Updated: 
27 March, 2014
TorBrowser for Windows - Digital Anonymity and Circumvention

The Tor Browser is designed to increase the anonymity of your activities on the Internet. It disguises your identity and protects your on-line activities from many forms of Internet surveillance. Tor can also be used to bypass Internet filters.

Version used in this guide: 
3.5.3
License: 
Free/Open Source Software
System requirements: 
  • Microsoft Windows
What you will get from this guide: 

The ability to conceal your digital identity from the websites that you visit.

The ability to conceal your on-line destinations from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other surveillance mechanisms.

The ability to bypass Internet censorship and filtering rules.

1. Introduction to the Tor Browser

Note: If you are in a location where access to the Tor Project website is blocked, you can request a copy of the Tor Browser Bundle installer via email. To do this, send an email to gettor@torproject.org with the version of Tor you want in the body of the email. E.g. windows if you have a Windows computer, OsX if you use an Apple Computer or Linux if you use a Linux based computer. You will receive a reply to your email with a link to download the installer via Dropbox. Further details about this feature are available on the Tor Project website.

1.0 Other tools like the Tor Browser

GNU Linux, Mac OS and other Microsoft Windows Compatible Programs:

The Tor Browser is available for GNU Linux, Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Android operating systems. Tor is the most recommended and rigorously tested tool for keeping your online activities anonymous. But we would like to list some other recommended solutions here:

  • Riseup VPN is a free Virtual Private Network (VPN) proxy server for Linux, MAC, Android and Microsoft Windows.
  • Psiphon3 is a free commercial Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution for Microsoft Windows and Android OS.
  • Dynaweb FreeGate is a free proxy tool for Microsoft Windows.
  • Your Freedom is a commercial proxy tool that also offers a free (though slower) service. It is available for Linux, Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
1.1 Things you should know about the Tor Browser before you start

The Tor Browser is a software tool designed to increase the privacy and security of your Internet activities and habits. It masks your identity and your on-line browsing from many forms of Internet surveillance. Tor can also be useful as a secure means of circumventing electronic restrictions so that you may access or publish blogs and news reports.

Tor protects your anonymity by routing communications through a distributed network of servers run by volunteers from all over the world. Using Tor hides the sites you visit from potential onlookers, and hides your location/identity from those sites. The software is designed also to make sure servers in the Tor network don't know both your location and the sites you are visiting.

Tor also takes steps to encrypt the communication to and through its network, but this measure can not extend all the way to a website which is sending or receiving content over non-encrypted channels (i.e. not providing https access). Nevertheless, the advantage of using Tor when accessing such sites is that Tor can secure your communication up to the step between the last of the Tor servers and the non-secure site. This confines the chance to intercept the content to that last step.

The Tor Browser Bundle consists of the Tor software and a modified version of the Firefox web browser, which is designed to provide extra protection while using it. The browser bundle also includes NoScript and HTTPS-Everywhere add-ons.

Note: There is a trade-off between anonymity and speed. Because Tor facilitates anonymous browsing by bouncing your traffic through volunteers' computers and servers in various parts of the world, it will definitely be slower than using other web browsers on your computer.

Definitions:

  • Bridge Relay: A Bridge Relay is a Tor server that is not publicly announced. If you choose to use a bridge, the server can provide you with access to the Tor network even if Tor is blocked in your country.

  • Port: In this chapter, a port is an access point through which software communicates with services running on other networked computers. If a URL, such as www.google.com, gives you the 'street address' of a service, then the port tells you which 'door' to use once you reach the correct destination. When browsing the Web, you typically use port 80 for unsecured sites (http://mail.google.com) and port 443 for secured ones (https://mail.google.com).

  • Proxy: A proxy is a software intermediary that runs on your computer, on your local network, or somewhere else on the Internet, that helps to relay your communication toward its final destination.

  • Route: A route is the communication path on the Internet between your computer and the destination server.

2. Extract the Tor Browser

The Tor Browser is a modified version of Firefox that will provide you with all you need to browse the Internet anonymously. This package requires no installation; it simply has to be extracted and run.

To extract the Tor Browser, perform the following steps:

Step 1. Double click ; the Open File - Security Warning dialog box may appear. If it does, click to activate the program. The language selection screen will appear next:

Figure 1: The language selection screen

Choose the language from the pull-down menu and click OK button to activate window below.

Step 2: Choose the location to extract the Tor Browser.

Note: The Tor Browser does not automatically install itself in C:\Program Files directory path (unlike the majority of the installation procedures for our recommended tools) but instead creates a folder on your Desktop.

Important: You may also extract and use the Tor Browser to a different folder on your computer or to a USB memory stick. This may help you to conceal the fact that you are using Tor on your computer.

Either click to accept the default Desktop folder and activate window below. Or click to activate the Browse for Folder window and navigate to the desired folder path for extracting the Tor Browser.

Figure 2: An example of the default extraction path for the Tor Browser

Step 3. Click to begin extracting the Tor Browser. Once completed you will be presented with a screen confirming the Tor Browser is installed and optionally to start it.

Figure 4: The extracting process has completed successfully

Note that the option Run Tor Browser is selected on the screen above. Once you click on Finish button Tor Browser will start automatically.

In this example, after the extraction process has been completed, the Tor Browser will appear on your Desktop in a folder called Tor Browser. To use the Tor Browser at any time just double click on in this folder.

Figure 5: The Tor Browser extracted to a directory on the Desktop

You have now successfully extracted the Tor Browser.

3. Configure the Tor Browser
3.1 How to Connect to the Tor Network

The first time that you start the Tor Browser you will be prompted to choose how it will access the Internet:

  • Direct Access: This option should be selected if your access to the Internet is not restricted and if the use of Tor is not blocked, banned or monitored where you are.

  • Restricted Access: This option should be selected if your access to the internet is restricted or if the use of Tor is blocked, banned or monitored where you are.

These settings can be changed at any stage from within the Tor Browser without having to re-install the software. This may need to be done if situations in your location change or if you are visiting a different country.

Any subsequent time that you start the Tor Browser it will connect you to the Tor network with no additional configuration required.

3.1.1 Connect to the Tor Network - Direct Access

To configure the Tor Browser to access the Tor network directly, perform the following steps:

Step 1: Navigate to the Tor Browser folder, and then double click to activate the following screen:

Figure 1: The Tor Network Settings panel

Step 2: Click the button, which will open the Tor Status window that shows you the progress as the software connects to the Tor Network.

Figure 2: The Tor Status windows, showing the connection progress

A few moments later, the Tor Browser will activate a new browser window displaying the following screen:

Figure 3: Tor Browser; successfully connected to the Tor network

You can now browse the web with the protection of the Tor network.

Note: Every time you launch the Tor Browser, it will automatically open the Tor Status window (Figure 2) before starting the Tor Browser (Figure 3).

3.1.2 Connect to the Tor Network - Restricted Access

If you live in an area where accessing the Tor Network directly, as described above, is not possible or risky, you can configure Tor to try and circumvent the obstacles that are in place.

Step 1: Navigate to the Tor Browser folder, and then double click to activate the following screen:

Figure 4: The Tor Network Settings panel

Step 2: Click the button which will open a new window. You will be asked three short configuration questions to help you access the Tor Network.

Question 1: Proxy Access; If you need to access the Internet via a proxy check yes and then press . If you do not use a proxy check no and then press .

If you selected yes above, fill in your proxy settings on the following screen. If you do not know your proxy settings, check your regular browser settings. In Firefox you can find them in Options > Advanced > Network tab in Connection Settings section. In other browsers you may look for Internet Options. Use the Help feature within your browser for further assistance.

Figure 5: Proxy settings screen

Question 2: Restricted Ports; If you are accessing the Internet through a firewall that only allows access over certain ports, for example port 80 or 443 for web browsing, select yes and press to configure the ports, otherwise select no and press .

Figure 6: Port restriction configuration screen

Question 3: Censored Internet connection; If you live in a country which is actively blocking or monitoring Tor traffic you can configure the Tor Browser to use a Bridge which will disguise the fact that you are using Tor.

Once you have clicked after question 2 you will be presented with a screen allowing you to paste in Bridge addresses. See the section Getting Bridge Addresses for instructions on obtaining bridge addresses.

Figure 7: Tor Bridge configuration screen

Once you have added the bridge addresses click to finish your configuration and connect to the Tor Network.

Figure 8: The Tor Status windows, showing the connection progress

A few moments later, the Tor Browser will activate a new browser window displaying the following screen:

Figure 9: Tor Browser; successfully connected to the Tor network

You can now browse the web with the protection of the Tor network.

Note: Every time you launch the Tor Browser, it will automatically open the Tor Status window (Figure 8) before starting the Tor Browser (Figure 9).

3.2 Reconfigure access to the Tor Network

At any stage, if you need to access the Tor Network a different way, for example if you have travelled to a country that blocks Tor, you can update your settings from within the browser. Click on the icon and select Open Network Settings.

Figure 10: Tor Browser options

You will be presented with a new window (Figure 11) that will allow you to change how the Tor Browser accesses the Internet. Tick the options you want and change their settings. Once satisfied with the changes press and restart the Tor Browser.

Figure 11: Tor Browser options

3.3 Getting Bridge Addresses

In order to configure the Tor Browser to use Bridges you will need to get bridge addresses. There are two main ways this can be done:

Email:

To get bridges by email, you will need either a Gmail or a Yahoo email account. Send an email to bridges@bridges.torproject.org with the subject get bridges. After a few minutes you will receive an email with 3 bridges listed and some additional details.

Figure 12: Email with bridges listed

Web Site

If your access is not completely restricted you may be able to get Bridge addresses from the Tor website by visiting https://bridges.torproject.org/

After opening the website you will need to perform three steps:

  • Click on

  • Click on

  • Fill out the captcha and press

Once you have entered the captcha correctly you will be presented with three Bridge addresses.

Figure 13: Bridge addresses received via the Tor Project website

Note: The Bridge Database is designed to prevent anyone from easily learning all of the bridge addresses. At first, it appears to give you the same bridges each time. After a period time, however, it will eventually provide new addresses.

After you received the bridge addresses copy them to the field in the window as in Figure 7: Tor Bridge configuration screen or Figure 11: Tor Browser options.

4. Access the Web Anonymously Using the Tor Browser

The Tor Browser is designed to be very easy to use, in fact if you are familiar with using a web browser you will be able to use the Tor Browser as it is a version of Firefox modified for additional privacy and security.

Note: as the Tor Browser is designed with privacy in mind, it is configured not to save any information to your hard drive or USB stick. This means that when you quit the Tor Browser all your browsing history is forgotten.

4.1 Check to Make Sure the Tor Browser is Working

As with any circumvention software it is recommended to perform simple independent tests to ensure the Tor Browser works, by going to any website that will try to identify where are you based from the IP address we visit the site from.

There are a number of free website that do this, such as: check.torproject.org, iplocation.net, ip2location.com, whatismyipaddress.com, etc. If you access these website directly without using Tor Browser or other circumvention tool it should display your real IP address and provide a more or less accurate physical location for you. However if you access those websites using Tor Browser or other circumvention tool the location and IP address you will see should be different.

Figure 1: Firefox (top) & The Tor Browser (bottom) on the same computer showing Tor status and IP address differences

4.2 Create a New Identity

You can create a new identity for your Browser. This means that new set of random Tor proxy servers will be selected for you to use. This will make you appear to come from a new location to the web servers. To do this, click on and select New Identity from the menu. The Tor Browser will briefly close, clearing your browsing history and cookies and then restart. Once they browser has restarted you can check your new location as described above in section 4.1.

Figure 2: Selecting New Identity from TorButton menu

4.3 Enable the NoScript add-on

Tor Browser comes with the NoScript add-on pre-installed. NoScript can additionally protect you from malicious websites and from leaking your real identity through execution of scripts in your Tor Browser, however NoScript is disabled by default in Tor Browser so this additional protection is not readily available.

If you wish to enable the extra protections afforded by NoScript, it can be turned on by opening the NoScript menu and clicking Forbid Scripts Globally and then configuring the various options it provides.

We recommend that you read more about NoScript in the FireFox chapter.

Figure 3: Enabling NoScript by selecting Forbid Scripts Globally (advised) option

4.4 Keep the Tor Browser Up-To-Date

In How-to Booklet chapter 1.4 we explain how important is keeping your software up to date, the Tor Browser is no exception. When updates are available, the next time you start the Tor Browser you will be presented with a notice that your browser is out of date (Figure 4) and instructed to click and choose Download Tor Browser Update. You will be brought to the Tor Project website where you can get the latest release. Once downloaded you can follow this guide to install the updated Tor Browser.

Figure 4: Tor Browser showing an update is available

FAQ: 

Tor is a beautifully maintained and rigorously tested piece of software. The Tor network is used by hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, and continual improvements have made it increasingly secure and stable. Although the explanations in this chapter may seem complex, in many cases you will not have to read past Section 3.1.1 Connect to the Tor Network - Direct Access in order to get the Tor Browser working properly.

Q: Why should I use the Tor Browser?

A: The Tor Browser is a great tool if you need to circumvent Internet censorship in order to access certain websites. It's also useful if you don't want your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to know what websites you're visiting, or if you don't want those websites to know your location or point of origin.

Q: When I run the Tor Browser, do all of my other programs communicate anonymously through Tor network?

A: No, it is very important to remember that you must access the Tor network only from the Tor Browser. All your other programs communicate directly with the servers in the Internet. To be completely certain that you are communicating over Tor network, you can always manually check it at the https://check.torproject.org site. Tor also relies on your exercise of caution, common sense and good judgement when browsing new or unfamiliar websites.

Q: Is Tor protecting all and any communication when using the Tor Browser?

A: Tor will encrypt all communications between you and within the Tor network. However, bear in mind that Tor cannot encrypt your traffic between the Tor network and destination website you communicate with. For this you must use the HTTPS protocol or other similar encryption forms – especially if you value the privacy and security of your information!

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