When I generated my PGP key using GnuPG, I had saved the public key as an ASCII version and uploaded that to the server. Now I can see the key on the keyserver but they are different blocks of data.

I have a local copy of the above key obtained with gpg --export -a 33E0C879 > mypubkey.asc. The contents of mypubkey.asc and the content block on the server are different.

Is this by design? I am new to PKI and very curious to know.


2 Answers 2


There are lots of reasons for this.

  • Keyservers can modify the order of your keys, signatures, ... occuring without changing the meaning of the data
  • Lots of keyservers ommit picture UIDs
  • The keyserver could know more signatures on your key than your local keyring does

You may not compare the contents of the (binary|ascii armored) version of your exported key by comparing them directly, only reimport them and compare the output of eg. gnupg. Remember sorting is irrelevant.

  • 3
    Welcome to security.stackexchange.com. Thanks for jumping in with a solid answer. Jan 23, 2013 at 14:45

I'm not sure what your exact situation is from the level of detail provided, but a couple things could have happened. If the fingerprint is still the same, then it is simply a formatting change and is probably a normal part of the operation of the server simply making the format conform to what it prefers to work with. It's also possible something could have gone wrong in the upload if the fingerprint has changed.

  • If the fingerprint is the same, then the contents are meaningfully the same. It's just a formatting thing and isn't something to worry about. There are many different formats that certificates and public keys can be exchanged in. It's not at all abnormal for a server to accept multiple formats and then only output one standard format. Jan 23, 2013 at 14:15
  • the fingerprints on both the cases are same but version might be a problem server key block starts with -----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- Version: SKS 1.1.4 Comment: Hostname: keyserver2.canonical.com and the one on my local machine is -----BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK----- Version: GnuPG v1.4.10 (GNU/Linux) Jan 23, 2013 at 14:16
  • 1
    @hiteshradia - that is the version of the software building the key. This basically confirms they are doing what I expected. They took your key as provided, imported it to SKS 1.1.4 and then exported it in their desired format. It's simply a different format of the same information. Shouldn't be any problem at all. It won't impact the actual way that information is encrypted or the way signatures are verified. Jan 23, 2013 at 14:23

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