Comparison of Different Whonix Variants
The security and usability of the Whonix platform is significantly affected by the hardware and virtualization configuration, and whether a Whonix-Custom-Workstation is created. Qubes-Whonix is currently recommended as providing the best combination of security and usability, although it has strict hardware requirements.
Virtualization and Hardware Configurations
Table: Whonix Platform Comparison
|Variant||Number of systems||Security||Usability|
|Standard Binary Download||host+VM+VM=3||Basic||Easy to redistribute and install|
|Physical Isolation with Bare-metal Gateway||host+VM+host=3||Equivalent to the standard binary download||Difficult to install and for advanced users only|
|Physical Isolation with Virtualized Gateway||host+VM+host+VM=4||Higher attack surface||Easier to deploy. Four operating systems must be kept updated|
|Physical Isolation without any Virtualization||host+host=2||Nearly the same as standard Physical Isolation.  Without virtual machines, there is no protection against hardware fingerprinting||Difficult to install and for advanced users only|
|Qubes||dom0+VM+VM=3||Better compartmentalization. See: Why use Qubes over other Virtualizers?||Best|
Virtual machines can provide the following security-related features:
- Network isolation: Connections can easily be forced through Tor.
- Hardware isolation: Unique hardware serials can be hidden.
- Roll back feature: Users can revert to clean and/or working snapshots.
- Multi-level security: Multiple clones / VMs / DisposableVMs provide significant protection.
In comparison, live CDs provide:
- Non-persistence: This increases safety in the event of a software compromise. 
- Anti-forensics capability and plausible deniability: If the computer is powered down and RAM has faded or been wiped, remnants of critical information like encryption keys should be impossible to retrieve.
- Update issues: It is difficult to roll out security updates and maintain a fully up-to-date system.
Operating System Configurations
Whonix provides multiple operating system options:
- Debian stretch GNU/Linux: The Default-Download-Version is recommended for most users.
- Other Operating Systems: Windows, FreeBSD, other GNU/Linux, and Android Custom-Whonix-Workstations are possible.
Users should refer to Security Comparison: Whonix-Download-Workstation vs. Whonix-Custom-Workstation before choosing this option. A number of anonymity protections must be manually configured in Whonix-Custom-Workstation.
There is also a Hardened Gentoo-based Whonix-Gateway. This is not recommended as it is outdated, requires a maintainer, and is for experts only.
Security Comparison: Whonix-Download-Workstation vs. Whonix-Custom-Workstation
See Security Comparison: Whonix-Download-Workstation vs. Whonix-Custom-Workstation. Unless otherwise stated, the documentation and design refers to the Default-Download-Version.
- For further discussion of this issue, see: More or Less Protection inside a VM?
- Unless sophisticated and targeted malware manages to leverage the exploit, leading to a compromise of firmware or other persistent systems (like BIOS).
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