Signing up a new user


Before you sign up, make sure you have read the Upspin overview document. It introduces the concepts and terminology you’ll need to understand to use the system.

You will need to choose an Upspin username, which is just an email address you own. Your username is how the Upspin system and its users will identify you and your files. Note that your chosen username will become a matter of public record in our key server log.

Next you need to decide whether you are going to deploy your own Upspin directory and store servers, or use those maintained by someone else.

While it is not too hard to deploy one’s own servers, it is an involved process that is documented in Setting up upspinserver. If you can use an existing service, that will save you some time and trouble.

Note that there is no need for the email address and Upspin servers to be in the same domain.

Once you have resolved these matters, you should know what your username will be and also know the network addresses of the directory and store servers you will be using.

For the rest of this document we will assume the username and the directory and store servers and Naturally you should substitute your own values for these items in the instructions below.

Install the Upspin commands

Upspin is written in Go, so the first step is to install the Go tool chain. You will need Go version 1.8 or later. You can get it from

Once you have Go installed, Upspin can be fetched by running, in a terminal, the command

$ go get -u

This will install all the libraries, plus tools such as the upspin command that provides a command-line interface to create, access, share, and administer data stored in Upspin. If you are on a Unix system, it will also install the upspinfs program, which uses FUSE to connect the Upspin name space to your local file tree.

Generating keys and registering your identity

Upspin’s security model is based on public key encryption, in which each Upspin user has a pair of keys called the public and private keys. The public key is registered with the public key server and is available to everyone, while the private key is kept in secret by the user, such as on a local workstation or other private device.

To register your details with the key server takes two steps.

First, the upspin signup command generates a key pair, saves it locally, and sends the user details and the public key to the key server. It also creates a local copy of the information called a “config” file that it stores in a local directory, typically $HOME/upspin. Config files are discussed in detail in Upspin configuration. You should read that document to see how to set up your Upspin environment, including things like local caches.

The second step is to receive an email message from the key server and to click the confirmation link that it contains. Visiting that link proves to the key server that you control the email address that you are registering and completes the signup process.

You may use your regular email address or an Upspin-specific one; either way is fine. The address is published in key server logs as well as in any Upspin path name you share, so be sure your email account has whatever spam, anonymity, or other protection you feel is necessary.

No email will be sent to the address after this signup step. All future Upspin operations, even updating later to a new key pair, will be validated exclusively with the key pair generated during signup. Someone with future access to your email can’t masquerade as you in Upspin. Conversely, if you lose your keys your email account is not useful for recovery.

Here is the first step in more detail. Run this shell command, substituting your email address and directory and store servers:

$ upspin signup

Or, if the directory and store servers run on the same host, specify that host name with the -server flag:

$ upspin signup

The output of the command will look like this:

Configuration file written to:

Upspin private/public key pair written to:
This key pair provides access to your Upspin identity and data.
If you lose the keys you can re-create them by running this command:
  upspin keygen -secretseed dukir-mokin-dunaz-vanog.sufus-bavab-sidiz-fufar
Write this command down and store it in a secure, private place.
Do not share your private key or this command with anyone.

A signup email has been sent to "",
please read it for further instructions.

The output is self-explanatory. Its key points are that it has written a config file for you, created your keys, and output the instructions to recover your keys if you lose them one day. Finally it prints the mail to send to tell the Upspin key server about you. Please read it carefully.

As it says, you need to wait for an email message from the key server to proceed. The message contains a link. Clicking that link proves to the key server that you own the email address, and the key server will provide a copy of your public key to any Upspin user that requests it. (Your public key is needed for securing and sharing Upspin files, and it’s safe to share.)

Pay attention to the text in the output about remembering your “secret seed”. It provides a way to regenerate your keys if you lose them.

Note: If used interactively with a shell that keeps a command history, using keygen with the -secretseed option may cause the secret to be saved in the history file. If so, the history file should be cleared after running keygen.

Creating your Upspin directory

Once you are registered in the key server, the next step is to create a directory that will host your Upspin tree. This will of course be done in the directory server you have registered.

If you are planning to run your own Upspin directory and store servers, you must deploy them now, once you are registered with the key server. See Setting up upspinserver for instructions to do that.

If you are planning to join an existing Upspin directory and store server, ask the administrator to add your username to the store’s Writers group. (They’ll know what to do.) This will grant you permission to create your tree in that directory and store data in that store server.

With the servers running and granting you access permission, and with your correct information registered in the key server, all you need to do to get started is create a user root, which is just a “make directory” command using the upspin tool:

$ upspin mkdir

Once this is done, the existence of your directory and store servers is largely invisible. All your Upspin work will be based on your user name, which we have here as

Hello, world

To prove that your Upspin tree was created successfully, try copying a file to the system. The most direct way is to use the upspin cp command:

$ upspin cp hello.jpg

Then, to check that everything worked, copy it back and verify its contents:

$ upspin cp ciao.jpg
$ sum hello.jpg ciao.jpg
1600 21 hello.jpg
1600 21 ciao.jpg

The upspin command has many other subcommands. Run

$ upspin -help

for a list. Each subcommand also has help:

$ upspin cp -help

Although the upspin command supports all the functionality of the system, for smoother operation you’ll want to install the FUSE daemon, upspinfs, and a cache server that improves performance. The cache server is particularly important, and the setup instructions are in the Upspin configuration document.

For details about upspinfs, run

$ go doc upspinfs

TODO: There should be more about upspinfs.