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I have made a keypair for my email address using gnupg. I thought that I should probably keep a backup of it so that if I lose my desktop computer I can continue using the same key.

Is this the correct thinking?

How can I export my private key / the whole pair?

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Have you tried:

gpg --export-secret-key

That should do it. You might have to give the id of the key you want to export. And maybe also provide --armor if you want it in nice ASCII.

You don't need the public key because the public key can always be trivially generated from the private key.

Keeping a backup is likely a wise idea. I also tend to generate a revocation signature (the --gen-revoke option) that I don't publish and keep that backed up too, often in a separate place. This allows me to revoke the key if I lose it or it becomes compromised in some other way.

I strongly recommend you you keep the key backup offline.

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