Tor or the onion router runs on a massive network of donated compute power and network bandwidth that allows users of it to be anonymous by bouncing their connection between servers. Tor is a useful tool that allows millions of people in oppressive countries to access websites without their government finding out.
The best way to help the Tor network is to host a Tor relay, this will grow the network and increase the bandwidth allowing more users and faster connections. In this guide you will learn how to setup a Tor relay for less than $10 per month – you will also get a free t-shirt for operating one!
Best Tor Relay Hosts
To run a Tor relay you will need a VPS, a VPS is a virtual server that works just like a remote Linux computer and you have the freedom to install whatever software you want. Keep in mind lots of hosts won’t allow you to run a Tor relay and you will be suspended if you don’t use the right host.
Do not use the following hosts:
- scaleway.com / online.net
- and many more
What Host Should I Use?
Trabia is a hosting company located in Moldova that accepts crypto and has fair abuse handling. Personally, I have been running a Tor relay with them since 2018 with no issues. Check out their virtual dedicated servers to order a VPS.
Toronto Virtual Machine Host
TorVM or Toronto Virtual Machine Host is a VPS provider located in Toronto Ontario that accepts crypto and specifically allows Tor relays in their Acceptable Use Policy as long as you limit the bandwidth to 25MBps. I have been running a Tor relay here for over 3 weeks with no issues. Check out their VPS plans to order a VPS.
Trabia & TorVM are the only VPS providers I’ve used but you can find others on Tor’s good bad IPSs list.
Installing The Relay Software
Please use Debian or Ubuntu as the operating system for your server. I’m going to assume you have basic knowledge of a Linux system and how to SSH to the system.
Update the system
By default, your VPS won’t be up to date and you will need to update it to install the latest Tor software. You can update it by running apt update -y & apt upgrade -y
Now, you will need to install Tor on your VPS, you can do this by running the command apt install tor -y Once Tor is installed enable it to start on boot by running systemctl enable tor and start the service by running systemctl restart tor
Configuring the relay
Once Tor is successfully installed you’ll need to configure it to host a relay. Edit /etc/tor/torrc using your favorite command-line editor and add the following lines to the top:
ORPort 443 Exitpolicy reject *:* Nickname reallycoolthing ContactInfo email@example.com
You can change the Nickname & ContactInfo to whatever you want. This information will be public including the email address. If your host asks you to limit the relay bandwidth you can also add these lines:
RelayBandwidthRate 1 MBytes RelayBandwidthBurst 3 MBytes
Save the file and restart tor via systemctl restart tor
Viewing the relay
It may take up to an hour for your relay to appear on the Tor network, it may take over a week for your relay to be actively used. You may find your relay status by searching the IP address on the Tor relay search website.
You did it!
Congratulations! You set up a Tor relay and are helping 1000’s of people all around the world. Make sure to check up on your relay every couple of months and update the server often to keep the Tor network secure.