Generating SSH keys

SH keys are a way to identify trusted computers, without involving passwords. The steps below will walk you through generating an SSH key and adding the public key to your GitHub account.

We recommend that you regularly review your SSH keys list and revoke any that haven’t been used in a while.

Step 1: Check for SSH keys

First, we need to check for existing SSH keys on your computer. Open Git Bash and enter:

ls -al ~/.ssh
# Lists the files in your .ssh directory, if they exist

Check the directory listing to see if you already have a public SSH key. By default, the filenames of the public keys are one of the following:


If you see an existing public and private key pair listed (for example and id_rsa) that you would like to use to connect to GitHub, you can skip Step 2 and go straight to Step 3.

Tip: If you receive an error that ~/.ssh doesn’t exist, don’t worry! We’ll create it in Step 2.

Step 2: Generate a new SSH key

  1. With Git Bash still open, copy and paste the text below. Make sure you substitute in your GitHub email address.ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C “[email protected]” # Creates a new ssh key, using the provided email as a label # Generating public/private rsa key pair.
  2. We strongly suggest keeping the default settings as they are, so when you’re prompted to “Enter a file in which to save the key”, just press Enter to continue.# Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/you/.ssh/id_rsa): [Press enter]
  3. You’ll be asked to enter a passphrase.# Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): [Type a passphrase] # Enter same passphrase again: [Type passphrase again] Tip: We strongly recommend a very good, secure passphrase. For more information, see “Working with SSH key passphrases“.
  4. After you enter a passphrase, you’ll be given the fingerprint, or id, of your SSH key. It will look something like this:# Your identification has been saved in /Users/you/.ssh/id_rsa. # Your public key has been saved in /Users/you/.ssh/ # The key fingerprint is: # 01:0f:f4:3b:ca:85:d6:17:a1:7d:f0:68:9d:f0:a2:db [email protected]

Step 3: Add your key to the ssh-agent

To configure the ssh-agent program to use your SSH key:

  1. Ensure ssh-agent is enabled:
    • If you are using Git Bash, turn on ssh-agent:# start the ssh-agent in the background ssh-agent -s # Agent pid 59566
    • If you are using another terminal prompt, such as msysgit, turn on ssh-agent:# start the ssh-agent in the background eval $(ssh-agent -s) # Agent pid 59566
  2. Add your SSH key to the ssh-agent:ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Tip: If you didn’t generate a new SSH key in Step 2, and used an existing SSH key instead, you will need to replaceid_rsa in the above command with the name of your existing private key file.

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