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Tor Browser without Tor

Tor Browser is a fork of the Mozilla Firefox web browser with numerous enhancements for improved security and privacy. It routes all traffic through the Tor network (henceforth referred to as 'Tor') to make it impossible for the recipient of data packets (e.g. a server hosting a website)—as well as any third party—to see who sent it.[1]

But it is also possible (and easy!) to use Tor Browser without Tor and take advantage of its excellent enhancements for reducing linkability, that is ‘the ability for a user's activity on one site to be linked with their activity on another site without their knowledge or explicit consent.’[2] Tor Browser offers better protection from online tracking than Firefox, Google Chrome/Chromium or Microsoft Edge, especially against fingerprinting, without any customization necessary.[3]

To do/Questions[edit]

  • Make instructions clearer.
  • How to: Create desktop shortcut, change logo of shortcut (at least in Windows)
  • Test whether running simultaneously one TBB with Tor enabled and one with Tor disabled interfere with each other. (Does not seem to be the case.)
  • Change name and logo.
  • Note that Tor Browser Bundle notifies of updates even if Tor is disabled.
  • Are there better ways of changing the settings than creating a user.js file or manually editing about:config?
  • If you want to use a clearnet Tor Browser in addition to Tor Browser (using Tor): Copy directory, change shortcut paths.
  • --allow-remote
  • How to use Tor Browser without Tor in Whonix
  • Sandboxed Tor Browser

Instructions[edit]

Getting and installing Tor Browser[edit]

  • Windows: Follow the instructions in this guide from EFF's Surveillance Self Defence until the section 'Using Tor Browser'.

  • macOS: Follow the instructions in this guide from EFF's Surveillance Self Defence until the section 'Using Tor Browser Bundle'.

  • Linux: Get Tor Browser Bundle (TBB), preferably by installing Tor Browser Launcher, which downloads the most recent version of TBB for you, verifies its integrity and stores it in ~/.local/share/torbrowser.

    • If you use a Debian or any of its derivatives (Ubuntu, Mint) run sudo apt-get install torbrowser-launcher.
    • If you use Fedora run sudo dnf install torbrowser-launcher.

    Start Tor Browser Launcher by running torbrowser-launcher.

    Tor Browser Launcher automatically opens Tor Browser after finishing. When Tor Browser starts for the first time it asks you to set 'Tor Network Settings'. You can safely click Quit, as you will not use Tor.

Disabling Tor[edit]

  1. Open the profile.default directory.
    • Windows:
    • macOS:
    • Linux: Go to ~/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/Tor Browser/Data/Browser/profile.default/. (x86_64/tor-browser_en-US may vary depending on locale and processor architecture.)
  2. Create a new file named user.js with the following contents and save it to that directory.[4]

    // Disable proxying
    user_pref("network.proxy.socks_remote_dns", false);
    user_pref("network.proxy.type", 0);
    // Disable TorLauncher extension
    user_pref("extensions.torlauncher.prompt_at_startup", false);
    user_pref("extensions.torlauncher.start_tor", false);
  3. See the previous reference[4] if you want to set the preferences manually in Tor Browser instead.

  4. Start Tor Browser.

    • Windows: Change the icon.
    • macOS:
    • Linux: Run ~/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/start-tor-browser.

    You will now be welcomed by 'Something Went Wrong! Tor is not working in this browser.' Confirm that this is the case by going to https://check.torproject.org, which should tell you that you are not using Tor.

Optional steps[edit]

  • Windows: Change the icon.
  • macOS: ?
  • Linux: Create a desktop shortcut.

Making Tor Browser more...normal[edit]

  • You may want to set the Security Slider to ‘low’. The extra security features enabled by default come at a cost; they prevent some webpages from working properly. That is why other browsers disable them by default.
  • How to set preferences. Click on the three horizontal bars in the upper-right corner of the Tor Browser window. Select 'Preferences' in the menu that pops up.
  • How to prevent Tor Browser from deleting the browsing and download history as well as all cookies when it closes. By default Tor Browser always uses private browsing mode. To disable it go to Preferences, click the 'Privacy' tab on the left-hand side and uncheck the box to the left of 'Always use private browsing mode'. The browser needs to restart for the changes to take effect.

    However, when you disable private browsing mode you also deactivate Tor Browser's built-in 'long-term linkability' protections, which aims to prevent 'subsequent browser activity from being linkable to what you were doing before' whenever Tor Browser gets closed or the 'New Identity' menu item is selected. (That involves a lot more than simply deleting all cookies.)[5] If you still want to disable private browsing mode, you probably want to install one or more anti-blocking extensions (see below).

  • Anti-tracking browser extensions. The Tor Project FAQ states:

    Some people have suggested we include ad-blocking software or anti-tracking software with Tor Browser. Right now, we do not think that's such a good idea. Tor Browser aims to provide sufficient privacy that additional add-ons to stop ads and trackers are not necessary. Using add-ons like these may cause some sites to break, which we don't want to do. Additionally, maintaining a list of "bad" sites that should be black-listed provides another opportunity to uniquely fingerprint users.

    But if you disable some of Tor Browser's own anti-tracking features (like private browsing mode; see above), you probably should install one or more extensions that make it harder to track your browsing. The extensions Disconnect, Privacy Badger[6] and uBlock Origin are all open-source and are generally recommended. Try to find out which one(s) suit(s) your needs best; their use cases are different.

  • How to save a cookie for future use. See these instructions on Tor Stack Exchange. (Requires private browsing mode to be desabled.
  • How to make Tor Browser remember passwords. Necessary first step: Disable private browsing mode (see above). Then go to Preferences, click the 'Security' tab on the left-hand side and tick the box to the left of 'Remember login for sites'. You may need to restart the browser for the changes to take effect.

See also[edit]


Footnotes[edit]

  1. See https://www.torproject.org/about/overview.html.
  2. https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser/design/#privacy
  3. See The Design and Implementation of the Tor Browser.
  4. 4.0 4.1 This method utilizes a user.js file to set the preferences listed in these instructions for setting them manually. If you set them manually you must (since Tor Browser 7.0) also disable the TorLauncher extension: Click on the three horizontal bars in the upper-right corner of the Tor Browser window. Select 'Add-ons' in the menu that pops up. Click the 'Disable' button to the right of TorLauncher. Select the 'Restart now' option that pops up.
  5. See https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser/design/#new-identity
  6. Your browser might need to be restarted for it to work.

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