tb-updater experimental --alpha, --beta, --rc, --hardened options

Advanced users, developers only!

Available in tb-updater 1.3-1 and above. added experimental --alpha, --beta and --rc switches:

Lightly tested. Still considered experimental. Would require quite some more work and testing to make this officially supported. But when you watch what versions it downloads and are aware of it, i.e. advanced user, then there is nothing that could go wrong.

Always good to check what https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser/RecommendedTBBVersions is saying.

update-torbrowser --alpha

Currently installed version: 4.0.2

Online detected version(s) : 
4.5-alpha-2 4.0.2 

It tries to download the versions that are on the left first (4.5-alpha-2) and the others as fallback (4.0.2 …). Watch the console output and you’ll see what version is being downloaded.

Also available as


snippet or environment variables, probably.


Related news in tb-updater 2.8-1.

  • Extract Tor Browser to generic location.
    – To /home/user/.tb/tor-browser rather than language specific location such as for example /home/user/.tb/tor-browser_en-US.
    – Simplifies implementation.
    – Preparation to allow TBB hardened download. (Whonix Forum)
  • allow downloading TBB hardened
    – automatically set TB_LANG to “ALL” if tbb_version matches ‘hardened’
  • allow manually setting what version should downloaded
    – through environment variable tbb_version
    – examples:

Outside Whonix.

tbb_version=5.5a4-hardened update-torbrowser --no-tor-con-check --devbuildpassthrough

Inside Whonix.

tbb_version=5.5a4-hardened update-torbrowser

https://forums.whonix.org/t/using-whonix-workstation-as-a-disposablevm-dispvm made me look into this again.

Btw this was deprecated so the code could be simplified. Times of broken RecommendedTBBVersions were advertised higher version numbers were advertised so it made sense for tb-updater to automatically download the next lower one in RecommendedTBBVersions are fortunately over. Nowadays tb-updater only downloads the version which was selected and would fail and show an error message if that did not work.

The old update-torbrowser behavior was to only show alpha, beta and rc versions when the respective --alpha switches were used. That was fixed with above commit and same was done for --hardened. As of the above commit, hardened versions will only be shown in the download confirmation screen when using --hardened.

Originally this was implemented in different times (of Whonix 12, I think). Tor Browser was not installed by default by that time. It will be in Whonix 14 everywhere (including in Non-Qubes-Whonix). Back then the motivation was to hide alpha, beta and rc versions from the download confirmation screen menu to improve usability, to prevent most users from downloading alpha versions without knowing what they are doing. Also if I remember right, Tor Browser internal updater did not exist back then.

Since Whonix 13 / 14 update-torbrowser has a different recommended use. It’s called a downloader rather than updater. (update-torbrowser and tb-updater should be renamed… To what?) Tor Browser internal updater is recommended for most users. update-torbrowser is rather used to implement up to date versions of Tor Browsers in newly created AppVMs inherited from updated TemplateVMs`. Recommended to reinstall Tor Browser. And could also be recommended to change from stable to alpha and/or hardened.

For Whonix 14 update-torbrowser I am wondering if --alpha, --beta, --rc, --hardened should be removed. RecommendedTBBVersions is difficult to parse. Perhaps alpha versions ("6.5a4",) could be detected as "a character a followed by some digit without a previous - (dash). Then both, alpha and hardened versions would be shown in the download confirmation screen.

Not sure this is the right place but this is a false warning, As im using TB alpha which is different from stable branch so it cant be a downgrade unless we are talking lower version for the same branch which is alpha.

Feature Request:

Add ability to install and upgrade TB alpha versions using GUI apps (not only stable).

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It’s a lower version from the perspective from the tb-updater. Hence a downgrade is detected.

Do you suggest that in case the user intents to downgrade from alpha to stable that tb-updater should understand this and show a more clever message? It’s possible in theory but the source code would be much more complex, so I most likely won’t implement it. What’s however would be easier to implement would improving that GUI window message.

That is already possible.

update-torbrowser --input gui --alpha

Documentation improved just now:
Alpha Version

Once the alpha setting has been enabled as documented,

  • the parameter --alpha shouldn’t be required.
  • also starting tb-updater GUI (from start menu) should then download the alpha version.

To simplify/encourage download of the alpha version, I was wondering if it would make sense to add an additional start menu entry that runs update-torbrowser --input gui --alpha? Would be a simplification for users who wish to use the alpha version but more confusing for new users “which version should I download”? The latter might be avoidable by renaming both start menu entries. One saying stable version (recommended for most users) and the other alpha version (testers only!). Not sure there’s enough space to write that.

Additionally that GUI window text could be improved to include a message about the release channel. On top of “WARNING” it could show:

Release channel: stable


Thank you for testing the alpha version!

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