Tech Tip: Encrypt Files with GPG


Encrypting files from the command line is simple with gpg. You can use it to encrypt and decrypt files with a password.

The command gpg is part of GnuPG. GnuPG stands for GNU Privacy Guard and is GNU's tool for secure communication and data storage. It can be used to encrypt data and to create digital signatures. It also includes an advanced key management facility. GnuPG works on Linux and UNIX like operating systems as well as for Windows and Mac OS X.

To encrypt a single file, use the -c command line option with gpg. For example, to encrypt the file, use the command:

$ gpg -c
Enter passphrase: YOUR-PASSWORD
Repeat passphrase: YOUR-PASSWORD

This will create the file Note that the original file is not deleted, so once you feel safe encrypting and decrypting files, you probably want to delete your unencrypted versions of the files. Also note that depending on your system's configuration, gpg may ask for passphrases in pop-up windows rather than at the command line.

The -c option tells gpg to encrypt with a symmetric cipher. Caution: don't forget your passphrase (password), there is no way to recover data with out the passphrase.

To decrypt the file, use the command:

$ gpg
gpg: CAST5 encrypted data
Enter passphrase: YOUR-PASSWORD

If you want to write the output to a different file, use the -o command line option:

$ gpg –o 

If you'd rather have a "text" file, rather than a binary file, use the -a option to gpg:

$ gpg -c -a
Enter passphrase: YOUR-PASSWORD
Repeat passphrase: YOUR-PASSWORD

This will create the file rather than



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

GnuPG v2

Maxim .'s picture

You could also use gpg2 with the same command line options.

open GPG files with vim

Anonymous's picture

Vim plugin for transparent editing of gpg encrypted files:

I use this a lot for my passwords. It's also a perfect way of sharing password-files with colleagues: you add various "recipients" to the gpg-file - it will then be encrypted with the keys of all recipients. You can then put the file in a SVN repository you use together with your colleagues.

Adding recipients

Anonymous's picture

At my last place of employment, this is exactly what we did with sensitive information. It allowed us to put it where we could easily access it if it were lost on our computer, but did not allow prying eyes to see something they shouldn't.

One Click, Universal Protection: Implementing Centralized Security Policies on Linux Systems

As Linux continues to play an ever increasing role in corporate data centers and institutions, ensuring the integrity and protection of these systems must be a priority. With 60% of the world's websites and an increasing share of organization's mission-critical workloads running on Linux, failing to stop malware and other advanced threats on Linux can increasingly impact an organization's reputation and bottom line.

Learn More

Sponsored by Bit9

Linux Backup and Recovery Webinar

Most companies incorporate backup procedures for critical data, which can be restored quickly if a loss occurs. However, fewer companies are prepared for catastrophic system failures, in which they lose all data, the entire operating system, applications, settings, patches and more, reducing their system(s) to “bare metal.” After all, before data can be restored to a system, there must be a system to restore it to.

In this one hour webinar, learn how to enhance your existing backup strategies for better disaster recovery preparedness using Storix System Backup Administrator (SBAdmin), a highly flexible bare-metal recovery solution for UNIX and Linux systems.

Learn More

Sponsored by Storix