gpg-agent "forgetting" keys when getting many parallel requests

Bence Ferdinandy bence at
Sun Mar 17 13:09:15 CET 2024

On Fri Mar 15, 2024 at 20:16, Bence Ferdinandy <bence at> wrote:
> Hi,
> I've been poking at this issue now for some time, and haven't been able to find
> any info regarding this in the man pages or online. 
> I'm running Regolith (basically Ubuntu with i3), and normally my gpg key is
> unlocked by me logging into the graphical session, i.e. using the key to
> decrypt something does not ask for a key. What I noticed though, is that if
> I want to decrypt multiple things in parallel, first the decryption process
> seems to slow down faster than linear, and then some (not all) decrypt tasks
> start prompting me for a password to the key. I've done a couple of
> experiments, and my feeling is that even though the decrypt task are run in
> parallel, something is done serially, but I'm not sure what and where exactly
> and that there is a timeout on waiting for this. My best bet, is that the
> password for the key needs to be fetched from the gnome keyring (? if it's
> called that) and that gpg-agent times out waiting for this and just requests it
> from the user.
> I made a short script in python (attached) demonstrating this. On my machine,
> setting WORKERNUM=7 is enough to trigger the issue.
> Could somebody point me to a resources explaining what is happening here? And
> more importantly, is there some setting I can change to avoid the occasional
> password prompts?

After looking at logs even more, I found that actually gpg-agent reports
running out of memory. Based on a discussion I found
(, I set `auto-expand-secmem 100M` in
gpg-agent.conf which seems to have resolved the issue even with 100 parallel
threads. I have no idea if this 100M is way too much or not, but I haven't
found any mentions of a downside to such a setting and it seems to work as
expected, so I'm happy for now.


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