How to Bypass Internet Censorship

Setting up a Tor Relay

If you live in an area with little or no Internet censorship, you may want to run a Tor relay or a Tor bridge relay to help other Tor users access an uncensored Internet.

The Tor network relies on volunteers to donate bandwidth. The more people run relays, the faster and more secure the Tor network will be. To help people using Tor bypass Internet censorship, set up a bridge relay rather than an ordinary relay.

Bridge relays (or bridges for short) are Tor relays that are not listed in the main (and public) Tor directory. Even if an ISP is filtering connections to all the known Tor relays, it probably will not be able to block all the bridges.

Risks of operating a Tor node (Tor relay)

A Tor node is a kind of public proxy, so running one can have the general risks of running a proxy mentioned in the "Risks of Operating a Proxy" chapter of this manual. However, a Tor node is typically set up in one of two ways: as an exit node or as a middleman node (sometimes called a non-exit node). A middleman node forwards encrypted traffic only to other Tor nodes, and does not allow anonymous users to communicate directly with sites outside of the Tor network. Running either kind of node is helpful to the Tor network as a whole. Running an exit node is particularly helpful because exit nodes are comparatively scarce. Running a middleman node is comparatively less risky because the middleman node is unlikely to draw the kinds of complaints that a public proxy might, since the IP address of a middleman node will never appear on log files.

Since a bridge is not an exit node, you are unlikely to receive complaints about the use of a bridge node by others.

Even though it is unlikely to draw specific complaints, operating a middleman or bridge node may cause your ISP to object for more general reasons. For example, the ISP may disapprove of the Tor network or may forbid subscribers from operating any sort of public service. You can find more best practices on how to safety run a Tor exit node on

What do I need to run a relay or a bridge relay?

There are only a few prerequisites for running a Tor relay:

  • Your Internet connection needs to have a bandwidth of at least 20 kilobytes/second in both directions (and it needs to be OK for your connection to be constantly in use when your computer is on).
  • You need an Internet connection with an IP address that is publicly routable.
  • If your computer is behind a network address translation (NAT) firewall and doesn't have access to its public (or external) IP address, you'll need to set up a port forwarding rule on your router. You can do this via the Tor Universal Plug and Play facility, or manually, by following the instructions in your router manual or at (

What is not required:

  • Your computer does not have to be always on and online (the Tor directory will figure out when it is).
  • You do not need to have a static IP address.

Downloading Tor

To download Tor, go to the Web site and click Download in the navigation menu.

On the Available Tor Bundles page, select the stable version that fits your operating system.


Installing Tor on GNU/Linux

You can find detailed instructions on how to set up a Tor relay or bridge on

Installing Tor on Microsoft Windows

Launch the installer and click Next when asked.

If you are using Firefox, install all the components proposed in the dialog shown below:

Choose components to install 

If you do not have Firefox installed, deselect Torbutton (you will have the option to install Firefox and Torbutton afterwards).

When the installation is completed, launch Tor by clicking Finish with the "Run installed components now" box selected, as in the dialog shown below:

Finish Tor installation 

Configuring Tor to be a bridge

To activate your bridge:

  1. Open the Vidalia control panel.
  2. In the Vidalia control panel, click Settings:

    Vidalia control panel with "Settings" highlighted

  3. In the Settings window, click Sharing:
    the sharing settings window

  4. To create the bridge, click "Help censored users reach the Tor network":
    Activate a bridge

  5.  If you are using a NAT IP address on a local network, you will need to create a port forwarding rule in your router. You can ask Tor to try to configure port forwarding for you. To do so, click "Attempt to automatically configure port forwarding":

  6. Click Test to see if Tor has correctly created a setting for port forwarding in the router:

If Tor could not configure port forwarding, please read the Tor FAQ entry on this topic:

Congratulations. If all has gone well, your bridge is up and running. Your bridge information will be added to the hidden bridge directory and made available to users who request it.

Sharing your bridge with friends 

If you specifically established your bridge to help a friend access the Tor network, you can copy the information at the bottom of the Settings window and send it to her: