Tor preserves your online anonymity through its unique onion routing, in which your encrypted data passes through several intermediary nodes. Each node is peeled back one at a time, much like an onion. None of them know anything about the origin of your data or your final destination, thus protecting your identity.
There is a drawback, though. Since the traffic in Tor is routed through multiple onion relays, it can significantly reduce your browsing speed. Also, ISPs can restrict or throttle Tor traffic without prior warning. Tor FAQs say that their main focus is security and not speed.
That being said, the following tips below will help speed up the Tor browser and make Tor faster.
1. Check Tor Browser for the Latest Updates
Frequent experience suggests updating the Tor browser allows you to achieve faster speeds. Go to the three-bar menu icon on the top right followed by “Options” and the “General” tab. Here you can check for any updates. If there hasn’t been an update in a long time, you may experience slower speeds. Thus, it is better to stay frequently updated.
2. Use Bridge Relays
If you suspect that the ISP is throttling your bandwidth while you’re using Tor, you will have to use one of its features called “bridge” relays. This would make it more difficult for anyone monitoring your traffic to determine that you are using this anonymous browser. Tor cannot use a bridge if a proxy was set by you.
To begin, go to the Options menu from the three-bar icon on the top right and select “Tor Settings.” Here you can find the Bridges section: don’t use the bridge relays if your Tor speeds are normal. (It will still be slower than your regular ISP speeds.)
While using a select built-in bridge, you should use the available options such as “obfs4” and “meek-azure.” They will disguise the traffic between the client (you) and the first hop so that the ISP cannot identify you as a Tor connection.
You can also request a new bridge from torproject.com After you solve the captcha, you will get a bridge connection which will look something like the following image.
Sometimes no new bridges are available. In that case you can request one by dropping an email to “email@example.com” from Gmail, Yahoo or RiseUp addresses.
After a successful bridge connection, you can enjoy regular or higher Tor speeds independent of your ISP restrictions.
3. Use New Tor Circuit for this Site
If your webpage is not loading fast enough, it can be due to several reasons, such as social networking buttons, analytical tools, advertisements, and other factors. To solve these issues, Tor has a new feature which allows the website or active window to be reloaded over a new Tor circuit. This menu item can be accessed from the three-bar menu. Every time your web page refuses to load quickly, you can click this option for a new circuit. Of course, for this option to be visible, you need to update your Tor browser.
4. Use New Identity for Tor
Sometimes when you’re stuck at slower speeds for no reason, it may be helpful to restart the Tor browser to get fresh speeds. You can also use another feature called “New identity,” which is accessible from the three-bar menu. This is also a nice security feature, as it prevents your subsequent browser activity from being linkable to what you were doing before.
5. Optimize Your PC/Mac/Linux for Tor Activities
To ensure that speed issues are minimal, you need to ensure that your system clock and time zone are set correctly. Tor recommends that the following software be temporarily disabled, as they’ve been known to interfere with browsing:
- Webroot SecureAnywhere
- Kaspersky Internet Security 2012
- Sophos Antivirus for Mac
- Microsoft Security Essentials
It is better to disable any antivirus software affecting your system tray. Also, disable your firewall, and if you are using a new Tor browser version, uninstall the old one. Do not overwrite the old program. If another Tor is running, it can severely impact your connection speeds.
You should configure Tor to isolate cookies and delete your browsing history after each session. Go to about:preferences#privacy in Tor and make sure you enable these privacy preferences.
6. Use Recommended Performance Settings
Tor has a feature that allows you to adjust the browser’s performance values based on your computer’s hardware and operating system. It can be accessed from Settings and is disabled by default. Enable it to ensure proper speeds that are supported by your device.
7. Insert New Torrc File
One shortcut to speeding up Tor is to edit your Torrc file. However, this method may not work for everyone and results may vary. You can locate it by right-clicking the Tor browser menu icon and clicking “Properties.” After that, go down the following path: “Tor Browser -> Browser -> Data -> Tor.”
You can download a new Torrc file at this link. It has been tested to be virus-free. Simply delete the older Torrc file in the folder path and replace it with the updated file.
Tor has become the go-to browser for privacy lovers, activists, journalists and all those who prefer anonymity in their browsing or when accessing the dark web. By using the methods mentioned in this article, you can speed up Tor and surf with ease.