This is my first project of this nature, and I am hoping this is a basic use case for PGP encryption. Please forgive my ignorance!

There is a server being configured by a service provider (SP). The SP is distributing files on their server. The files are going to be encrypted using PGP encryption. the SP requests for 1 PGP public key to be shared to their server. Bob and Alice are both users who will be tasked to retrieve files from the SP.

To do this, Bob creates a PGP key pair and shares the public PGP key with the SP. The SP can encrypt their files with the public PGP key created by Bob. Bob can then fetch the files for himself and decrypt them using his private PGP key.

My problem:

Alice also needs the ability to fetch files for herself and decrypt the files.

My question: What is the best way to configure a PGP encryption/decryption workflow where multiple users are receiving files that need to be decrypted??

What I have tried:

I have configured a PGP key pair using GPG4Win(Kleopatra). I am having trouble exporting the private key and importing it on another computer such that multiple users can have access to the same private key (thus allowing them to decrypt the files with the same private key). Any advice on a better approach to this problem would be greatly appreciated!

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    If the sender will only use one pubkey (even though PGP supports a message with multiple recipients using different keys), then yes exporting the private key (which for hysterical raisins PGP including GnuPG & Kleo calls 'secret') and importing it is the solution, and I have no trouble doing it. You must be doing something wrong, and there's no way to determine what, but two obvious possibilities are (1) using the export button in Kleo's shortcut bar, which does NOT do export-secret or (2) using a nonarmored file and copying it by a method that doesn't handle binary data. May 15, 2023 at 23:47
  • @dave_thompson_085 I was able to 'backup secret keys...' in the file dropdown. It was imported successfully in the other machine's instance of Kleopatra. Thank you! May 16, 2023 at 13:11
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    @dave_thompson_085: it might be a good idea to turn your comment into an answer, so that it can be accepted and the (now migrated) question has an accepted answer.
    – fgrieu
    May 16, 2023 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


Given the (unfortunate) requirement -- that the sender will encrypt to only one public key even though PGP allows multiple -- your idea was correct: export what cryptographers now call the private key but PGP labelled 'secret' before the current terminology distinguishing symmetric 'secret' from asymmetric 'private' was established, from one machine and import to the other.

But using the 'export' button on the shortcut bar of Kleopatra does not accomplish this; it only exports the public key, which is insufficient for decrypting. As you found, to export the 'secret' key you must use the File menu item 'Export Secret Keys' (as opposed to merely 'Export'). OTOH you can use plain 'Import' or the button for it, because the type of imported key(s) is determined from the contents of the file.

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