Access blocked web sites using a free Tor proxy – no VPN required

Censorship is on the rise, with Internet Service Providers arbitrarily deciding which web sites you can and can't browse. Thankfully there's an easy and free solution.

The following method allows you to proxy your traffic to specific web sites through the Tor network, without needing to pay for or slow down your overall internet experience with a system-wide VPN.

Install the Tor service

The Tor service creates a simple local proxy you can use to route traffic through the Tor network.

On Windows, download the Tor Expert Bundle from the Tor web site here. The Expert Bundle only contains the Tor service which is all you need.

If you have a Mac you can use the instructions here.

On Linux you can usually install the Tor service using your operating system package manager. On Ubuntu you would run sudo apt install tor or on other systems it might be sudo yum install tor. You may need to manually start the service with sudo service tor start.

Make sure it works

You can verify the Tor service and proxy are working by loading a command prompt or terminal and connecting to the local proxy port. The command is telnet localhost 9050.  If the connection is established it's working and you can close the telnet connection, usually with Ctrl-C or Ctrl-] then quit.

Install and configure a proxy extension

Installing a proxy browser extension allows you to route some or all of your traffic through an server or service. In this example we'll install and configure Proxy SwitchyOmega to route specific blocked sites to the local Tor proxy we installed.

Install Proxy SwitchyOmega for Chrome or Firefox.

Click the extension icon that appears in the browser toolbar and choose Options to open up the settings page.

In the left menu, click New Profile. Enter "Tor" as the name and click Create at the bottom.

Under Proxy Servers click Advanced to expand the options.

For the http:// and https:// schemes set the Protocol to SOCKS5, the Server to localhost and the Port to 9050.

In the left menu click Apply changes.

In the left menu click the auto-switch profile.

Click the Add condition button.

To enable browsing of special Tor-only sites, which we may as well do, under Condition Details enter *.onion, and under Profile change it to Tor.

For each blocked site you want to access click Add condition, enter the domain name with a wildcard subdomain, e.g. *, and set the Profile to Tor.

When you're done, in the left menu click Apply changes.

You can now close the Options tab.

The final step is to click the proxy extension icon and choose auto switch as your connection.

You're done

You should now be able to browse any blocked sites!

Getting a new route or external IP address

If you find your Tor connections running slowly or just want to get a new IP address, such as to access geo-blocked content, you can get a new random route as follows:

Windows: Click the Tor onion icon in the system toolbar and choose New Identity

Mac: Enter a terminal and restart the Tor service with killall -HUP tor

Linux: Enter a terminal and restart the Tor service with sudo service tor restart