Upgrading workstations from Tails 3 to Tails 4


This guide will be removed in a future release of this documentation, and is no longer actively tested as part of SecureDrop QA. If you still use older Tails USB drives and encounter issues during the upgrade, please get in touch.

As a precaution, we recommend backing up your workstations before the upgrade to Tails 4. See our Workstation Backup Guide for more information. We also recommend that you keep a USB drive running Tails 3.16 on hand in case you need to revert.

Once you have created the backups, create a Tails 4 Primary USB which you will use to upgrade your workstations. Follow the instructions on the Tails website to create a fresh Tails drive on a computer running Windows, Mac, or Linux.

Boot the Tails 4 Primary USB on the air-gapped computer you use as the Secure Viewing Station, and follow the instructions for manually upgrading from another Tails to upgrade each workstation USB in turn. This procedure preserves the persistent storage volume of each USB drive you upgrade to Tails 4.

Once the upgrade is completed, shut down the Tails 4 Primary USB and boot into each workstation USB to verify that the upgrades were successful. On the Secure Viewing Station USB, the upgrade process is now complete, and no additional configuration is required.

On the Admin and Journalist Workstation USBs, set an administrator password on the Tails welcome screen, and update the SecureDrop environment using the following commands:

 cd ~/Persistent/securedrop
./securedrop-admin update
./securedrop-admin setup
./securedrop-admin tailsconfig

During the ./securedrop-admin setup step, Tails will prompt you if you want to install a set of packages every time you start Tails. These packages are only required for the setup process, so you can safely click Install Only Once.


Until you run these commands, the SecureDrop shortcuts on the Tails desktop will not work, and the graphical updater will no longer report available updates for the SecureDrop code on your workstation.

If you experience difficulties with this upgrade, please do not hesitate to contact us using any of the methods below. If the upgrade failed and you need to restore from a backup, see our guide for restoring workstations. Make sure you restore to a Tails drive using Tails 3.16 before attempting another upgrade to Tails 4.

Getting Support

Should you require further support with your SecureDrop installation, we are happy to help!

  • Community support is available at https://forum.securedrop.org
  • If you are already a member of our support portal, please don’t hesitate to open a ticket there. If you would like to request access, please contact us at securedrop@freedom.press (GPG encrypted). Note that your ticket will be visible to all support portal users at your organization; if this is a concern, reach out by email to the above address or to a staff member directly.
  • The Freedom of the Press Foundation offers training and priority support services. See https://securedrop.org/priority-support/ for more information.