines
Open all the configuration options by clicking the three stacked lines

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.

You can configure additional options in the settings menu. For example, you may wish to check out the Settings > Preferences > Privacy and Security menu, where you can view the different security levels and choose one that fits your requirements.

Adjusting the security level of Tor browser
Adjusting the security level of Tor browser

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.

How to keep Tor up to date



If there are any new updates available, the Tor browser will update automatically when you open it up. If, for some reason, you need to update the browser manually, you can just follow the same step by step instructions above to download the latest copy and install it on your system.

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.

How to install new addons in Tor, and should I?

Note that the official Tor documentation recommends against installing new addons into your Tor browser. They warn that some addons may give your browser a unique fingerprint, thus making your browsing activity no longer anonymous. 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.

If you'd still like to install additional addons anyway, you can do so by clicking Settings > Addons, and then using the search option to find the addon you want.

Searching for new addons to install
Searching for new addons to install

Popular choices for Tor users include Privacy Badger and uBlock Origin. Privacy Badger helps to block tracking code running on the sites that you visit and enforces "Do Not Track" much more rigorously. And uBlock Origin a great ad blocker, and it will also prevent additional code from being run on your browser from ads.

Both plugins are readily available in the add-on repositories.



Closing Thoughts

In this guide, we learned how to download and install the Tor browser on Linux. We also saw how to configure additional options to control the security level, how to obtain a new identity or Tor circuit, and how to install new addons in Tor.

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.

Troubleshooting

If you are having trouble opening the Tor browser or if it won't connect to the internet, there are a few common troubleshooting steps that you can use below.

  • Make sure that your system clock is set correctly, otherwise Tor will not connect to the network.
  • If Tor won't open, it may be already running in the background. You can either use the kill command to end the process, or just reboot your computer and try again.
  • Make sure an anti-virus or firewall that you have installed is not interfering with Tor. Toggle them off and then try Tor again.
  • If all else fails, delete Tor completely from your system and use the instructions above to download and install a fresh copy.

The Tor browser should be pretty stable and run into very few issues. Then again, it's under constant development and sometimes bugs slip through the cracks. Following the list of troubleshooting steps above should get you back up and running quickly.

FIND LATEST LINUX JOBS on LinuxCareers.com
Submit your RESUME, create a JOB ALERT.
LINUX CAREER NEWSLETTER
Subscribe to NEWSLETTER and receive latest news, jobs, career advice and tutorials.
DO YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP?
Get extra help by visiting our LINUX FORUM or simply use comments below.