How to Import a PGP Key for Mac OS X

by Randall Blackburn

If you need to import a PGP key, you have likely received or will soon receive an encrypted message from the sender of the key. To decrypt and read the message, you must first import the key to your Mac. To accomplish the task, you need the GPG Tools for Mac application installed on the computer. The Gnu PG application is the encryption program included in the tool set that is used to generate and store PGP keys on Macs with OS X. Once the software is installed, you can import the key and decrypt messages from the sender. You can also generate your own key to send encrypted messages to recipients.

The PGP Key

The Pretty Good Privacy encryption protocol enables you to send and receive encrypted emails between you and other individuals. PGP keys are exchanged between senders and recipients to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data in messages. The PGP key is a block of ASCII characters that must be provided to you by the sender, often in a text file. If you have received a PGP key, import the sender’s PGP key to open and decrypt his encrypted messages. Provide your key to him in a text file to so you can send back encrypted replies.

GPG Tools for Mac

Download the free, open source GPG Tools software for Mac from the GPG Tools site (see Resources). Install the application to the Mac. The application installs as a plug-in for your email client. Close, then reopen your email application after you install GPG Tools. After you install the program, the OpenGPG toolbar displays in your email client.

Import Key

To import a PGP key, first open the GPG Tools for Mac application, then open the text file or message containing the PGP key. Drag and drop the key file in the GPG Tools window. You can also highlight, then select the characters in the key and drag and drop them in the window. The key block starts just after the text “BEGIN PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK.”

Export Key

To send encrypted messages to your recipients, first provide them with your PGP key. Generate your key by exporting the key from GPG Tools for Mac. Open the application, then click “File.” Click “Export” to generate the key block. Provide your recipients with the key so they can import your key and decrypt your messages.

About the Author

Randall Blackburn has worked for several Fortune 1000 companies as a technical writer over the past seven years. He has produced a wide variety of technical documentation, including detailed programming specifications and research papers. Randall has also acquired several years' experience writing web content. Randall lives and works in Austin, TX.

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