Hello my name is Gregory. I would like to ask a few questions about running Whonix on a notebook computer.

What would be an ideal notebook/specs for running

  1. Linux Host

  2. VirtualBox

  3. Whonix (both VMs in VirtualBox)

  4. VPN client on host

There has been alot of talk about Intel hardware having a backdoor in it. Obviously we can neither confirm/deny this information as we don't have access to it, we only have speculation but logically newer hardware would more likely have it since, unfortunately, we are going downhill when it comes to freedom and privacy.

So what would be an ideal notebook that is cheap and can run Whonix and everything on the notebook smoothly without lagging and glitches. We don't need to get specific about models, just specs and most importantly CPU models. RAM is cheap and upgradable so it is irrelevant as it would be 8GB. Would the CPU at least have to be an i3/i5/i7 model or can it be a late model Core 2 Duo? Again this is not a question of what can run this setup, it is what can run this setup very smoothly and without lagging.

mirimir has said in the past that SSDs can compromise FDE so my question goes out to mirimir and everybody else on that. Can SSD compromise FDE and why?


Given OP's requirements, it's best to rely on the hardware compatibility list for Qubes. I say that for two reasons. First, Qubes developers are notoriously paranoid ;) Second, you would have the option of switching to Qubes.

Quad-core i5 with 8 GB RAM is fine. I'd avoid dual-core, especially old CPUs. But having enough RAM to avoid swapping is far more important for performance than CPU speed.

I still don't trust either hardware or software FDE on SSDs. The security of hardware FDE for consumer SSDs has generally relied on ATA passwords, and they can be readily compromised. Although enterprise SSDs and the new Crucial M500 line can be far more secure, using that capability involves (as far as I know) software that's only available in Windows. Faustian choice there :(

It's been claimed that, once dm-crypt/LUKS on has been configured on new SSDs, no plaintext will be written anywhere. However, I haven't seen corroboration from a source that I trust. Perhaps someone can enlighten us.

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  • The hardware compatibility list has some Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge CPUs. I thought those were toxic now because of the Anti-Theft and vPro technology in them. There is no quad-core i5 mobile processor by the way. Concerning FDE, that's what I ment, encryption through dm-crypt/LUKS. Is that considered secure even on SSDs? I know you mentioned that it's been claimed that nothing is out in the open but why are you so skeptical. Sorry for sounding ignorant as I don't understand why SSDs and HDDs are different when it comes to FDE. I'm guessing it has to do with the way they store information. – Gregory Yelkovic Jul 16 '14 at 1:03
  • Although I've also been suspicious of the Anti-Theft and vPro features, discussion on Wilders convinced me that they're not an issue unless expressly implemented. Information storage in modern SSDs is highly abstracted from the hardware, far more so than in HDDs. And SSDs have tons (~30% as I recall) of hidden excess capacity, to increase lifetime. It's a big leap of faith for me to trust that no plaintext gets written while the volume is mounted. – mirimir Jul 16 '14 at 5:38
  • Going back to system requirements for a second, Qubes OS obviously needs more hardware and more specific hardware considering their system is optimized for the listed models. Qubes is personally too much. How about Whonix though, is it still best to avoid the dual core notebook CPUs and also best to avoid anything Core 2 Duo so pretty much only Intel i Series CPUs? Obviously what I mean is a smooth running machine without lagging. – Gregory Yelkovic Jul 16 '14 at 14:30
  • Qubes does have more specific hardware requirements. But it also has less overhead than Linux + VirtualBox + several VMs. Whonix is just two VMs. But maybe you'll want another workspace VM or two, maybe to use via VPN services, or maybe even a Windows VM. And you might want a few pfSense VMs as VPN and/or Tor gateways, and maybe even a JonDonym gateway. I'd stick with quad-core CPUs, which means i7 these days, I guess. But lower-end i7 is probably OK. Dual-core i5 would be enough for Whonix. But it would be CPU-bound if you ran 3-4 large VMs and a few small ones, which 8 GB RAM can handle. – mirimir Jul 16 '14 at 22:10
  • The thing about quad-core notebook CPUs is that they have 4 cores and 8 threads but their clock speeds are kind of low and I don't have the budget for a 2nd/3rd/4th generation i7. The early quad-core i7s are 1.6-1.86GHz. Is that ok and can Debian use TurboBoost. I've seen some people clock their CPUs higher but that's on Windows with ThrottleStop to stop throttling but I haven't seen such application on Linux, is there? I do have a second question, is it better to connect the notebook directly into a modem via ethernet or better to put a DD-WRT router between the two? – Gregory Yelkovic Jul 17 '14 at 6:35

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