What is the StartMeStick?
The StartMeStick revives old computers with its fast, private, and secure operating system on a stick.
Plug it into a computer that is not functioning as expected, PC or Mac, and it turns it into a fast, secure, and private one for everything you do online.
Pull it out and use it on as many computers as you wish.
How is a StartMeStick different from a FixMeStick®?
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. Send us an email or a chat message and we will provide a discount on a new, replacement 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.
My techie friend says he can make essentially the same thing as a StartMeStick for free, is this true?
Some techies and other companies may be able to create a bootable operating system using open source software, however, there is nothing like the StartMeStick available for free. The StartMeStick is far easier to use and includes:
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.
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.
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.
Further, you can add a VPN 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.
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.