Function and meaning of the different Whonix VM's


Hello everyone, I’ve been messing around with Qubes for a week now. Before even touching it i’ve read all the documentation on Qubes and this also includes Whonix. I’ve been reading over the documentation again for this problem but i just straight up couldn’t find my answer even after talking to several people who know a little bit more about this then me.

Now either im to stupid to breathe or i really have no clue what the function of some of the Whonix VM’s on my qubes system are. I’ll try to explain my problem as best i can.

I installed Qubes a while ago, took me a few days to even install it but hey, i managed to get it working. Qubes came with 4 VM’s with Whonix in their name pre-installed.

  • Sys-Whonix
  • Whonix-gw
  • Whonix-ws
  • Anon-whonix

Sys-whonix is the one that auto boots on startup. it even displays me a nice little message after a while saying: Connected to Tor. So i think, Perfect. Nothing for me to do, right.

My problem is this: Sys-whonix is the only one that auto boots so i believe the whonix-gw and whonix-ws are not necessary for the sys-whonix to function the way it does? after all, it displays me a nice message saying connected to TOR just by starting up the sys-whonix one.

I know the anon-whonix is used for actually browsing.

But what the hell is the function of the whonix-gw and whonix-ws then? for what function will you have to boot them up ? i’m sorry for asking this because i am almost a 100% sure the answer is right before my nose but i am probably lost in all the information.

Can someone enlighten me ?


According to https://www.whonix.org/wiki/Qubes/Install
Whonix-gw = TemplateVM for the Whonix gateway
Whonix-ws = TemplateVM for the Whonix workstation
Sys-Whonix = ProxyVM based on Whonix-gw
Anon-Whonix = AppVM based on Whonix-ws

The TemplateVMs (Whonix-gw and Whonix-ws) have to be used if you want to install updates: https://www.whonix.org/wiki/Qubes/Update

It’s been a while since I used Qubes though, so there might be more i forgot.


Hey Hexagon, First of all Thanks for the answer.

So just to clarify for myself both Whonix-gw and Whonix-ws serve no other function then to update & change settings to the sys-whonix and the Anon-Whonix.

This means that i’m no more secure by turning the whonix-gw and whonix-ws on then i am when i leave them off ?



Yes, using TemplateVMs for anything else than updating, changing settings, etc. would even be less secure: if your TemplateVM gets infected other VMs depending on that template would get infected as well.


Thanks a lot Hexagon,

Been struggling with this for a while now. I think what made me doubt myself was the names of the VM’s

Anon-Whonix is a Workstation but Whonix-ws is the template workstation. that’s probably what caused the confusion.

Thanks for your advice, If anyone else has some input on this let me know :wink: