The pwhash* API

Sodium provides an API that can be used both for key derivation using a low-entropy input, and for password storage.

Example 1: key derivation

#define PASSWORD "Correct Horse Battery Staple"
#define KEY_LEN crypto_box_SEEDBYTES
unsigned char salt[crypto_pwhash_SALTBYTES];
unsigned char key[KEY_LEN];
randombytes_buf(salt, sizeof salt);
if (crypto_pwhash
(key, sizeof key, PASSWORD, strlen(PASSWORD), salt,
crypto_pwhash_ALG_DEFAULT) != 0) {
/* out of memory */

Example 2: password storage

#define PASSWORD "Correct Horse Battery Staple"
char hashed_password[crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES];
if (crypto_pwhash_str
(hashed_password, PASSWORD, strlen(PASSWORD),
crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_SENSITIVE, crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_SENSITIVE) != 0) {
/* out of memory */
if (crypto_pwhash_str_verify
(hashed_password, PASSWORD, strlen(PASSWORD)) != 0) {
/* wrong password */

Key derivation

int crypto_pwhash(unsigned char * const out,
unsigned long long outlen,
const char * const passwd,
unsigned long long passwdlen,
const unsigned char * const salt,
unsigned long long opslimit,
size_t memlimit, int alg);

The crypto_pwhash() function derives an outlen bytes long key from a password passwd whose length is passwdlen and a salt salt whose fixed length is crypto_pwhash_SALTBYTES bytes. passwdlen should be at least crypto_pwhash_PASSWD_MIN and crypto_pwhash_PASSWD_MAX. outlen should be at least crypto_pwhash_BYTES_MIN = 16 (128 bits) and at most crypto_pwhash_BYTES_MAX.

The computed key is stored into out, representing the address of a dedicated storage area of outlen bytes.

opslimit represents a maximum amount of computations to perform. Raising this number will make the function require more CPU cycles to compute a key. This number must be between crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MIN and crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MAX.

memlimit is the maximum amount of RAM that the function will use, in bytes. This number must be between crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MIN and crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MAX.

alg is an identifier for the algorithm to use, and should be set to one of the following values:

  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_DEFAULT: the currently recommended algorithm, which can change from one version of libsodium to another.

  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_ARGON2I13: version 1.3 of the Argon2i algorithm.

  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_ARGON2ID13: version 1.3 of the Argon2id algorithm, available since libsodium 1.0.13.

For interactive, online operations, crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_INTERACTIVE and crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_INTERACTIVE provide base line for these two parameters. This currently requires 64 MiB of dedicated RAM. Higher values may improve security (see below).

Alternatively, crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MODERATE and crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MODERATE can be used. This requires 256 MiB of dedicated RAM, and takes about 0.7 seconds on a 2.8 Ghz Core i7 CPU.

For highly sensitive data and non-interactive operations, crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_SENSITIVE and crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_SENSITIVE can be used. With these parameters, deriving a key takes about 3.5 seconds on a 2.8 Ghz Core i7 CPU and requires 1024 MiB of dedicated RAM.

The salt should be unpredictable. randombytes_buf() is the easiest way to fill the crypto_pwhash_SALTBYTES bytes of the salt.

Keep in mind that in order to produce the same key from the same password, the same algorithm, the same salt, and the same values for opslimit and memlimit have to be used. Therefore, these parameters have to be stored for each user.

The function returns 0 on success, and -1 if the computation didn't complete, usually because the operating system refused to allocate the amount of requested memory.

Password storage

int crypto_pwhash_str(char out[crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES],
const char * const passwd,
unsigned long long passwdlen,
unsigned long long opslimit,
size_t memlimit);

The crypto_pwhash_str() function puts an ASCII encoded string into out, which includes:

  • the result of a memory-hard, CPU-intensive hash function applied to the password passwd of length passwdlen

  • the automatically generated salt used for the previous computation

  • the other parameters required to verify the password, including the algorithm identifier, its version, opslimit and memlimit.

out must be a dedicated storage area, large enough to hold crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES bytes, but the actual output string may be shorter.

The output string is zero-terminated, includes only ASCII characters and can be safely stored into SQL databases and other data stores. No extra information has to be stored in order to verify the password.

The function returns 0 on success and -1 if it didn't complete successfully.

int crypto_pwhash_str_verify(const char str[crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES],
const char * const passwd,
unsigned long long passwdlen);

This function verifies that str is a valid password verification string (as generated by crypto_pwhash_str()) for passwd whose length is passwdlen.

str has to be zero-terminated.

It returns 0 if the verification succeeds, and -1 on error.

int crypto_pwhash_str_needs_rehash(const char str[crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES],
unsigned long long opslimit, size_t memlimit);

Check if a password verification string str matches the parameters opslimit and memlimit, and the current default algorithm.

The function returns 1 if the string appears to be correct, but doesn't match the given parameters. In that situation, applications may want to compute a new hash using the current parameters the next time the user logs in.

The function returns 0 if the parameters already match the given ones.

It returns -1 on error. If it happens, applications may want to compute a correct hash the next time the user logs in.

Guidelines for choosing the parameters

Start by determining how much memory the function can use. What will be the highest number of threads/processes evaluating the function simultaneously (ideally, no more than 1 per CPU core)? How much physical memory is guaranteed to be available?

Set memlimit to the amount of memory you want to reserve for password hashing.

Then, set opslimit to 3 and measure the time it takes to hash a password.

If this it is way too long for your application, reduce memlimit, but keep opslimit set to 3.

If the function is so fast that you can afford it to be more computationally intensive without any usability issues, increase opslimit.

For online use (e.g. login in on a website), a 1 second computation is likely to be the acceptable maximum.

For interactive use (e.g. a desktop application), a 5 second pause after having entered a password is acceptable if the password doesn't need to be entered more than once per session.

For non-interactive use and infrequent use (e.g. restoring an encrypted backup), an even slower computation can be an option.

But the best defense against brute-force password cracking remains using strong passwords. Libraries such as passwdqc can help enforce this.


  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_ARGON2I13

  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_ARGON2ID13

  • crypto_pwhash_ALG_DEFAULT

  • crypto_pwhash_BYTES_MAX

  • crypto_pwhash_BYTES_MIN

  • crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_INTERACTIVE

  • crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MAX

  • crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MIN

  • crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_MODERATE

  • crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_SENSITIVE

  • crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_INTERACTIVE

  • crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MAX

  • crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MIN

  • crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_MODERATE

  • crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_SENSITIVE

  • crypto_pwhash_PASSWD_MAX

  • crypto_pwhash_PASSWD_MIN

  • crypto_pwhash_SALTBYTES

  • crypto_pwhash_STRBYTES

  • crypto_pwhash_STRPREFIX


opslimit, the number of passes, has to be at least 3 when using Argon2i.crypto_pwhash() and crypto_pwhash_str() will fail with a -1 return code for lower values.

There is no "insecure" value for memlimit, though the more memory the better.

Do not forget to initialize the library with sodium_init(). crypto_pwhash_* will still work without doing so, but possibly way slower.

Do not use constants (including crypto_pwhash_OPSLIMIT_* and crypto_pwhash_MEMLIMIT_*) in order to verify a password or produce a deterministic output. Save the parameters (including the algorithm identifier) along with the hash instead.

For password verification, the recommended interface is crypto_pwhash_str() and crypto_pwhash_str_verify(). The string produced by crypto_pwhash_str() already includes an algorithm identifier, as well as all the parameters (including the automatically generated salt) that have been used to hash the password. Subsequently, crypto_pwhash_str_verify() automatically decodes these parameters.

By doing so, passwords can be rehashed using different parameters if required later on.

Cleartext passwords should not stay in memory longer than needed.

It is highly recommended to use sodium_mlock() to lock memory regions storing cleartext passwords, and to call sodium_munlock() right after crypto_pwhash_str() and crypto_pwhash_str_verify() return.

sodium_munlock() overwrites the region with zeros before unlocking it, so it must not be done before calling this function (otherwise zeroes, instead of the password, would be hashed).

Since version 1.0.15, libsodium's default algorithm is Argon2id.

Passwords should generally not be used for encryption. If that must be done, read the section on AEADs first.

Algorithm details