What is the StartMeStick?
The StartMeStick is a Private Computing Device.
Plug it into your computer, PC or Mac, and it temporarily replaces your regular operating system with a fast, secure, and private one for everything you do online.
Pull it out and your computer goes back to the way it was.
What is the StartMeStick good for?
The StartMeStick is great for maintaining your personal privacy online.
It’s also an incredibly easy way to have a fast, private, and secure Internet session, whether you’re concerned about online privacy or not.
Lastly, it provides a new life to a computer that may not be working properly, or whose operating system is no longer supported and receiving updates from Microsoft or Apple
Windows 7 Users
On Jan 14, 2020, Microsoft ended support for Windows 7, which by some measures makes up 40% of the world’s Windows based-PCs. If these Windows 7 PCs get trashed, the environmental cost will be enormous, and absolutely not necessary. The computers themselves are still good. They just need a new operating system, like the StartMeStick. You simply plug it into your computer, PC or Mac, and it temporarily replaces your regular operating system with a fast, secure, and private one.
Who is the StartMeStick meant for?
People with computers at home, people with kids and computers at home, and people who use a shared computer.
People with good computer repair skills are probably not going to love the StartMeStick. They’re going to prefer their own solution.
Why does my online privacy matter?
As an individual, you risk identity theft, public humiliation, extortion, or discrimination as a result of these big businesses tracking everything you do online. As a society, the consequences of mass surveillance combined with behavioral microtargeting threatens our social fabric and even our national security.
For example, Cambridge Analytica, which used four or five thousand data points per individual to model the personality of most adults in the UK, targeted propaganda at people that matched their psychological tendencies. If Cambridge Analytica affected the Brexit vote, then this loss of privacy affected everyone in the UK.
What makes the StartMeStick fast?
The StartMeStick is based on the world’s fastest operating system used on 500 of the world’s Top 500 supercomputers.1
Further, the StartMeStick never slows down. Because it doesn’t save anything, it doesn’t collect the junk that causes frustrating errors, crashes, freezes, and slowdowns.
What makes the StartMeStick private?
Plug-in Speed and Privacy
Windows and MacOS can gather private information from its users, such as for ad tracking, location tracking, which programs are used, feeding their AI aspirations, and more. The StartMeStick is built from the ground up to be private by design with rock solid reliability. It’s a slimmed down, locked down, open source private Internet browsing machine.
No Data, No Tracking
The StartMeStick goes back to “brand new” after each use. Because the StartMeStick doesn’t store anything, it doesn’t risk one’s personal information if lost or stolen.
The StartMeStick contains 2 browsers: Chromium and the Tor Browser. Each browser contains private browsing features, and the Tor browser includes a multi-layered VPN.
What makes the StartMeStick secure?
The StartMeStick is designed with quality security settings, and prevents people from making changes to those settings. It also drastically reduces the amount of software and corresponding complexity versus a general purpose operating system. This reduction in software reduces the potential vulnerabilities and surface area for attack. This is possible because the StartMeStick is focused on only doing one thing extremely well: Internet browsing.
There are many other probable security advantages of StartMe OS (our enhanced, slimmed down, locked down, Linux-based operating system). As open source software, the StartMeStick’s source code is transparent to public reviewers and thousands of experts who find and fix security issues fast. Further, the number of “in the wild” threats for Linux-based operating systems is still way lower than threats for Microsoft Windows or Apple OS X.
How is the StartMeStick different from a virtual private network (VPN)?
A VPN can provide ‘network privacy’ by hiding your true IP address from the websites you visit, and the websites you visit from your Internet Service Provider. VPN software can provide privacy from harmful entities on the network, e.g. websites that try to reverse engineer your identity via tracking your IP address and similar, and/or ISPs that track what you’re doing online, however, they cannot provide privacy from your browser or other programs on your computer.
The StartMeStick provides a built-in multi-layer VPN via the Tor browser.
Further, you can add a single-layer VPN (will be faster than Tor, but at the cost of privacy) to your StartMeStick by choosing a VPN provider that offers a Chromium extension. We’ve arranged a discount for StartMeStick/FixMeStick customers with NordVPN.
If you install the NordVPN extension in Chrome on your regular host operating system, the extension will be there in Chromium when you run the StartMeStick if you sign in to Chromium to sync.
If you prefer not to login and sync Chromium, you can manually add the VPN extension to Chromium each time. You have to do it each time because when you shut down the StartMeStick nothing from that session is saved to your computer or to the StartMeStick. That’s what we mean by the StartMeStick goes back to brand new after each use.
How is a StartMeStick different from a FixMeStick®?
What are the technical specs of the StartMeStick hardware?
So much tech is free these days, but the StartMeStick costs money, why is that?
Nothing is free! If you are using a free online app or service you are paying with your personal data; you’re feeding this machine that is turning out to be very bad for all of us.
Ours is a very old fashioned business model: we sell our products for a fee. We don’t need to track you and sell your personal information.
And, we have an outstanding customer support team in our head office in Montreal that delivers the type of superb support we all wish to receive.
Why are there renewals?
The StartMeStick and its programs require ongoing updates and support.
Do I need an internet connection to use StartMeStick?
No, you do not. However, without an Internet connection there is not much you can accomplish with a StartMeStick. After all, the StartMeStick’s purpose is to be fast, private, and secure so that you can do whatever you want online.
What computers are compatible with StartMeStick? Does it work with tablets?
PCs: Windows® XP, Vista, 7, 8, 8.1, 10 (systems dating from 2001)
Macs: Intel Based Macs from 2006 to 2017. 2018 and later systems are not yet compatible.
A minimum of 1 GB of RAM.
Technical Note: You can also use your StartMeStick on a computer that has no operating system! After all, the StartMeStick doesn’t involve your computer’s regular host operating system.
Tablets: Works with Surface Pro 2, 3, and 4. If you are running a StartMeStick on a Surface Pro 4, you will need a wired mouse and keyboard.
Does it work on Smartphones?
No, this StartMeStick is for PCs and Macs only. Smartphone manufacturers lock down their phones so that their owners can’t boot an alternative operating system. That’s a problem for another day.
What if I lose it?
None of your data is stored on the StartMeStick. If you lose it, it is just like losing one that you’ve never taken out of the package. However, you will have to purchase a new StartMeStick.
Exception: if you use WiFi, the StartMeStick will remember the WiFi networks and passwords you’ve used. It does this for the same reason your other devices do this: so that you don’t have to type these in every time. You can choose to ‘forget’ your saved networks from within the StartMeStick.
Is everything I like to do online going to break because I’m using a StartMeStick?
Of course not, that would be a silly product. The StartMeStick includes 2 Internet browsers. One is called Chromium and it’s the open source version of Chrome. You can do everything with it that you do with Chrome or any other browser and nothing will break, but your privacy will be lower than if you use the Tor browser, which is a browser with built-in anonymous networking, it’s like a VPN but even the network can’t identify its users.
If the FixMeStick is so good at fixing computers, why would I need a StartMeStick?
The FixMeStick is a virus removal device, and as such its purpose is to find and remove viruses, trojans, worms, rootkits, malware etc.
However, your computer may be behaving badly for non-virus related reasons, e.g. misconfigurations, Windows updates, incompatible software.
Alternatively, your computer may be functioning perfectly, but you still want to use a StartMeStick for any number of good reasons.
Files and Programs
Can I save files onto my StartMeStick?
No - one of the key design objectives of the StartMeStick is that it stores none of your files or data. This provides a most robust form of security: no files or data to infect, lose, or leak.
However, you can plug in an external drive while using your StartMeStick and save files on to it.
Can I access my computer’s files from my StartMeStick?
One of the key design objectives of the StartMeStick is that it never changes your computer.
You may see*, but not modify or delete, the files on your computer. You may copy your files to an external drive plugged in after the StartMeStick has started. The files on your external drive will be technically editable but the StartMeStick doesn't contain the types of programs (e.g. Microsoft Word, Excel) used to edit these types of files. However, the StartMeStick is a system for using the Internet, and you can upload these files to the cloud and edit them there.
*Note: Mac, Optane, and RAID systems as well as systems encrypted with Bitlocker are not supported at this time, meaning you cannot see the files on these systems.
Does StartMeStick interfere with the host computer? Will it modify my friend’s computer or the library computer I use it on?
No, it will not.
What happens to the data on StartMeStick after each use if it is not stored?
The data is never stored anywhere, it exists only in RAM, and RAM is reset each time the computer is rebooted.
Are there any programs already on the StartMeStick? Which ones?
Everything you need:
Will I be able to stream Netflix? Amazon Prime? YouTube?
Yes, yes, and yes. We think all or essentially all online video and streaming sites work well with the StartMeStick. If you find one that does not, please let us know.
Can I print from my StartMeStick?
Yes. See how here.
Can I connect my headphones, keyboard, mouse etc… to my StartMeStick?
Does the StartMeStick make me private on Facebook?
The StartMeStick does not and cannot make any 3rd party web site or application more private or secure than it otherwise is.
I.e. If you login to Facebook, post photos etc…, Facebook now has your private data to do with as they see fit. The StartMeStick ensures that all is private and secure on your endpoint, i.e. your computer, but it cannot ensure all is well and good on the endpoints you are connecting to.
How can I manage my passwords when using the StartMeStick?
There are at least 3 ways:
How does the StartMeStick know if it is subscribed or not?
Each StartMeStick comes with a unique serial number that it uses to get its subscription status. We do keep a history of when this serial number was used so that we can tell how many active StartMeSticks there are. This serial number is linked to the computer the StartMeStick was used on, but is in no way tied to a person and we have no way of making that link - UNLESS YOU ACTIVATE YOUR WARRANTY.
What if I activate my warranty?
StartMeStick links the email address you provide to the serial number of the StartMeStick being used. We do this so that we can contact you about your subscription status. There is still no tracking of what you do.
What if I left “Automatically send diagnostic data to FixMeStick Technologies Inc.” checked?
Diagnostic data includes technical specifications of your computer (e.g. computer make and model, amount of RAM, file system type), and the StartMeStick’s attempt to boot on it. We use this data to diagnose issues preventing the StartMeStick from starting properly. This data is not personally identifiable. There is still no tracking of what you do.
How does the StartMeStick compare to my regular browser’s Private Browsing features, e.g. Incognito Mode?
Most modern web browsers contain a Private Browsing feature, e.g. Chrome’s Incognito Mode or Microsoft Edge’s InPrivate mode. The general principle common to each is the browser creates a new and temporary browsing session that is isolated from your regular session and all the profile specific user data within it.
The StartMeStick is like Private Browsing mode, but for your whole computer. Every time you use the StartMeStick it is a new and temporary session that is isolated from the rest of your computer and all its profile specific user data within it. When you shut down the StartMeStick nothing from that session is saved to your computer or to the StartMeStick. That’s what we mean by the StartMeStick goes back to brand new after each use.
The StartMeStick’s primary web browser, Chromium (an open source version of Google’s Chrome), supports Incognito Mode, i.e. you can use the StartMeStick, and use the browser in Incognito Mode. This is useful in cases where you want to login to your favorite websites in one Chromium window (e.g. gmail, facebook, etc...), and don’t want that profile and its data to be shared with each separate Chromium window, i.e. you want a private browsing session that is isolated from your regular session and that doesn’t save any of the data (e.g. cookies, history) after you close that window.
The StartMeStick also contains a link to download the Tor browser. The Tor browser provides the private browsing features described above plus a multi-hop VPN.
How am I affected if I sign in to sync Chromium?
If you sign in to Chromium to sync your profile data from your other computers where you use Chrome, you import all that profile and personal data into Chromium and into StartMeStick for that session. When you shut down the StartMeStick none of that data is saved on the StartMeStick, but depending on your Chrome sync settings, the data may be saved by Chrome. This is the purpose of Chrome sync, afterall. You can learn how to control what data Chrome syncs here.
Does the StartMeStick make me invisible (i.e. anonymous) on the Internet?
No, it does not. No one is truly invisible on the Internet, some just take steps to make themselves less visible than others. How less visible you want to be is a personal decision. The cost (financial cost, ease of use cost) tends to increase along with increasing levels of privacy. However, we’ve made the StartMeStick relatively inexpensive and very easy to use, and it provides a very good level of privacy.
What does a very good level of privacy mean?
It's private from mass surveillance, e.g. the systems used by companies and governments to collect then process our online activities en masse in order to drive our engagement and their profits, which we now understand has the nasty side effect of undermining our society.
It’s not private (or secure) from specific/dedicated attacks from skilled hackers against an individual, e.g. if you’re a government spy trying to hide your trail online, you should probably invest in something bigger than a StartMeStick.
Why not just lock down the Privacy Settings in Windows or MacOS?
We recommend that to everybody, whether they’re StartMeStick customers or not. The StartMeStick gets you further because in addition to its core privacy functionality, you no longer have to trust Microsoft/Apple and all the other programs installed to not track you.
Does the StartMeStick work on newer PC models with SecureBoot?
Yes. In fact, the StartMeStick is the only device of its kind that we’re aware of that works correctly on PCs with Secure Boot (essentially every PC purchased since 2012 has Secure Boot). In most cases, the StartMeStick does NOT require you to fiddle with UEFI settings, or, to turn off Secure Boot in order to boot your StartMeStick.
What if my computer’s hard drive is encrypted, like with Bitlocker?
Not a problem. The StartMeStick will work. Remember, the StartMeStick never touches your hard disk, so it doesn’t matter if your files are encrypted or not.
What if hackers insert malicious code into the open source?
Not much is impossible in computer security (or, security in any field), however, it is very improbable that a hacker could insert malicious code into the Linux operating system and that code ends up executing on a StartMeStick.
The StartMeStick is based on an extremely limited set of mainstream and mature open source files each of which has been digitally signed and used extensively by 1000s of government and commercial organizations.
What if my hardware has been compromised?
For example, your adversary swaps out your keyboard for an identical looking one that has malicious firmware and captures your passwords. The StartMeStick can’t protect you in this scenario (nothing can).
What if my computer’s firmware has been compromised?
For example, your adversary infects the program that boots the operating system (this is the scenario that Secure Boot aims to prevent.): The StartMeStick can’t protect you in this scenario (nothing can).
Can a StartMeStick become infected?
It is very, very, improbable (nothing is impossible in computer security, actually nothing in any field of security is impossible) that while using your StartMeStick it becomes infected with a malicious program, e.g. a computer virus. If you are ever concerned that your StartMeStick has somehow been compromised, you simply factory upgrade it from a known clean computer to get it back to its ‘fresh out of the box’ state.