Inability to export and then import my secret key

Peter Lebbing peter at
Wed Aug 12 11:58:58 CEST 2015

On 12/08/15 04:00, Mirimir wrote:
> It's simplest to just copy the gpg folder. Importing private keys is
> broken by design.

I don't think I agree with either statement. Copying the folder comes
with its own caveats: don't copy random_seed, and you might not want two
identical installations with regard to present private keys and such.

And "broken by design" implies to me that GnuPG doesn't *want* to
support merging secret keys; which would be odd given that the latest
version, GnuPG 2.1, does support it. I also can't remember ever hearing
a reason why it would be bad.

Anyway, the reason I think Bryant is seeing this issue, is that GnuPG
1.4 and 2.0 don't support merging new things into existing secret keys.
I suppose the key already existed on the other system but you added new
subkeys and are trying to import those?

If you can get the up-to-date system (sys1) to export the secret key as
you want it to be on the other computer (sys2), it boils down to:

sys1 $ gpg2 -o sec.gpg --export-secret-keys 1C0B95E5
[copy sec.gpg to sys2]
sys2 $ gpg2 -o sec_backup.gpg --export-secret-keys 1C0B95E5
sys2 $ gpg2 --delete-secret-keys 1C0B95E5
sys2 $ gpg2 --import sec.gpg

Now check if everything is okay on sys2, and if so, you can delete

I think this should be safe, since you keep a backup of the local copy
until you are sure the deletion didn't delete unintended stuff.



I use the GNU Privacy Guard (GnuPG) in combination with Enigmail.
You can send me encrypted mail if you want some privacy.
My key is available at <>

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