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 with 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
    AcerF12, F9, F2, Esc
    AppleOption
    AsusEsc
    ClevoF7
    DellF12
    FujitsuF12, Esc
    HPF9
    HuaweiF12
    IntelF10
    LenovoF12
    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.

  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

Use this section if the computer does not start from the USB stick and the Boot Loader does not display:

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 or UEFI settings (advanced users)

To learn how to edit the BIOS or UEFI 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 or UEFI settings. That way, you can revert the changes if they prevent the computer from starting on its usual operating system.

In the BIOS or UEFI settings, try to apply the following changes:

  • Make sure that the Boot Menu key is enabled, in your BIOS or UEFI options. This option might be called Boot Device List or something similar, depending on the computer.

  • Edit the Boot Order. 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 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 or UEFI. To do so, refer to the support website of the computer manufacturer.

Troubleshooting Tails not starting after the Boot Loader

Use this section if the Boot Loader appears but not the Welcome Screen when you start 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.

Try the Troubleshooting Mode

In the Boot Loader, choose Troubleshooting Mode, which works better on some computers.

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.