I just deployed tails on a flash drive, and were busy tweaking it. Is it possible to persistently remove some stock software packages from my copy of tails? I tried to apt-get remove them, but they reappeared on startup. Also, I understand that added applications can be reinstalled each time by caching them at persistent storage and appending them to live-additional-software.conf, but my point is not reverse of this, i.e. actually keeping the packages and removing them at startup. I straight out don't want them to be present and use space in my flash drive.

(And as a personal comment, who would care to use audacity for a distro based on such specific set of operations anyway? Some default packages look really absurd on tails. Anyways...)

2 Answers 2


No, it is not possible to do this. You'd need to remove them each restart, since it stores no short-term state it will always start up with the same set of packages.

This always means you'd need to always be an account with administrator rights, which is something you should avoid doing wherever possible.

You'd need to build your own tails, with the packages excluded which is probably going to make things interesting later down the line when you need to upgrade.

There is some outline of the build process in the Tails documentation, and some information on how to customize it can be found here, and the list of packages installed is found here.

It's going to require more reading on the build process itself and I'm not sure how well it'll play with updates, you may need to rebuild it yourself each time ("upgrade by cloning"), also beware interdependencies and possible violations of expectation (e.g. "is the package being remove called by a script somewhere?").

  • I think it's a worthwhile project. I'm going to be doing it myself soon, hopefully...
    – cacahuatl
    Aug 7, 2016 at 19:41

Only the brightest minds know how to accomplish this.

What you have to keep in mind is that Tails only run as an ISO 9660 which is a fancy term for cd/dvd - Read Only Memory (ROM). However you may or may not know that ISO 9660 can be installed on any partition of any storage. So for example, I installed Tails on a partition on my laptop hard drive.

Another thing you need to understand is that information flow in tails is designed to be directional and not bi-directional; information flows forward only. So for example when you save changes on tail's persistent storage; tails boots its system and then loads your changes; thus removal of a package in this context is only denying access to said app because the iso cannot be altered.

However, the brightest minds will tell you then why don't you just make the changes you want and create a new iso, and then install that iso onto whatever partition you had the previous iso on? Luckily there is a tool that accomplishes just that and it is called Refracta Snapshot though installing it may be a pain in the rear, once installed it will stay installed because you are going to create a new iso with it. You can then remove many gnome components (careful not to touch networking stuff since Tails will undoubtedly be picky about that). Things you could remove are gnome-session, gnome-shell, gvfs, gdm (if you install pcmanfm-qt or spacefm). You could then install icewm, and likely get icewm-session running and your whole system will likely use 300MB of ram or less instead of the default 1GB. This is all with a lot of tinkering and requires well practiced linux hands.

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