Trying to generate a key for a server.

gpg --gen-key

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.

and it just hangs there.

There is another error:

can't connect to `/root/.gnupg/S.gpg-agent': No such file or directory

which seems to go away after:

gpg-agent --daemon
GPG_AGENT_INFO=/tmp/gpg-4c5hyT/S.gpg-agent:1397:1; export GPG_AGENT_INFO;

#GPG_AGENT_INFO=/tmp/gpg-4c5hyT/S.gpg-agent:1397:1; export GPG_AGENT_INFO;
gpg --gen-key

but again, it hangs at "...gain enough entropy".

There are no "++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++"'s which from forum posts looks like should be expected as the key is generated.

I have tried reinstalling the package, but seemingly everything depends on gpg.

I've read other people having problems with this on centos 6 too (whereas centos 5 works fine).

There is nothing remarkable in /var/log/*.

Any ideas on where to go from here?


  • rng-tools is only a solution if you have an HSM, answers which recommend this will fail on systems without this. You will see a message like: Starting Hardware RNG entropy gatherer daemon: (Hardware RNG device inode not found) – JohnErinthen Oct 14 '17 at 11:01

When the gpg --gen-key command hangs like this, log in to another shell and perform the following command:

dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/zero

(This command basically reads from your hard drive and discards the output, because writing to /dev/zero will do nothing.)

After a few seconds / minutes, the key generation command should complete.

  • 2
    Awesome. Thank you. I can't believe I missed that part of the manual :/ – stormdrain Jan 22 '13 at 15:59
  • 2
    It would be a much better idea to grab different entropy each time. If you're system is constantly running out of entropy then something is terribly wrong with your configuration or you're using up entropy very quickly (to the point where you should have a hardware RNG). If you need more entropy on a regular basis there are valid places to simply download more, like Humboldt-Universität's Quantum RNG. – Chris S Jan 23 '13 at 16:38
  • 17
    I actually tried this, but since I didn't have root I couldn't access /dev/sda directly. What worked for me instead was find / | xargs file – carl.anderson Mar 15 '16 at 22:09
  • 2
    I was more comfortable running find / | xargs file instead of dd if=/dev/sda of=/dev/zero and after a minute it was done. Thanks! – Lea Oct 16 '16 at 7:10
  • 1
    Do you mean of=/dev/null? – maxschlepzig Feb 14 '17 at 16:51

For a more reliable solution you could install random number generator related utilities, which will make sure that you always have enough random bytes.

yum install rng-tools

and then edit /etc/sysconfig/rngd and add EXTRAOPTIONS="-r /dev/random"

Start the service

 service rngd start

Voila and you live happily ever after :)

  • 5
    If you don't want to start the service, you can simply run rngd -r /dev/random as root once rng-tools is installed. Your key generation will take off immediately. – davidjb May 7 '15 at 12:23
  • 2
    But that itself doesn't generate entropy. – Otheus Sep 19 '16 at 14:18

Both comments given before are perfectly fine. But here is just my 2 cents.

The problem with RHEL/centos 6 and entropy is that they are tickless kernels. So, by themselves, these kernels don't generate enough entropy. You have to get some keyboard attached or even some mouse movement or use dd as mentioned.

rngd daemon is awesome and most commercial entities use it.

However, the best approach I have seen is use of dedicated TPM device. They are small hardware which are quite expensive. You put them and rngd utilizes random true entropy from the hardware source. As far as I know, Fujitsu has some good TPM device.

Yeah, these three methods pretty much cover the entropy part.

  • Very interesting. Thank you. As I mentioned to Chris, I will have access to an HSM soon which comes with an RNG. – stormdrain Jan 23 '13 at 17:22

Twist on other responses but at least one liner and not root.

((find / | xargs file) &> /dev/null &); gpg2 --gen-key --batch --passphrase-file output-key.txt key-gen-options.txt

Key-gen-options contains

Key-Type: 1
Key-Length: 2048
Subkey-Type: 1
Subkey-Length: 2048
Name-Real: myuser
Name-Email: myuser@email.com
Expire-Date: 0

Output-key.txt contains my super secret key.



Open a ssh session sudo 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!

Then you can kill rngd sudo kill -9 $(pidof rngd)


EXTRAOPTIONS="-r /dev/urandom" worked for me instead of EXTRAOPTIONS="-r /dev/random"


How I did it:

  1. pacman -S community/rng-tools
  2. vim /etc/conf.d/rngd to add RNGD_OPTS="-r /dev/urandom"
  3. systemctl enable --now rngd
  4. gpg-agent --daemon
  5. gpg --full-gen-key

Worked even when $GNUPGHOME is set to point to a custom directory.

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