I work in a enterprise environment and I often hear the use of the "Windows Key Store" to store various keys including symmetric. I do understand there is a "Windows Certificate Store" which as the name suggests stores certificates and can be accessed under MMC.

1) Is there a difference between the WKS and WCS?

2) Where is the Windows Key Store and how can it be used by applications to store symmetric keys and get them programmatically upon usage?

3) Any useful walkthroughs or online documents that may shed some light on the above?


1 Answer 1


Key store is used for private keys. Those can be used for applications that use cryptography features such as public or private key encryption.

These types of keys are supported:

  • Diffie-Hellman public and private keys
  • Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA, FIPS 186-2) public and private keys
  • Elliptic Curve Cryptography public and private keys
  • RSA (PKCS #1) public and private keys
  • Several legacy (CryptoAPI) public and private keys

Certificate Stores is a storage location that stores certificates locally on the computer. It can store:

  • Local Machine and Current User Certificate Stores (local to a user account on the computer)
  • Trusted Publishers Certificate Store (Authenticode (signing) certificates of trusted publishers that are installed on a computer)
  • Trusted Root Certification Authorities Certificate Store

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