How to make tor browser work with the system tor service rather than the tor service provided with the browser.

Certain files in the Browser folder must be changed.

PS: I start the tor service on Linux with

# service tor start

From the guide I wrote, available on the Tor Project wiki here:

Add or edit the following lines in your torrc:

# add these flags to SocksPort to act like Tor Browser
SocksPort 9050 IPv6Traffic PreferIPv6 KeepAliveIsolateSOCKSAuth
ControlPort 9051
# only add these if they're *not* already defined in /usr/share/tor/tor-service-defaults-torrc
# i.e. if you're not using debian, ubuntu or one of their derivatives
#CookieAuthentication 1
#CookieAuthFile /var/run/tor/control.authcookie
#CookieAuthFileGroupReadable 1

Now reload Tor

sudo service tor reload

Then add your user to the group that the tor daemon runs as, on debian, ubuntu and similar this is debian-tor

sudo usermod -a -G debian-tor $USER

This will require a full log out and back in to take effect.

Now we need to add some environment variables that Tor Button and Tor Launcher will respect. Create a file called somthing like /etc/profile.d/99_tb.sh and add the following to it:

# Use system daemon socks port
export TOR_SOCKS_PORT=9050
# Use system daemon control port
export TOR_CONTROL_PORT=9051
# Don't launch a second tor instance, and don't take ownership of it.
# Tell it where to find the control auth cookie
export TOR_CONTROL_COOKIE_AUTH_FILE=/var/run/tor/control.authcookie

This will also require a full log out and back in to take effect.

Now when you launch Tor Browser, it should use the local tor daemon instance instead of starting it's own.

  • Isn't it easier to disable the TorButton and TorLauncher extensions in the browser and set up the proxy via preferences? – SuperSluether Nov 25 '16 at 19:13
  • deleting the addons is uglier, more annoying (no NEWNYM, New Tor Circuit, Security Slider) and requires reapplication on new installs, these tweaks persist. – cacahuatl Nov 25 '16 at 19:59

I realize the more recent versions of tor browser already contain the instructions (edit: they are different from the ones given in the tor wiki, which works for tor browser 5.x). For the benefit of other users, I have edited the tor wiki (onion) to include it. To quote it verbatim:

How do I make Tor Browser 7.x (may work for later versions) use the tor that is already running on the system?

See the section Using a system-installed Tor process with Tor Browser in the file $TB_INST_DIR/Browser/start-tor-browser where $TB_INST_DIR is your tor browser installation directory (e.g. tor-browser_en-US) for instructions. Alternatively, you can view them ​​online (​onion). Be careful, the online version is on the master branch, which may be too new for your tor browser. When in doubt, follow the one coming with your tor browser.

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