I've got a ton of processes running in the background to try and get enough entropy, but I am still failing.

**We need to generate a lot of random bytes. It is a good idea to perform
some other action (type on the keyboard, move the mouse, utilize the
disks) during the prime generation; this gives the random number
generator a better chance to gain enough entropy.
Not enough random bytes available.  Please do some other work to give
the OS a chance to collect more entropy! (Need 210 more bytes)**

I need a method to generate the key that works, cause what I'm trying to do is failing apparently.

up vote 94 down vote accepted

Have you had a look at RNG?

Fedora/Rh/Centos types: sudo yum install rng-tools

On deb types: sudo apt-get install rng-tools to set it up.

Then run sudo rngd -r /dev/urandom before generating the keys.

Reference: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/lim/how-to-generate-enough-entropy-for-gpg-key-generation-process-on-fedora-linux-38022

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    Also, on a more serious note, you can use sudo apt-get install rng-tools if you're on Ubuntu instead of sudo yum install rng-utils like they have for Fedora, since no rng-utils package exists for Ubuntu. – Jason Swett Jan 17 '11 at 17:50
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    The package is named rng-tools on both Fedora and EL6, so I suspect a typo in the linked article. BTW, it is a good idea to provide the essential parts of the answer here, and the link for reference, in case the link goes dead in the future. – Michael Hampton Dec 31 '12 at 2:40
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    There is no "low-quality entropy" or "fake entropy" in urandom. urandom calls the same code as /dev/random. There is no need to feed additional randomness into the CSPRNG (except at boottime, and there your distribution should take care of it). This is a myth and should not be propagated. See for example sockpuppet.org/blog/2014/02/25/safely-generate-random-numbers or this video: media.ccc.de/v/32c3-7441-the_plain_simple_reality_of_entropy – Sebastian Dec 30 '15 at 11:30
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    Most high voted comment is nonsense; unfortunately I see this a lot on SO. Warnings (even when completely wrong) will get a lot of votes and no way to correct them (no comment downvote option) means we can't get rid of the myths. – Stijn de Witt Jun 27 '17 at 8:04

I was able to generate the key by

apt-get install rng-tools

In another SSH window open

 gpg --gen-key

Go back to your first SSH session and run

sudo rngd -r /dev/urandom

Let this run till gpg generates your keys!

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    I would definitely recommend against ever using /dev/urandom for generating keys of any importance. – Andrew Barber Dec 21 '10 at 7:09
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    @AndrewBarber Nonsense. It is the recommended method. – David Schwartz May 25 '16 at 19:39
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    @AndrewBarber It's explicitly designed for that purpose. Basically, /dev/random is a design mistake. It should only ever block on first (ever) invocation (on first boot) when no entropy whatsoever was collected yet. Like it does on other OS. Instead we got two pools now. Just never use /dev/random it has no advantages. – Stijn de Witt Jun 27 '17 at 8:09
  • @AndrewBarber what would you recommend instead? – qodeninja 15 hours ago

To check the amount of bytes of entropy currently available, use

cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/entropy_avail

The entropy bucket is 4096 bytes large, which can very quickly be depleted.

Using this small 'readspeed' tool (http://1wt.eu/tools/readspeed/), you can measure how fast the entropy bucket is filled with different methods.

For example, launch :

$ ./readspeed < /dev/random

and move your mouse around. You will see that 'readspeed' empties the entropy bucket as soon as it is filled, and when you move the mouse, it fills up a bit.

Trying different methods, it seems that keyboard input and mouse movements are the most efficients to replenish that bucket. Network transfers and hard drive copies don't have much influence.

Finally, there are entropy generation devices available, such as this one: http://www.entropykey.co.uk/.

+1 for rng-tools

In case you are stuck in situation as I am - not having permissions to install new software (rng-tools) on a headless server with virtually no input hardware (sound card, keyboard, mouse) attached. You can run this simple code from another terminal connect to same server, to add to the entropy. It does not matters if you start running this before or after starting gpg --gen-key

$ nice -n 19 bash
$ until [ $COUNT -lt 1 ]; do
  let COUNT=`cat /proc/sys/kernel/random/entropy_avail`
  echo "`date` COUNTER $COUNT"

First line is to start a new bash shell, with lower priority (I needed to be nice on a server shared by many users). The until loop is infinite, so remember to break it once the key is generated. All it is doing is causing the network traffic to increase the entropy. It also monitors the entropy_avail counter to show how it gets filled and emptied on other side by gpg. In my case, the counter filled up quickly to 64 and got emptied back to 0 (guess gpg picks up in chunk of 64). I was waiting for 4096 bit key generation for over 3 hours on the server. After starting to run this script, it got finished in under 5 min.

I was bound and determined to generate entropy on my headless Ubuntu 14.04 server in order to generate a 4096 key with gpg --gen-key

There is a package for generating entropy called haveged. Example of install:

sudo apt-get install haveged

I had to sudo apt-get install rng-tools since it is a dependency in the following test.

Example of a test to see if entropy is generated by haveged:

cat /dev/random | rngtest -c 1000

A very small amount of failures is acceptable in any random number generator, but you can expect to see 998-1000 successes very often when using hovered.

I found out about it in a tutorial here:


I now have keys after running gpg --gen-key

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