Internet privacy and security course
About translation
Previous Next

Chapter 63

Tails. A few tips before you start using this operating system.

We have already walked you through Tails in the chapter dedicated to operating systems. This article doesn’t tout the advantages of Tails. You already know that this operating system leaves no traces, except for the information kept in encrypted storage, that its drives are securely encrypted and about many other features. Yes, there’s little doubt that Tails is a cutting-edge system.  

Let me point it out: beneath Tails you run from a USB stick your laptop’s or other media’s main hard drive has a clean operating system which can be shown as your primary operating system that doesn’t get frequently used by its law-abiding owner.

Tails is not designed to preserve your anonymity on the Internet. By and large, you have only one tool to anonymize your activity – Tor, and as you are going to learn this in a separate chapter, it is neither anonymous nor secure. Tails is primarily about preserving the security of your data, protecting you from forensic analysis. If you need anonymity, use the operating system Whonix. 


Tails operating system is not designed to ensure foolproof anonymity on the Internet.

There is no reason to stick to Tails and put up with the inconveniences that come with it simply because of Tor. Tails is a perfect system for working with confidential projects, for instance, if you are a journalist and carrying out an important investigation.

Despite the abovementioned, I suggest you take a look at Tails since you may need to use such tool later. In this course I recommend you run Tails from an 8 GB USB stick and bigger. Be aware that the read and write speed of such memory stick will be most probably far from impressive.

The read and write speeds directly impact an operating system’s performance speed. And if you like Tails and decide to use it regularly, you should acquire a faster memory stick with a better read speed ranging from 150 MB/s. and bigger.


Use USB flash drives whose read speed is at least 150 MB/s.

When switching to Tails, you might soon discover that the memory capacity provided by your USB flash drive is insufficient. There are a few options to deal with this issue. You can buy a memory stick with a larger memory size – 512 GB and bigger, but again, everything depends on the amount of information you need to store on your thumb drive.

You can also use an external hard drive instead of a USB flash drive. I suggest you choose an SSD type of storage, such hard drives are more expensive but way faster than HDDs. Additional hard drive encryption is unnecessary since the operating system Tails is encrypted. 

I once was asked if it is possible to hide the presence of Tails on a USB flash drive. Basically, they were asking if their thumb drive was seized and plugged into a computer, could they prevent the perpetrators from discovering the operating system on this thumb drive? I don’t know about any software tools designed for this purpose, but if you need to protect your data from being discovered, use an encrypted file-hosted volume and disguise as an alternative to Tails on a USB hard drive.

Be aware that switching to Tails from Windows or macOS is a hassle and takes time. It can be easily compared to moving into a new apartment that won’t be very comfortable to live in. Your first step will be to move all your activities on the Internet: web surfing, email, accounts of different services, etc. – to Tails. You could probably manage it in less than half a day.

When switching to Tails, you’ll have to adopt a password storage policy. If you haven’t started using a password manager before switching to Tails, read thispart of the course which shows how to create strong passwords and store them in a secure way.

Text editors Word, Pages, Excel, Numbers will be perfectly replaced by Libre Office, I didn’t have any trouble with them when moving to Tails. You can become familiar with these editors even before you switch to Tails, this office productivity software works on computers under Windows, macOS and Linux.


Try Libre Office as an alternative to MS Office.