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I am learning how to use GPG keys, and I am wondering what is the threshold people generally use to maintain separate GPG keys. Maintaining an incredibly large number of keys is not good since it makes it difficult to be trusted by others. On the other hand, my feeling is, maintaining a single key may not be able to keep separate things separate.

How many keys are okay? How many are too much?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 22 down vote accepted

In general, one key per identity should be fine.

One key can include:

  • Several UIDs (for separate mail addresses, ...)
  • Several subkeys (for different devices, so you can put some subkey on your mobile, if it gets lost, revoke only this)

Advantages:

  • Less hassle when signing keys, interacting with keyservers, cross signing your keys
  • Less hassle maintaining your keys including moving to other computers, revocation certificates, ...
  • Less hassle when actually using it
  • Less pollution: If somebody whats to use your public key, it's easier to find the correct one as they're grouped in a semantic way. Imagine looking for a person's name and finding a dozen keys for all his different addresses in use, which to use for encryption?

On having multiple keys anyway

If you want to manage multiple IDs which shall not be connected directly (I can imagine a personal one, one at your employer, one for stuff which may not contain your real name - I think of governmental pressure, ...), feel of course free to use multiple primary keys.


I strongly recommend Debian's document on subkeys for further reading.

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Thank You for Your Answer. The subkey suggestion is really a good help. –  Jayesh Badwaik Jan 29 '13 at 12:32

How many keys are okay? How many are too much?

You only need multiple keys if you want to have multiple disconnected identities. Identities are signed and a key may have multiple identities on it. Thus, you could have one key with all the identities that you wish to lay claim to.

Equally, you can create as many keys as you want to have disconnected identities It's entirely a personal matter as to how many you feel will be appropriate and personally manageable.

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