cryptsetup - setup cryptographic volumes for dm-crypt (including LUKS extension)


cryptsetup <options> <action> <action args>


cryptsetup is used to conveniently setup dm-crypt managed device-mapper mappings. For basic dm-crypt mappings, there are five operations.


These strings are valid for <action>, followed by their <action args>:

create <name> <device>
creates a mapping with <name> backed by device <device>. <options> can be [--hash, --cipher, --verify-passphrase, --key-file, --key-size, --offset, --skip, --readonly]
remove <name>
removes an existing mapping <name>. No options.
status <name>
reports the status for the mapping <name>. No options.
resize <name>
resizes an active mapping <name>. <options> must include --size


LUKS, Linux Unified Key Setup, is a standard for hard disk encryption. It standardizes a partition header, as well as the format of the bulk data. LUKS can manage multiple passwords, that can be revoked effectively and that are protected against dictionary attacks with PBKDF2.

These are valid LUKS actions:

luksFormat <device> [<key file>]
initializes a LUKS partition and sets the initial key, either via prompting or via <key file>. <options> can be [--cipher, --verify-passphrase, --key-size, --key-slot].
luksOpen <device> <name>
opens the LUKS partition <device> and sets up a mapping <name> after successful verification of the supplied key material (either via key file by --key-file, or via prompting). <options> can be [--key-file, --readonly].
luksClose <name>
identical to remove.
luksAddKey <device> [<new key file>]
add a new key file/passphrase. An existing passphrase or key file (via --key-file) must be supplied. The key file with the new material is supplied as a positional argument. <options> can be [--key-file, --key-slot].
luksRemoveKey <device> [<key file>]
remove supplied key or key file from LUKS device
luksKillSlot <device> <key slot number>
wipe key with number <key slot> from LUKS device. A remaining passphrase or key file (via --key-file) must be supplied. <options> can be [--key-file].
luksDelKey <device> <key slot number>
identical to luksKillSlot, but deprecated action name.
luksUUID <device>
print UUID, if <device> has a LUKS header. No options.
isLuks <device>
returns true, if <device> is a LUKS partition. Otherwise, false. No options.
luksDump <device>
dumps the header information of a LUKS partition. No options.

For more information about LUKS, see


--hash, -h
 specifies hash to use for password hashing. This option is only relevant for create action. The hash string is passed to libgcrypt, so all hashes accepted by gcrypt are supported. Default is "ripemd160".
--cipher, -c
 set cipher specification string. For plain dm-crypt mappings, the default is "aes-cbc-plain", for LUKS mappings it’s "aes-cbc-essiv:sha256". For pre-2.6.10 kernels, use "aes-plain" as they don’t understand the new cipher spec strings. To use ESSIV, use "aes-cbc-essiv:sha256".

For XTS mode, kernel version 2.6.24 or more recent is required. Use "aes-xts-plain" cipher specification and set key size to 256 (or 512) bits (see -s option).

--verify-passphrase, -y
 query for passwords twice. Useful when creating a (regular) mapping for the first time, or when running luksFormat.
--key-file, -d
 use file as key material. With LUKS, key material supplied in key files via -d are always used for existing passphrases. If you want to set a new key via a key file, you have to use a positional arg to luksFormat or luksAddKey.

If the key file is "-", stdin will be used. This is different from how cryptsetup usually reads from stdin. See section NOTES ON PASSWORD PROCESSING for more information.

--key-slot, -S
 For LUKS operations that add key material, this options allows to you specify which key slot is selected for the new key. This option can be used for luksFormat and luksAddKey.
--key-size, -s
 set key size in bits. Has to be a multiple of 8 bits. The key size is limited by the used cipher. See output of /proc/crypto for more information. Can be used for create or luksFormat, all other LUKS actions will ignore this flag, as the key-size is specified by the partition header. Default is 128 for luksFormat and 256 for create.
--size, -b
 force the size of the underlying device in sectors. This option is only relevant for create and resize action.
--offset, -o
 start offset in the backend device. This option is only relevant for create action.
--skip, -p
 how many sectors of the encrypted data to skip at the beginning. This is different from the --offset options with respect to IV calculations. Using --offset will shift the IV calculation by the same negative amount. Hence, if --offset n, sector n will be the first sector on the mapping with IV 0. Using --skip would have resulted in sector n being the first sector also, but with IV n. This option is only relevant for create action.
 set up a read-only mapping.
--iter-time, -i
 The number of milliseconds to spend with PBKDF2 password processing. This option is only relevant to the LUKS operations as luksFormat or luksAddKey.
--batch-mode, -q
 Do not ask for confirmation. Use with care! This option is only relevant for luksFormat,luksAddKey,luksRemoveKey or luksKillSlot.
--timeout, -t
 The number of seconds to wait before timeout. This option is relevant every time a password is asked, like create, luksOpen, luksFormat or luksAddKey. It has no effect if used in conjunction with --key-file.
--tries, -T
 How often the input of the passphrase shall be retried. This option is relevant every time a password is asked, like create, luksOpen, luksFormat or luksAddKey. The default is 3 tries.
 Align payload at a boundary of value 512-byte sectors. This option is relevant for luksFormat. If your block device lives on a RAID, it is useful to align the filesystem at full stripe boundaries so it can take advantage of the RAID’s geometry. See for instance the sunit and swidth options in the mkfs.xfs manual page. By default, the payload is aligned at an 8 sector (4096 byte) boundary.
 Show the version.


From a file descriptor or a terminal: Password processing is new-line sensitive, meaning the reading will stop after encountering \n. It will process the read material (without newline) with the default hash or the hash given by --hash. After hashing, it will be cropped to the key size given by -s.

From stdin: Reading will continue until EOF (so using e.g. /dev/random as stdin will not work), with the trailing newline stripped. After that the read data will be hashed with the default hash or the hash given by --hash and the result will be cropped to the keysize given by -s. If "plain" is used as an argument to the hash option, the input data will not be hashed. Instead, it will be zero padded (if shorter than the keysize) or truncated (if longer than the keysize) and used directly as the key. No warning will be given if the amount of data read from stdin is less than the keysize.

From a key file: It will be cropped to the size given by -s. If there is insufficient key material in the key file, cryptsetup will quit with an error.

If --key-file=- is used for reading the key from stdin, no trailing newline is stripped from the input. Without that option, cryptsetup strips trailing newlines from stdin input.


LUKS uses PBKDF2 to protect against dictionary attacks (see RFC 2898). LUKS will always use SHA1 in HMAC mode, and no other mode is supported at the moment. Hence, -h is ignored.

LUKS will always do an exhaustive password reading. Hence, password can not be read from /dev/random, /dev/zero or any other stream that does not terminate.

LUKS saves the processing options when a password is set to the respective key slot. Therefore, no options can be given to luksOpen. For any password creation action (luksAddKey, or luksFormat), the user may specify how much the time the password processing should consume. Increasing the time will lead to a more secure password, but also will take luksOpen longer to complete. The default setting of one second is sufficient for good security.


Mathematics can’t be bribed. Make sure you keep your passwords safe. There are a few nice tricks for constructing a fallback, when suddenly out of (or after being) blue, your brain refuses to cooperate. These fallbacks are possible with LUKS, as it’s only possible with LUKS to have multiple passwords.


cryptsetup is written by Christophe Saout <> LUKS extensions, and man page by Clemens Fruhwirth <>


To read images created with SuSE Linux 9.2’s loop_fish2 use --cipher twofish-cbc-null -s 256 -h sha512, for images created with even older SuSE Linux use --cipher twofish-cbc-null -s 192 -h ripemd160:20


reload <name> <device>
modifies an active mapping <name>. Same options as for create. WARNING: Do not use this for LUKS devices, as the semantics are identical to the create action, which are totally incompatible with the LUKS key setup.

This action is deprected because it proved to be rarely useful. It is uncommon to change the underlying device, key, or offset on the fly. In case, you really want to do this, you certainly know what you are doing and then you are probably better off with the swiss knive tool for device mapper, namely dmsetup. It provides you with the same functionality, see dmsetup reload.

luksDelKey <device> <key slot number>
identical to luksKillSlot, but deprecated action name. This option was renamed, as we introduced luksRemoveKey, a softer method for disabling password slots. To make a clear distinction that luksDelKey was more brutal than luksRemoveKey


Report bugs to <>.


Copyright © 2004 Christophe Saout Copyright © 2004-2006 Clemens Fruhwirth

This is free software; see the source for copying conditions. There is NO warranty; not even for MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.


dm-crypt website,

LUKS website,

dm-crypt TWiki,

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