Our desire to seek privacy online has often led to the discovery of new tools. Walking on the path to privacy may sound obvious, but the standard is yet not defined.

Many people still consider Tor to be their ultimate savior to ensure security and privacy online.

While others debate that there is no one supreme than a VPN. The heated debate continues, only the smarter one sit quiet and learn about the two. Are you the one who needs to know all about Tor? Then you surely are in the right place.

Tor is an effective tool for anonymity which is used by people around the world. It is recommended by various groups and opinion makers.

The Framework

Tor is just like Onion, which has a number of layers. The more you cut through and examine the more you get deeper in the layers. This write-up will shed light on those layers which are often misunderstood.

So before further ado, let’s start with the basic.

What is Tor?

It is free software which is open-source and used by a large number of people. The name Tor is an abbreviation of “the Onion Router” because it encrypts traffic and helps anonymize the user.

As of today, Tor is a browser that runs on the tor network. The anonymous browser works in multiple hops and uses TLS encryption before the data arrives at the destination server.

How Does Tor Work?

The most common and easy way of using Tor is to use tor browser. There are two components of the working of Tor.

1. Tor Browser: Tor browser is built on Mozilla Firefox and is encrypted by default to harden your privacy.

 2. Tor Network: The tor browser is configured to run on the network, and the tor network always encrypts your traffic over nodes and relays. Since the tor nodes are run by volunteers, so the entire network is decentralized.

When a user uses Tor, its traffic gets routed to three different nodes or relays. The traffic is generally routed in such a way that speed is prioritized. Tor nodes are scattered all around the gland routing path differ and depends on the server you are accessing the node from.

As per tor developers, relay capacity has increased which has led to faster tor surfing speed. Similarly, load balancing is playing a vital role in concentrating traffic on different relays to add relay diversity.

These tor nodes are run voluntarily which means that the tor node can be set up by a random person.

Anonymity is a major standpoint for Tor. It offers interesting benefits and adds layers of anonymity between unencrypted internet and originating IP address.

Is Tor Safe?

Tor is well regarded in the domains of privacy community; people trust it and mark it as a safe tool to use to ensure security and privacy in the most effective way.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, an online privacy advocacy group supports and advocate for tor.

Similarly, Edward Snowden and many other high-profile privacy advocates also support tor. Since tor has a number of supportive advocates that guarantee its reliability, new tools like VPN damp the popularity of Tor as a single most effective tool to ensure privacy.

Tips to Maximize Tor Efficiency

Since I have been using Tor for ages, let me guide you about the most common mistakes and how to avoid them. Moreover, the tool itself guides its users to do the following.

  • Use Tor Browsers
  • Never use Torrent over Tor.
  • Don’t enable browser plugins
  • Always use HTTPS websites
  • Never open documents that are download using tor browser while being online.

Let’s see what the difference is between Tor and VPN.

The Ultimate face-off – Tor vs. VPN

While the VPN industry is overstuffed with shady VPNs, there are some that are outstanding in their domain. A prime example is of the market leader and a VPN giant ExpressVPN. Not only this VPN offers a handful of features, but it also works with Tor.

Here’s how a VPN differs with Tor;


A VPN is versatile; it comes with a ton of features combined such as multihop, ad blocking and obfuscation, etc. All of these additional features are used to defeat censorship and access restricted networks.


VPNs surpasses Tor on performance. Tor slows down the internet speed to 3 times. However, a VPN connection makes also does the connection speed but only a little. Fast VPNs max out my internet speed to up to 100 Mbps.


Tor is limited to some platforms only. Tech advisors argue that Windows users should not use Tor; instead, they should opt for Linux. On the contrary, VPNs are compatible with popular platforms such as Windows, Android, iOS, and MacOS.


A VPN encrypts the internet traffic of the entire operating system. On the contrary, a tor browser is only limited to that of risks associated with the browser. This is a huge difference between VPN and Tor. With a VPN a user can benefit from a wider and much broader level of protection.


Trust is subjective. However, some VPNs are untrustworthy and are marked malicious and insecure. This is not the case with most of the VPNs in the market; Tor, on the contrary, is part of a lot of misunderstandings lately. People tend to rely on VPNs than Tor it seems.

Number of Users

Since VPNs are becoming a mainstream tool, people are increasingly adopting it. VPN brings a lot of perks attached apart from protecting and encrypting your traffic online. You can access geo-restricted content, download torrents anonymously, stream TV shows and movies and movies all by staying anonymous on the internet.

Just to end the debate here and maximize the outcome, perhaps the million dollar question is what you can combine Tor and VPN?

VPN with Tor

There are different ways to combine these two, however, the most common and simple re as follows.

1.  Connect to a VPN server and open Tor browser as normal.

2. Use a VPN service that is compatible with the tor network, a good option for that are;

  • ExpressVPN
  • NordVPN
  • ZorroVPN

One big advantage of using a VPN with Tor is that it additionally protects the identity just in case of the event of tor node or the entire circuit gets compromised.

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September 30, 2019 12:28 pm

Hi Phill,
I found this article very interesting. I already knew about TOR and other similar browsers, but wasn’t sure about how they worked or their intricacies. I thought it was cool how the TOR browser is built onto Firefox– I didn’t know that. I also found it interesting how you said not to use browser plugins or open downloads while TOR is open. What’s the reasoning behind this and why does it sacrifice my security? In the future I don’t think I’ll use TOR, and instead use a VPN, as it seems a VPN would be much more convenient for my needs. Thanks!

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