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 make Tor faster and just like any other browser.
1. Overcoming ISP Speed Restrictions
If you suspect that your ISP is playing foul with your Tor speeds, you will have to use bridge relays while configuring Tor. This would make it more difficult for anyone monitoring your traffic to determine that you are using this anonymous browser.
To begin, visit the official Bridges link of Tor on any regular browser. If you are downloading Tor for the first time, it is better to use a reliable VPN. This is all the more important if you plan on visiting dark web sites. Select the option for “Get Bridges.”
While receiving the request, you should use one of the five options for “pluggable transport.” These include obs3, obs4, scramblesuit, FTE and snowflake. Each of these options disguise the traffic between the client (you) and the first hop so that the ISP cannot identify it as a Tor connection.
After you solve the captcha, you will get a bridge connection which will look something like this:
obfs3 18.104.22.168:420 4352e58420e68f5e40bf7c74faddccd9d1349413
Sometimes, no new bridges are available. In that case you can request one by dropping an email at firstname.lastname@example.org from Gmail, Yahoo or RiseUp addresses. After you get your bridge, refresh your Tor browser. Instead of clicking connect, go to “Configure.”
Select the option for “Tor is censored in my country,” even if it’s only bad ISP speed.
Next you can see three options. You can again request a new “bridge” or use the bridge that was provided earlier.
After a successful bridge connection, you can enjoy regular Tor speeds independent of your ISP restrictions.
2. 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 is set correctly. Tor recommends that the following software are temporarily disabled as they can interfere with your browsing:
- Webroot SecureAnywhere
- Kaspersky Internet Security 2012
- Sophos Antivirus for Mac
- Microsoft Security Essentials
It is better to disable any anti-virus software which affects 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.
3. Optimize Entry/Exit Nodes
One way to speed up Tor is to edit your Torrc file. You can locate it by right-clicking the Tor browser menu icon and clicking “Properties.” After that, go down this path: “Tor Browser -> Browser -> Data -> Tor.”
The properties of Torrc file have to be modified using optimal entry and exit nodes. As we saw earlier, Tor traffic relays through multiple nodes. Some of these middle relay servers should be located close to your actual geographic location. They can be searched online to find a large number of relay servers to use.
Next, you should copy the IP addresses for these Tor nodes which are closest to you. Select around ten of these and save them in a Notepad file.
Prepare a list of nearby IP relay addresses (ten should be a sufficient number), and save them as entry and exit nodes in your Torrc file as shown below. You can also use
ExcludeNodes to avoid many countries which slow down your average speed as shown below. Simply save the edited Torrc file and refresh your Tor browser to surf again. The speeds should be better.
Tor has become the go-to browser for privacy lovers, activists, journalists and all those who prefer anonymity in their browsing. It should not be the ISPs business to know what you’re surfing online. By using the methods mentioned in this article, you can cover your tracks better so that your Tor traffic is visible only to you.
Need any troubleshooting tips? Shoot us questions or comments, and we will be happy to answer them.