Of course, you can download Tor yourself for free, use it to surf anonymously from inside Windows, and save yourself $60 to $130, depending on which version of NinjaStik you choose. But there are a few downsides to this. One is you have to be a bit geekier than most (though, frankly, using NinjaStik is also pretty geeky). Another is that it’s still possible for other apps on your computer to grab your IP address even while running Tor.
But the biggest reason is using Tor under Windows c a n b e p a i n f u l l y s l o w. Facebook pages take 30 to 45 seconds to load using Tor, versus about 5 to 10 seconds without it. Google searches take an eon. Running Tor on the NinjaStik is also slower than running without it, but not enough to be painful.
Now for the downside (you knew there would be one, right?). Using NinjaStik is nowhere near as convenient as surfing the Web normally. You’ll have to tell your computer to boot from the USB drive, and run everything off of Linux. Though you can access files stored on your computer’s hard drive, and even read documents and view images, you won’t be able to run any of your usual Windows or Mac software until you remove the drive and reboot. And you'll only gain the benefit of encrypted email if your recipients are also using PGP-based encryption software. In other words, you’ll need a pretty good reason to go dark.
I asked NinjaStik creator Jeremy Elliott why anyone would bother to go to this kind of trouble. His explanation:
I've had a lot of opportunity to explain to people that the NinjaStik is about choosing when you wish to be private. I don't believe that it is necessary to keep 100% of your online activity private - I have Gmail, Facebook, Twitter etc and use them every day, even when I'm not wearing my tinfoil hat. But I also think we should have the ability to be private when we want to.
One of my customers a few months back was preparing to divorce their spouse, who happened to be a computer specialist and a network admin. The customer wanted the NinjaStik to be sure that the soon to be ex was not spying or had not hacked their laptop to record everything.
You could use the NinjaStik for just about anything - even if it is just buying Christmas presents for your family without worrying that they will find the purchases on the family PC.