I have a public PGP key of a recipient and I want to send an encrypted e-mail to them with Thunderbird. I don't have a PGP key pair myself. Is it possible to encrypt and send this e-mail with Thunderbird?

I can't find a way. If it's not possible, why not? I searched the Internet and found out, that PGP encryption doesn't require my PGP key. I've read that my own public key is used to encrypt the e-mail to store it in the Sent folder. I know that I need my own private key to sign the e-mail and following questions suggests that encrypted e-mails are automatically signed for security

Can't I somehow disable this to make it possible to encrypt and send an encrypted (not signed) e-mail without having my own PGP key?

Technically, it's possible to manually encrypt a message using only the recipient's public key, send the encrypted message with Thunderbird and decrypt the received message using the recipient's private key. There is only the recipient's key pair involved. Why does Thunderbird not support this?

  • No. If you want to use pgp you need your own public and private key. Thats the whole point of pgp.
    – Nifle
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:26
  • @Nifle Why do I need my own key pair for encryption? It's not used in the encryption process. You can use a tool like igolder.com/pgp/encryption It only requires the recipient's public key. That's a proof that it's technically not necessary to have an own key pair to use PGP encryption. Why does Thunderbird require it? I can send a PGP encrypted e-mail without having my own PGP key pair by manually encrypting and sending the message, but why can't Thunderbird do this for me?
    – jabaa
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:27
  • It seems I was wrong. pgp uses a generated session key. Unfortunatly noone but mozilla knows why it does not work.
    – Nifle
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:40
  • @Nifle I was hoping for an answer like: "You can disable the copy of the sent e-mails and then you don't need your own key pair" but "It's not possible, because Mozilla made this decision" can be a correct answer.
    – jabaa
    Dec 9, 2021 at 12:44
  • 1
    One workaround is to create a temporary key pair as your key, send the email, then destroy the temporary key pair. Theoretically, that's about the same as using only recipient's pubkey: you have encryption while maintaining deniability of the message, and the chance that the sender's key gets exposed is extremely low after a careful destruction.
    – Boson Bear
    Feb 15, 2022 at 8:25

1 Answer 1


If you definitely do not want your own Key you could use something like Kleopatra. Its a PGP software. There you can click on notepad, write something, then click on recipient and uncheck every box, except the "encrypt for others", then encrypt it. Now copy the raw PGP output into Thunderbird and send it. This is a workaround because its not possible in Thunderbird itself.

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