This page describes the basic and advanced techniques to start Tails from a USB stick on PC.

Starting from Windows 8 or 10

From Windows or the sign-in screen of Windows:

  1. Click on the Start button.

  2. Press and hold the Shift key while you choose Power ▸ Restart.

  3. In the Choose an option screen, choose Use a device.

    If the Choose an option screen does not appear, refer to the instructions on starting Tails using the Boot Menu key.

  4. In the Use a device screen, choose Boot Menu.

    Windows shuts down, the computer restarts, and a Boot Menu appears.

    Plug in your Tails USB stick shortly after choosing Boot Menu and while Windows is shutting down.

    In the future, we We recommend that you only plug in your Tails USB stick while Windows is shutting down. Otherwise, a virus in Windows could infect your Tails USB stick and break its security.

    Such an attack is possible in theory but very unlikely in practice. We don't know of any virus capable of infecting Tails. See our warning on plugging Tails in untrusted systems.

    The Boot Menu is a list of possible devices to start from. The following screenshot is an example of a Boot Menu:

  5. In the Boot Menu, select your USB stick and press Enter.

  6. If the computer starts on Tails, the Boot Loader appears and Tails starts automatically after 4 seconds.

    Black screen ('GNU GRUB') with Tails logo and 2 options: 'Tails' and 'Tails (Troubleshooting Mode)'.

Starting using the Boot Menu key

Most computers do not start on the Tails USB stick automatically but you can press a Boot Menu key to display a list of possible devices to start from.

If Windows 8 or 10 is also installed on the computer, you can refer instead to the instructions on starting Tails from Windows 8 or 10. Starting Tails from Windows is easier than using the Boot Menu key.

The following screenshot is an example of a Boot Menu:

This animation summarizes how to use the Boot Menu key to start on the USB stick:

The following instructions explain in detail how to use the Boot Menu key to start on the USB stick:

  1. Shut down the computer while leaving the USB stick plugged in.

    Shut down the computer and plug in the Tails USB stick.

    Shut down the computer.

    Plug in the other Tails USB stick that you want to install upgrade from.

    Unplug your Tails USB stick while leaving the intermediary USB stick plugged in.

  2. Identify the possible Boot Menu keys for the computer depending on the computer manufacturer in the following list:

    ManufacturerKey
    AcerEsc, F12, F9
    AppleOption
    AsusEsc, F8
    ClevoF7
    DellF12
    FujitsuF12, Esc
    HPF9, Esc
    HuaweiF12
    IntelF10
    LenovoF12, Novo, F8, F10
    MSIF11
    SamsungEsc, F12, F2
    SonyF11, Esc, F10
    ToshibaF12
    others…F12, Esc

    On many computers, a message is displayed very briefly when switching on that also explains how to get to the Boot Menu or edit the BIOS settings.

  3. Switch on the computer and immediately press several times the first possible Boot Menu key identified in step 2.

  4. If the computer starts on another operating system or returns an error message, shut down the computer again and repeat step 3 for all the possible Boot Menu keys identified in step 2.

    If a Boot Menu with a list of devices appears, select your USB stick and press Enter.

    If the Boot Menu key that works on your computer is a different one than the first in the list, please let us know so we can improve the list. You can write to sajolida@pimienta.org (private email).

  5. If the computer starts on Tails, the Boot Loader appears and Tails starts automatically after 4 seconds.

    Black screen ('GNU
GRUB') with Tails logo and 2 options: 'Tails' and 'Tails (Troubleshooting
Mode)'.

Troubleshooting Tails not starting at all

This section applies when the computer does not start on the USB stick and the Boot Loader is not displayed:

Black screen
('GNU GRUB') with Tails logo and 2 options: 'Tails' and 'Tails
(Troubleshooting Mode)'.

Verify your Tails USB stick

  1. Make sure that you have verified your download of Tails.
  2. Try installing again on the same USB stick.
  3. Try installing on a different USB stick.
  4. Try using the same USB stick to start on a different computer.

Check our list of known issues

Similar problems might have been reported already for your model of computer in our list of known issues.

Edit the BIOS settings (advanced users)

To learn how to edit the BIOS settings, search for the user manual of the computer on the support website of the manufacturer.

Take note of the changes that you apply to the BIOS settings. That way, you can revert the changes if they prevent the computer from starting on its usual operating system.

In the BIOS settings, try to apply the following changes. Some changes might not apply to certain computer models.

  • There might be an option in your BIOS to enable the Boot Menu key. Make sure that the Boot Menu key is enabled. This option might be called Boot Device List or differently depending on the computer.

  • Edit the Boot Order. Depending on the computer, you might see an entry for Removable devices or USB media. Move this entry to the top of the list to force the computer to try to start from the USB stick before starting from the internal hard disk.

  • Disable Fast boot.

  • Enable CSM boot.

  • Enable Legacy boot in addition to UEFI. The computer might not start anymore on its regular operating system if you disable UEFI completely or if you only enable Legacy boot.

  • Try to upgrade the BIOS. To do so, refer to the support website of the computer manufacturer.

Report the problem to our help desk

If none of these options work, we are sorry but you might not be able to use Tails on this computer. Feel free to report the problem to our help desk.

Please send the following information to tails-support-private@boum.org:

  1. Which version of Tails are you trying to start?

  2. How did you verify the USB image?

  3. What is the brand and model of your computer?

  4. What exactly happens when trying to start? Report the complete error message that appears on the screen, if any.

  5. What program did you use to install your USB stick?

  6. Does the USB stick start successfully on other computers? If so, what are the brands and models of those computers?

  7. Have you been able to successfully start another version of Tails on this computer before? If so, which version?

We answer requests in:

  • English
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Italian

Requests not in English might take longer to answer. Imperfect English is welcome :)

Troubleshooting Tails not starting after the Boot Loader

The following section applies when the Boot Loader appears but not the Welcome Screen when starting Tails.

Verify your Tails USB stick

  1. Make sure that you have verified your download of Tails.
  2. Try installing again on the same USB stick.
  3. Try installing on a different USB stick.
  4. Try using the same USB stick to start on a different computer.

Check our list of known issues on graphics cards

If the computer displays the error message Error starting GDM with your graphics card, refer to our list of known issues with graphics cards.

Try the Troubleshooting Mode

  1. In the Boot Loader, choose the Troubleshooting Mode which might work better on some computers.

  2. If the Troubleshooting Mode does not work better, restart the computer again on your Tails USB stick.

Add boot options

  1. Depending on whether the Boot Loader is GRUB or SYSLINUX:

    If the Boot Loader is GRUB:

    1. Press e when GRUB appears.

      A new screen appears with more options.

      GRUB with a list of
 options starting with 'setparams Tails'

      If your Boot Loader looks different, refer to our instructions below on adding a boot option using SYSLINUX.

    2. Navigate with the arrows of the keyboard to the end of the line that starts with linux. The line is most likely wrapped and displayed on several lines on the screen but it is a single configuration line.

    3. Press the Backspace key several times to remove the quiet option from the command line.

    4. Type debug nosplash to add these options to the command line.

    5. If Tails previously failed to start and displayed the following error:

      Probing EDD (edd=off to disable)...

      Then type edd=off to add this option to the command line.

    6. Press Ctrl+X, F10, or Fn+F10 to start Tails.

    7. Hopefully, new error messages now appear when starting Tails. You can send them to our help desk by email, for example by taking a picture of the last screen and error messages.

    If the Boot Loader is SYSLINUX:

    1. Press Tab. A command line with a list of boot options appears at the bottom of the screen.

      SYSLINUX with
 a list of options starting with '/live/vmlinuz' at the bottom

      If your Boot Loader looks different, refer to our instructions on adding a boot option using GRUB above.

    2. Press the Backspace key several times to remove the quiet option from the command line.

    3. Type debug nosplash to add these options to the command line.

    4. If Tails previously failed to start and displayed the following error:

      Probing EDD (edd=off to disable)...

      Then type edd=off to add this option to the command line.

    5. Press Enter to start Tails.

    6. Hopefully, new error messages now appear when starting Tails. You can send them to our help desk by email, for example by taking a picture of the last screen and error messages.