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How to Use the Tor Browser & Stay Safe — Full Guide 2023

Tim Mocan Tim Mocan
Published on: December 17, 2022

Short on time? Here’s how to use the Tor browser safely:

  • 1. Get a Tor-friendly VPN and connect to one of its servers. I recommend ExpressVPN, as it allows Tor traffic on 3,000+ servers in 90+ countries, has industry-leading security and privacy features, and provides fast speeds while using Tor.
  • 2. Download and install the Tor browser. Make sure to only download it from Tor’s official site, otherwise you might accidentally download malicious files.
  • 3. Open the Tor browser. Wait for it to connect to the Tor network — this could take up to 10 seconds or more, depending on how fast your internet is and how overloaded the Tor network is.
  • 4. Surf the web. You can now use the Tor browser to securely access any website you want, including dark web sites.

The Tor browser is a popular way for many internet users to access dark web sites. It also provides some level of privacy and might also allow people in restrictive countries to circumvent firewalls and access the free internet.

That said, the Tor browser also has some security issues, so it can’t 100% protect users’ privacy. Plus, some people still don’t know how to get and use the Tor browser, despite it being pretty accessible and user-friendly.

So I put together this guide to show you how to use the Tor browser and also stay safe while doing it — in this article, I’ll provide step-by-step instructions on how to install the Tor browser and surf the web with it, address Tor’s security issues, give you tips on how to safely use Tor, and more.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

IMPORTANT: While Tor is legal in most countries, it can also be used for illegal purposes. We strongly recommend researching your local laws to make sure it’s perfectly legal to use Tor and to only use the Tor browser to access safe, legal content.

Why Would You Want to Use the Tor Browser?

1. Enjoy Better Privacy

The Tor browser lets you access the Tor network, which hides your traffic and IP address — in addition, the Tor browser allows users to optionally disable website features that might compromise their privacy, although that might prevent some sites from working properly.

The Tor browser also prevents browser fingerprinting (the collection of data about a device or service) to a certain extent.

All of that allows average internet users to enjoy a higher level of privacy when surfing the web. This way, websites and advertisers can’t track their location, device information, and online preferences.

2. Circumvent Censorship

The Tor browser allows people in restrictive countries to bypass internet restrictions to access blocked online services, such as social media apps, news websites, media outlets, entertainment sites, and more.

Tor does that by allowing people to communicate with the internet through its servers, whose IP addresses don’t have firewall restrictions linked to them.

3. Access Dark Web Sites

Some online users use the Tor browser to access dark web sites that use .onion links, which are not available on the clearnet (the publicly accessible internet). There are tons of interesting dark web sites you can browse, including search engines, chatrooms, news sites, and even well-known platforms like Facebook.

4. Share Sensitive Information

Political activities, whistleblowers, and journalists often use the Tor browser to share information with trusted sources and protect their privacy and the privacy of their sources in the process. They often use the Tor network to receive anonymous tips, investigate controversial topics, and access information that’s not available on the clearnet.

5. Run Security Tests

IT staff might use the Tor network to run security tests, such as penetration testing — this involves performing an authorized cyberattack on a computer system or web application to test how secure it is.

Tor is often used in such tests because many hackers rely on it when performing cyber attacks — running security tests using Tor allows businesses to better protect their data against threats from the dark web.

6. Ask for Medical Advice

Some people use the Tor browser to discuss their health problems with doctors over the Tor network. They likely do this because they want extra privacy and because they’re not comfortable discussing their health issues with medical professionals face-to-face. Also, people who can’t afford to visit a doctor or visit a clinic might use this approach as well.

7. Perform Undercover Operations

Law enforcement agents often use Tor to go undercover on the dark web, so that they can investigate and catch people who engage in illegal activities — like drug trafficking, selling illegal firearms, credit card fraud, and more.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

How Does the Tor Browser Work (& Keep You Anonymous Online)?

The Tor browser is a web browser that lets you access the Tor network. The browser is free to download and use, and it’s also open-source, so anyone can audit the code for security vulnerabilities.

The Tor network is a privacy network that encrypts your traffic multiple times, making it completely unreadable. When you use the Tor network to access a site, your traffic is routed through at least 3 Tor servers, which are also called “relays” or “nodes,” and are usually run by volunteers. Here’s a quick sketch of how a Tor connection looks like:

Your Device → Tor Browser → Internet → Tor Server #1 → Tor Server #2 → Tor Server #3 → Website

There are 4 types of Tor servers:

  1. Guard servers — The first Tor server your connection goes through.
  2. Middle servers — The Tor server that routes your traffic between the first and last Tor servers.
  3. Exit servers — The last Tor server your connection goes through before reaching its destination (like a website, for example).
  4. Bridge servers — Tor servers whose IP addresses are not made public (unlike the other types of Tor servers). These servers are intended to help people in restrictive countries circumvent censorship.

In addition to encrypting your traffic, the Tor network also changes your IP address — any site you access through Tor will only see the IP address of the exit Tor server, while your real IP address will remain hidden.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

How to Set Up & Use the Tor Browser

1. Download & Install the Tor Browser

How to Set Up & Use the Tor Browser

Start by downloading the Tor browser from Tor’s official site. I strongly recommend avoiding unofficial sources, as you risk downloading malicious software.

The browser is available on Android, Windows, macOS, and Linux — on iOS, only the Onion Browser is available, which is a good alternative but doesn’t offer as much privacy as the Tor browser. For this guide, I used the Tor browser on Windows 10.

Next, open the installer and follow its instructions — installing the Tor browser won’t take more than 2 minutes.

2. Open the Tor Browser

How to Set Up & Use the Tor Browser

Next, open the Tor browser app and wait for it to connect to the Tor network — this usually takes 5–10 seconds depending on how fast your internet connection is and how overloaded the Tor network is.

3. Connect to a Site

How to Set Up & Use the Tor Browser

You can now start surfing the web while connected to the Tor network. Access any site you want as you normally would on your regular browsers. Just keep in mind it might take a bit longer to connect to a site due to Tor’s slow speeds.

If you’re also interested in surfing .onion sites, check out our list of the best dark web sites in 2023.

4. (Optional) Change the Tor Exit Server

How to Set Up & Use the Tor Browser

If you want to change the IP address the Tor network assigned to you, you need to connect to different servers — to do that, first click the padlock icon next to the site’s URL bar. Next, hit the New Circuit for This Site button to connect to a different server chain. Repeat this process until you get an IP address from your desired country.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

Is it Safe to Use Tor?

Tor generally provides good security and privacy, but it also has certain limitations and security issues:

  • The guard server can see your IP address. The first Tor server you connect to can see your real IP address, which reveals your location. This is terrible for your privacy.
  • Opening documents downloaded through Tor is risky. Certain documents (like PDF files) might contain internet resources that are downloaded outside of the Tor browser — this can cause your real IP address to be exposed.
  • Tor doesn’t encrypt all of your device’s traffic. The Tor network only provides privacy as long as you use the Tor browser — if you access a site using a different browser, your IP address and data will be exposed.
  • Malicious actors can run Tor servers. Pretty much anyone can run Tor servers, including hackers. Interacting with malicious Tor servers could severely compromise your privacy.
  • Tor exit servers can see unencrypted traffic. If you use Tor to access HTTP websites (many dark web sites lack HTTPS), the exit server will be able to monitor your unencrypted traffic. If malicious actors are running the server, they can steal sensitive data like logins and cryptocurrency seed phrases.
  • Tor has previously leaked user IP addresses. The Tor network has suffered various security issues in the past, which caused user IP addresses to leak, revealing users’ real location. Those issues have been fixed, but there’s no telling when other similar security problems might pop up.
  • Tor receives a lot of funding from US government agencies. This doesn’t mean the US government controls Tor, but it makes it hard to fully trust Tor with protecting my privacy — after all, there’s no way to know if government authorities are operating Tor servers or not.
  • There are tons of malicious Tor websites. If you use Tor to access dark web sites, you’re at risk of accidentally accessing malicious sites that could infect your device with malware or use scripts to compromise your privacy.

All in all, Tor provides decent security and privacy, but it’s best to take precautions when using it — like using a VPN (such as ExpressVPN) to first secure your traffic before connecting to the Tor network.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

How to Stay Safe While Using Tor

  • Use a VPN. VPNs are online apps that change your IP address and encrypt your traffic, and I strongly recommend connecting to a VPN before you use the Tor browser — that way, your data will be secured before it reaches the Tor network. Only use a VPN that comes with essential security features, like 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch to prevent traffic leaks, IPv6, DNS, or WebRTC leak protection, and a no-logs policy to prevent the VPN from logging your data. In my opinion, ExpressVPN is the best VPN for accessing the Tor network.
  • Use an antivirus. You’re likely to encounter malicious links and content on clearnet sites, so the odds of encountering them on dark web sites are even higher. That’s why I recommend using Tor with an antivirus, which is a program that can protect your device from malware infections and malicious sites — the best antivirus on the market at the moment is Norton 360.
  • Upgrade Tor’s security levels. By default, the Tor browser’s security level is set to Standard, which enables all website features. If you switch it to Safer, the browser will automatically disable website features that can be abused to endanger your privacy, like certain fonts and math symbols. And the Safest option disables even more site features — like JavaScript, which hackers could use to access sensitive information you shared with different sites (such as passwords).
  • Use privacy-friendly search engines. Most Tor users recommend using DuckDuckGo or Startpage instead of Google, as they provide more privacy. Also, if you want to look up .onion links, I recommend using Ahmia — on top of being very accurate, it also blacklists sites that host abusive content.
  • Don’t access HTTP sites. If you use Tor to connect to HTTP websites, the exit servers can see your unencrypted traffic — if malicious actors are operating them, they can steal sensitive data from you. So you should only connect to HTTPS websites.
  • Only access safe dark web sites. If you’re using Tor to access .onion links, I strongly recommend only sticking to legit sites that are safe to use, as many shady sites could compromise your privacy and infect your device with malware.
  • Don’t use personal information. If you interact with dark web sites that require you to enter your name or email address, I recommend using a fake name and a secure email service (like ProtonMail) instead — otherwise, malicious actors might collect your personal data and use it to target you with cyber attacks and scams.
  • Pay in cryptocurrencies. If you plan to purchase anything on the dark web (which I strongly recommend not doing), you should always use cryptocurrencies instead of credit/debit cards — they provide better privacy, and there’s no risk that malicious actors will compromise your payment information.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

Quick summary of the best VPNs for accessing the Tor network in 2023:

  • 🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for accessing the Tor network in 2023. Allows Tor traffic on 3,000+ servers in 90+ countries, provides pretty fast speeds, comes with industry-leading security and privacy features, and also has intuitive apps that make it very simple to access the Tor network with a VPN.
  • 🥈2. Proton VPN — Best free VPN for accessing the Tor network. The free plan allows unlimited data, allows Tor traffic on servers in 3 countries, provides decent speeds, and comes with very strong security and privacy features. The paid version adds even more servers, including Tor over VPN servers that let you surf Tor sites in browsers like Chrome.
  • 🥉3. Private Internet Access — Provides great privacy for surfing the Tor Network. Protects your privacy with a strict no-logs policy that has been independently audited and proven true in court, and via open-source apps. Also has advanced security features, a customizable kill switch, good speeds, and easy-to-use apps.
  • 4. NordVPN — Reliable with great security & fast speeds on all servers.
  • 5. Surfshark — Good for large families (with cheap plans).

🥇1. ExpressVPN — Best VPN for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for accessing the Tor network — it provides excellent Tor support, has really good speeds, and comes with industry-leading security and privacy features. It’s also our #1 overall VPN in 2023.

The provider allows Tor traffic on all 3,000+ of its servers, which are located in 90+ countries — this is very convenient, as it makes it very simple to find and connect to nearby servers to get fast speeds while using the Tor network.

And speaking of speeds, ExpressVPN performed really well in my speed tests — on average, .onion links only took 5 seconds to load, and HD videos loaded in about 8 seconds and I only experienced minor buffering at the start of the videos.

ExpressVPN also provides excellent security and privacy for accessing the Tor network — it protects your traffic with advanced security features, such as RAM-only servers (every server reset wipes all data), protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, and perfect forward secrecy, which changes the encryption key for each VPN session so that hackers can’t use compromised past or future keys to spy on your Tor traffic. In addition, the provider’s no-logs policy has been independently audited several times, and has also been proven true in a server seizure.

I also like that the VPN comes with split-tunneling, which lets you pick which apps use the VPN and which apps use your local network — I used this feature to only send Tor browser traffic through the VPN, which increased my speeds by about 10%.

In addition, ExpressVPN’s apps are also really easy to use — there’s a quick-connect feature that automatically connects you to the fastest server, and the interface is very simple to navigate as well. Some apps also have Shortcuts, a feature that lets you create 1-click shortcuts for specific apps and sites that show up on your screen after connecting to the VPN. For example, you can create a shortcut for the Tor browser to instantly access it after you first secure your connection with ExpressVPN.

ExpressVPN allows 5 connections and has affordable plans that start at $6.67 / month. It also backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Access the Tor Network with ExpressVPN Now

Read our full ExpressVPN review

🥈2. Proton VPN — Best Free VPN Plan for Accessing the Tor Network

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

Proton VPN has the best free VPN plan for connecting to the Tor network, and it’s also the best free VPN plan in 2023. This is one of the only free VPN plans on the market that has unlimited data, so you can securely surf the Tor network as much as you want. The speeds are decent, but I still experienced noticeable slowdowns — for example, it often took 15–20 seconds for a Tor site to load.

The free plan comes with excellent security and privacy features. It provides access to advanced features like full leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and full-disk encryption, which keeps all data on a server secure even if the server is compromised. Also, the provider’s no-logs policy has been independently audited, and all of its apps are open-source, meaning anyone can inspect the code for security issues — and since not all people know how to do that, I like that Proton VPN had its apps audited as well.

Unfortunately, the free plan has some limitations — it only lets you access the Tor network on servers in the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, and it limits you to 1 device. Upgrading to the paid version adds access to Tor support on 1,900+ servers in 60+ countries and faster speeds — in my tests, Tor sites loaded in 7–8 seconds, and HD videos took less than 10 seconds to load and there was minor buffering while skipping through them. The speeds are good, but ExpressVPN is still faster.

With the paid plans, you also get access to Tor over VPN servers in 5+ countries, which let you access Tor sites in regular browsers like Chrome and Opera — so you don’t need to use the Tor browser at all, which is really convenient.

Proton VPN’s paid plans allow up to 10 connections and start at $3.99 / month. There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, but it’s prorated.

Access the Tor Network with Proton VPN Now

Read our full Proton VPN review

🥉3. Private Internet Access — Provides Great Privacy & Security for Accessing the Tor Network

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023
Private Internet Access (PIA) provides great security and privacy while using the Tor network. The provider’s no-logs policy has been proven true in court many times — in addition, it has also passed an independent security audit. Also, all of its apps are open-source, though they’re not audited like Proton VPN’s apps.

PIA also secures your Tor traffic with advanced security features, including perfect forward secrecy, RAM-only servers, and full leak protection. I also like how you can configure the kill switch to disable all web access if you’re not connected to a VPN server — this way, you don’t accidentally risk accessing the Tor network without first securing your connection with PIA.

In my Tor speed tests, PIA performed pretty well — Tor sites usually took 10–12 seconds to load, HD videos loaded in less than 15 seconds and there was only minor buffering at the start and when I skipped through them. That said, the provider wasn’t as fast as ExpressVPN and Proton VPN.

I also like how simple this provider makes it to securely access the Tor network — all of its apps come with quick-connect features, make it very simple to find and connect to servers (it usually took me just 4–5 seconds to do it), and provide helpful explanations for all settings and features. Plus, I like how you can automate connections, like setting up the VPN app to automatically connect to a server when you use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to access the Tor network.

Private Internet Access allows up to 10 connections and has very affordable plans that start at $2.19 / month. It also backs each purchase with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Access the Tor Network with Private Internet Access Now

Read our full Private Internet Access review

4. NordVPN — Reliable With Great Security Features & Fast Speeds

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

NordVPN provides access to multiple security features that keep your data safe online — like Threat Protection, which is one of the best VPN ad blockers on the market and which also gets rid of malicious ads, blocks connections to shady sites, and protects your device from malware-infected downloads. Even better, Threat Protection remains active even if you’re not connected to a VPN server, which is really convenient.

In addition, there’s Dark Web Monitor, which scans the dark web and alerts you if the login associated with your NordVPN account has been leaked. I’m happy to see this, as this is one of the only VPNs on the market that comes with a dark web monitoring feature.

On top of that, NordVPN also comes with other great security features — it has double VPN servers, which add an extra layer of encryption, and it also comes with obfuscation. Plus, the VPN has its own protocol called NordLynx, which is designed to provide strong security and really fast speeds.

NordVPN also has advanced security features, including full leak protection, RAM-only servers, and perfect forward secrecy. Its strict no-logs policy has been independently audited, and it’s also been proven true when one of the data centers that housed one of its servers suffered a data breach and no user data was compromised.

The provider is also great for streaming and torrenting — it works with multiple popular streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, and has a whopping 4,500+ P2P servers. It also provides really good speeds for streaming, torrenting, and other online activities on all of its servers.

I also think NordVPN is a good gaming VPN thanks to its Meshnet feature, which lets you link up to 60 devices over encrypted VPN connections — this helps you host virtual LAN parties securely.

What’s more, this VPN has tons of other perks — it has 5,000+ servers in 55+ countries, comes with split-tunneling, and has really intuitive apps for all major platforms.

NordVPN has budget-friendly plans that start at $2.99 / month. All purchases are backed by a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Access the Tor Network With NordVPN Now

Read our full NordVPN review

5. Surfshark — Great VPN for Large Families & Very Affordable

Best VPNs for Accessing the Tor Network in 2023

Surfshark allows unlimited connections, which means you can use it on as many devices as you want — so it’s a great option if everyone in your family needs a good VPN. I’m also happy to see this because very few VPNs support unlimited connections.

It comes with really good security features, including CleanWeb, which is one of the best VPN ad blockers out there. In addition, it provides obfuscation, double VPN connections for added security, and IP Rotator, which regularly changes your IP address to make it harder for someone to track your location. The provider also has advanced security features like RAM-only servers and perfect forward secrecy — however, it’s missing full leak protection (but I never experienced any leaks in my tests).

You also get pretty good streaming support, as the VPN can access top sites like Netflix, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer — though it can’t access Disney+. It also supports P2P downloads across all of its servers.

There are 3,200+ servers in 90+ countries, which makes it simple to use nearby servers for fast speeds. Speaking of speeds, the provider has fast connections on most servers, but I did experience significant slowdowns on very distant servers.

Surfshark is also one of the most affordable VPNs on the market, with plans starting at only $2.30 / month — so it’s also a good pick if you’re on a tight budget. All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Access the Tor Network With Surfshark Now

Read our full Surfshark review

What’s the Difference Between the Tor Browser and a VPN?

Tor Browser VPN
Type of app Web browser Online app
Changes Your IP Address
Encrypts Your Traffic
(at least 3 times)

(usually just once)
Encrypts All of a Device’s Web Traffic
(only Tor browser traffic)
Good for Accessing dark web links, circumventing censorship, enjoying more privacy, securely sharing sensitive data as a whistleblower, activist, journalist, or undercover agent Enjoying more online privacy, accessing streaming sites, torrenting, gaming, bypassing bandwidth throttling, circumventing censorship, securely sharing sensitive data as a whistleblower, activist, journalist, or undercover agent
Free/Paid Free Paid, but some VPNs also have free plans

The Tor browser is a free, open-source web browser that lets you access the Tor privacy network. When you use the Tor browser, it changes your IP address and encrypts your traffic at least 3 times. The Tor browser also lets you access dark web sites, which are not available on the clearnet.

The Tor browser is mostly used for surfing the dark web or circumventing censorship. You can also use it to enjoy better privacy online, but I honestly think a VPN is better suited for that. And you would also benefit from it if you’re a journalist, whistleblower, or activist that needs to share sensitive data with their sources, or if you’re an undercover agent.

A VPN is an online app that also changes your IP address and encrypts your traffic — but it only does it once, which allows VPNs to provide much faster speeds than Tor. To secure your data with a VPN, you use a VPN app (also called a VPN client) to connect to a VPN server. Once connected, the server will route and encrypt all of your internet traffic. Most top VPNs have paid subscriptions, but there are also a few providers that have good free plans that let you test their services. And unlike the Tor browser that only secures the traffic that passes through it, a VPN secures all of your device’s web traffic.

Pretty much anyone stands to benefit from using a VPN. It provides great privacy and security, lets you access streaming sites, is good for secure torrenting and gaming, and helps you bypass censorship in restrictive countries. And because VPNs encrypt your traffic but are much faster than Tor, they’re also good for bypassing bandwidth throttling. Whistleblowers, journalists, and anyone else who needs to share sensitive data can also use a VPN to protect their traffic — even better, they can use it together with the Tor browser for added privacy and security.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

Tor Over VPN vs. VPN Over Tor — Which Is Safer?

Tor Over VPN VPN Over Tor
Prevents Tor from seeing your real IP address First Tor servers always see your real IP address
Protects your real IP address if Tor leaks Anyone can see that you’re connected to the Tor network
Prevents anyone from seeing that you’re using Tor Very few VPNs support VPN over Tor connections
Most VPN providers support Tor over VPN connections Requires a time-consuming manual setup
Easy to set up

Tor over VPN is when you route Tor traffic over a VPN connection, so you first connect to a VPN server, and then use the Tor browser to connect to the Tor network.

VPN over Tor is when you send VPN traffic over a Tor connection, meaning you first use the Tor browser to connect to the Tor network, and then connect to a VPN server.

I strongly recommend only using Tor over VPN connections because they provide the best privacy — the VPN secures your traffic before it reaches the Tor network, so nobody can see that you’re using the Tor network. Also, the VPN prevents the first Tor server from seeing your real IP address. What’s more, if Tor suffers a leak, your real IP address won’t be exposed, as only the VPN’s IP address will be visible.

VPN over Tor connections are pretty bad for your privacy — the first Tor server will always see your real IP address, so if a malicious actor is using it they can collect your IP and use it to track your location. And anyone (including your ISP) can see that you’re connected to Tor. What’s more, it’s also hard to establish a VPN over Tor connection, as most VPN providers don’t support them. And even if you find a VPN that does, you’ll still need to perform a manual setup, which is inconvenient and time-consuming.

Secure Your Tor Traffic with ExpressVPN

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to download the Tor browser?

Yes, but only as long as you download it from official sources, like Tor’s official website. Otherwise, you risk downloading fake apps that might infect your device with malware.

That said, using the Tor browser is not 100% safe, as the Tor network has a few security issues. That’s why I strongly recommend using a VPN together with Tor to protect your privacy — all of the VPNs I mention in this article provide great Tor support and excellent privacy and security features.

Does the Tor browser hide your IP address?

Yes, but only from the sites you connect to — instead of your IP address, they will only see the IP address of a Tor server.

However, the first Tor server you connect to will be able to see your real IP address — if a malicious actor operates it, they could collect it and use it to track your location or online behavior.

That’s why I recommend using a VPN before you access Tor, as it will prevent any Tor server from seeing your real IP address — the VPNs I mentioned in this article all provide Tor support on their servers and come with very strong security and privacy features.

Does the Tor browser work on iOS?

No, but Tor devs recommend using the Onion Browser app as an alternative. It works well, it’s free, and it provides decent privacy since it’s open-source.

However, it can’t provide you with the same level of privacy as the Tor browser due to how the iOS operating system works — it forces the Onion Browser app to use Apple’s WebKit browser engine instead of Mozilla Firefox’s Gecko browser engine, which is used by the Tor browser and can provide better anti-tracking functionality.

Does the Tor browser slow down your speeds?

Yes — I performed 10+ speed tests with Tor, and it always slowed down my original speeds by 98–99%, which is a lot. It usually took up to 5–10 seconds for most websites to load.

Tor’s speeds are really slow because it encrypts your traffic multiple times. Each layer of encryption increases the time it takes for data to travel between your device, Tor’s servers, and the sites you access.

In addition, Tor’s server network is pretty overloaded — at the moment, there are only around 8,000 Tor servers, which are not really enough for the 2+ million people that use Tor.

There’s not much you can do to speed up Tor, so I recommend only using it to browse basic websites — I advise against using it to access sites that host tons of multimedia content, or to binge-watch HD videos.

Can you use the Tor browser for torrenting?

No, as the Tor network is not good for torrenting — some Tor browsers block P2P traffic, and even Tor’s developers ask users not to use the network for P2P downloads. That’s because Tor’s speeds are pretty slow and its bandwidth is limited, so torrenting over Tor will cause even more slowdowns. Plus, I don’t think that torrenting over Tor is secure, as some Tor servers can see your IP address, which is terrible for your privacy.

Instead, I recommend using a VPN for torrenting, as you get much better P2P speeds, security, and privacy — ExpressVPN is my top pick for torrenting, as it allows P2P downloads on 3,000+ servers in 90+ countries, has the fastest torrenting speeds out there, and provinces excellent security and privacy features.

Can you use Tor to circumvent geo-restrictions?

Not really — I have seen people claiming you can use Tor to circumvent geo-restrictions to access streaming content abroad, but this is not really accurate. My colleagues in the US and the UK tried to access US and UK streaming sites via Tor, and they weren’t able to do it. This is likely due to how simple it is for streaming services to block Tor servers, as their IP addresses are public.

If you want to access streaming sites while traveling abroad, I recommend using a VPN instead — ExpressVPN is my top pick, as it consistently works with 65+ streaming apps, including top sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+, and it also provides the fastest streaming speeds on the market, and has very user-friendly apps.

Is the Tor browser different from a VPN?

Yes — while the Tor browser and a VPN are similar in some regards, there are some differences between them. The Tor browser is a web browser that connects you to the Tor network, which changes your IP address and encrypts your traffic at least 3 times. A VPN is an online app that lets you connect to VPN servers to change your IP address and encrypt your traffic (usually just once). Also, the Tor browser is free and open-source. On the other hand, most VPNs have paid plans and only some providers have free plans, and only a few VPNs come with open-source apps.

I personally think the Tor browser is only good for surfing dark web links, while VPNs have many more use cases — they’re great for streaming, torrenting, gaming, and bypassing censorship. And while both Tor and VPNs provide security and privacy, I think VPNs are better because Tor has some security issues. What’s more, VPNs are much faster than Tor, and this also allows them to help you prevent bandwidth throttling.

Tor over VPN or VPN over Tor — which is better?

Tor over VPN connections are much safer and easier to use than VPN over Tor connections — they prevent Tor servers from seeing your real IP address, stop anyone from seeing you’re using Tor, and they protect your real IP address if Tor suffers a leak. Plus, most top VPNs (like ExpressVPN) support Tor traffic on their servers.

However, VPN over Tor connections provide poor privacy, as Tor servers can collect your real IP address. What’s more, anyone can see you’re using the Tor network. And very few VPNs support VPN over Tor connections — and the ones that do require you to perform an inconvenient manual setup.

Best VPNs for Tor in February 2023 — Final Score:

Rank
Overall Score
Best Deal
1
9.6
save 49%
2
8.4
save 50%
3
9.4
save 82%
4
9.0
save 63%
5
8.8
save 82%
About the Author
Tim Mocan
Tim Mocan
Lead Contributor
Published on: December 17, 2022

About the Author

Tim Mocan is a Lead Contributor at SafetyDetectives. He has 5+ years of experience researching and writing about cybersecurity topics, and he specializes in VPNs. Prior to joining SafetyDetectives, he worked as a contributor for other VPN review websites and as a content writer for several VPN providers. Throughout his freelance writing career, he has also covered other niches, including SEO, digital marketing, customer loyalty, home improvement, and health and rehab. Outside of work, Tim loves to spend his time traveling, playing video games, binging anime, and using VPNs (yes, really!).