How To Access .Onion Sites / Tor Sites
Websites with urls that end in .onion are not similar to conventional websites, as you can’t access them via a conventional internet browser such as Firefox, Internet explorer,..etc. Instead, to be able to visit .onion websites, you have to use a Tor browser. If you are new to the Tor browser and the deep web, this tutorial will help you browse any .onion site on the Tor network.
What Are .Onion Sites?
.onion is a special website domain suffix that represents an anonymous website that is hosted in the form of a TOR hidden service and can only be accessed using a special browser like the TOR browser or one of its alternatives. A .onion url doesn’t represent an actual DNS name; hence, a .onion top-level domain TLD is not included in the Internet DNS root, yet by using the appropriate proxy application, e.g. the TOR browser bundle, you can access these sites by relaying requests via TOR’s network of servers. The TOR network promotes anonymity of both the owner of a darknet service and people who visit its website, rendering them untraceable.
Installing the TOR Browser To Access .Onion Sites:
To access a .onion website, i.e. websites that are parts of darknets, you have to download and install the TOR browser, which is a clone of Firefox that is configured specially to enable you to connect to websites via TOR’s network. Follow these simple steps to download and install the TOR browser on Windows (the steps will be almost identical for installing it on Mac or Linux):
1- Point your browser to TOR’s project website using this url:
The website will automatically detect your operating system, so when you press the “download TOR browser” button, you will download the TOR browser bundle that matches your operating system. TOR is available for Windows, Apple OS X, Linux and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, Apple’s iOS is not supported by TOR, yet there are alternatives to TOR’s browser for use on iPhone and iPad, but your anonymity cannot be guaranteed if you use such alternatives, because the provider of the VPN service, that relays your connections on such browsers, can trace the websites you are visiting on the deep web.
Important: Don’t download the TOR browser bundle from any site other than Torproject.org
2- After downloading the TOR’s browser software bundle, install it as you normally do with any other software bundle.
3- After the installation process is complete, run your TOR browser,
you will be prompted to choose whether or not you will be using a proxy server to connect to the TOR network, as shown on the below screenshot. It is highly recommended not to use a proxy server or a VPN to connect to the deep web, or else you will be undermining your anonymity as the service provider, of the proxy servers or VPN, will be able to monitor the services you visit on the deep web and even more, they can snoop on your private information and logon credentials.
So, if you won’t be using any proxies and will connect directly to the TOR network, just press the “Connect” button; however, if your connection to the internet is proxied, or somehow censored, click the “Configure” button and you will be prompted to use either one of the provided bridges, or your own custom bridge. The TOR browser comes with a set of bridges that utilize various methods to counteract censorship.
After pressing the “connect” button, a dialogue window (look at the below screenshot) will appear showing the progress of the connection process, and within a maximum of several minutes, or 20-30 seconds in most cases, you will be connected to the TOR network.
4- If the TOR browser has been started successfully, you should be able to see the welcome page with a “You are now free to browse the internet anonymously” message.
Now, let’s take a look at the below screenshot which shows some important buttons on your newly installed TOR browser:
- If you press on the “onion” button you will get a list of these options:
A- New Identity:
When you click on this option, you will restart your TOR browser to create a new connection. When you connect via the TOR network, your connections cannot be traced because they are relayed through a large number of TOR nodes. By creating a new identity, all of the browser’s open tabs will be closed, application level browser data will be deleted and a new connection to TOR’s network will be established.
B- New circuit for this website:
Your TOR browser will change your connection circuit every approximately 10 minutes, as a single circuit is usually used for no more than 10 minutes for TCP streams, as long as it is working appropriately. When you press the “new circuit for this website”, your TOR browser will rotate your connection to that website via another circuit.
Note that rotating the connection circuit will befuddle anyone who would attempt to trace your connections on the deep web.
C- Privacy and Security Settings:
You have 4 privacy settings that you should check (all turned on by default). They are:
- Don’t record website data or browsing history (Enable private browsing mode).
- Disable all browser plugins e.g. Flash
- Don’t use 3rd party cookies and other forms of tracking data
- Change details that can distinguish you from others using the TOR browser.
D- TOR network settings:
These includes the setting that you had to go through step 3, which mainly include setting your proxy server, if you had any.
E- Check for TOR browser update:
It is advisable to check for new updates every now and then, as newer versions address vulnerabilities that might be present in older versions.
5- You are now ready to access .onion sites.
Just enter the .onion url of the hidden service you want to access into the address bar and click “go” or press enter, that’s all.
An .onion address represents an alpha-semi-numeric hash that is composed of 16 characters. The hash is generated using the hidden service’s public key when the service is first configured. These 16 character hashes can contain letters from the English alphabet and digits between 2 & 7, which represent an 80 bit number in base32. However, it is possible to create a human readable .onion address (e.g. beginning with a company’s name) by generating a large number of key pairs, via computational processes which can be parallelized), until the desirable .onion address is found.
.onion addresses are impossible to remember, so write down the websites you like or save them to your bookmarks’ list.
When accessing .onion sites, pay attention not to share any information that can help identify you, trace your connections or pinpoint your physical location in the real world.
That’s all you need to access .onion sites. Hopefully, your deep web experience will be an enjoyable one!