When to use the Tor browser (and when not to use it)

by Gene Michael Stover

created Friday, 2021 September 3

When should I use the Tor browser?

The question is backwards. You should use the Tor browser most of the time, & the question should be when to use a regular browser.

The rule of thumb I recommend is...

Use the Tor browser unless you want your online activity (for this session, right now) to be connected to your physical-world identity.

If you prefer another browser to the Tor browser, you can have the Tor browser running & tell your preferred browser to use Tor as a proxy. To do that, tell your browser to use a SOCKS5 proxy on port 9150 on localhost (also known as When you do that, you don't get all the anonymity assurances that Tor itself provides, but you get close — probably close enough for most of us.

Situations where you would not use the Tor browser

Often, you do want your online actions connected back to your physical world identity. In those cases, you want to use a regular browser (without telling it to proxy through Tor the way I described above).

Here are some example situations.

In those situations, you want to give the other end of the transaction all the extra evidence they can use to verify that you are you. You want them to see your IP address, to use a one-time code over SMS as evidence that you have your phone, to use another one-time code sent to your e-mail, to “remember” your browser, & other evidence they can acquire. None of those are proof of your identity, but together, they can be used as strong evidence of your identity. You want them to use whatever they can when you want your online actions connected to your identity in the physical world.

In any other situation, it's better to retain anonymity. If it's not better right here, right now, just for you, it's beter in the long run for all of us.