Configuring torbrowser without tor on `tb-updater` installation, Qubes-not-Whonix.

There is no source of information that answers this question. Please don’t close it before someone helps.

  • Whonix Tor Browser configuration instructions are incomplete. (Good for “Qubes-Whonix”, “Non-Qubes-Whonix”, but not Qubes-non-Whonix)
  • the Whonix/tb-updater Github page lists the Whonix Forum for help.


tb-updater provides a superior installation of torbrowser on Qubes Debian templates (I can’t post links. See 1, below).

The resulting filestructure for torbrowser is different from installations done manually.

Whonix instructions (2) rely on a manual installation of torbrowser - not wanted here.

It is not clear where to install the user.js file in a tb-updater-installed instance of torbrowser on a Qubes Debian template.

There seems only to be the following relevant directories:

Where do I place the user.js file?

1 github[DOT]com/Whonix/tb-updater
2 www.whonix[DOT]org/wiki/Other_Operating_Systems#cite_ref-12

tb-updater isn’t designed to be standalone just yet AFAIK. @Patrick can confirm?


Tor Browser Essentials

  • Extracted to folder ~/.tb/tor-browser

/usr/bin/torbrowser is completely optional. For information what it (not) does, search inside page Tor Browser Essentials for:


or look at its source code.

Same as Tor Browser by upstream, The Tor Project.
Nothing special. Just that tb-updater by default installs to folder:


Free Support for Whonix ™ applies.

Now you can.

Should work.
While I don’t keep testing this, let alone having an automate test to make sure that keeps working, I guess it’s working fine. In case anyone wondering…

  • Worst case: doesn’t work.
  • Extremly unlikely case: non-Whonix, Debian specific security issues. In other words, security issues from the fact that tb-updater runs in non-Whonix vs Whonix (difference one vs another) are extremely unlikely.

tb-updater is also listed here:

No, something was different

It hasn’t. That ~/.tb directory simply does not exist on my machine.

However, based on what /usr/bin/torbrowser does (thanks, that was helpful) and more poking, I think I get it now. (ed: I actually thought that was the browser application itself. Lot of difference in a hyphen.)

FWIW, I had an installation of Secbrowser on this machine, installed with sudo apt-get install --no-install-recommends secbrowser ref. I apt purged it before I tried to use tb-updater.

To my surprise, I also have a secbrowser installation hiding out in /var/cache/tb-binary. (I don’t remember that!).

Ed: So torbrowser looks like it found tor-browser in /var/cache/tb-binary, and made a .tb in there.

$ bash x torbrowser
+ tb_user_home=/var/cache/tb-binary
+ '[' -n /var/cache/tb-binary ']'
+ echo /var/cache/tb-binary
+ grep -q tor-browser
++ dirname /var/cache/tb-binary
+ tb_user_home_dirname=/var/cache
+ '[' -n '' ']'
+ tb_install_folder=tb
+ '[' -n '' ']'
+ tb_install_folder_dot=.tb
+ '[' -n '' ']'
+ tb_browser_name=tor-browser

I might just make new Debian Template and start again.

Also, thanks for the links privileges.

Actually, no. I don’t understand why. bash x torbrowser shows torbrowser going straight to a /var/usr installation, which I can “understand” if that what this means on tb-starter Github page.

In Qubes AppVM copies browser from root image to private image at first start.

But I still don’t I still don’t understand why it didn’t make a ~/.tb on the first start. I can only think it has to do with secbrowser installation.

Going to plunge my head in icewater now. Then make a new Debian template.

To download / install, run in AppVM, see:
Tor Browser Essentials


Read the output of that script. It hints at things such as folder locations. Supposedly self-documenting.

To debug, also:

bash -x update-torbrowser

However, also running


effectively results in running update-torbrowser if Tor Browser isn’t available in ~/.tb folder yet.

Also AppVM vs TemplateVM might result in different than expected behavior:

This is really complex, because, see:
Tor Browser Advanced Topics

There might have been some issues with SecBrowser installed at the same time. That code will be completely removed over time. Don’t install SecBrowser anything if you want Tor Browser.