How to Generate SSH Key for Secure Authentication

How to Generate SSH Key

In today’s digital world, keeping your online activities safe is really important. One way to do that is by using SSH keys. These special keys help make sure your online connections are secure and your data is protected. In this simple guide, we’ll show you step by step how to generate an SSH key. Whether you’re a tech expert or just getting started, by the end of this article, you’ll know how to generate an SSH key and make your online interactions safer and more private.

Generating an SSH key is easier than it may sound. It involves creating a pair of keys – one private (for your use) and one public (shared with servers). This method enhances online security and eliminates the need for passwords. Let’s get started on creating your SSH key pair effortlessly.

What is SSH and why use it?

SSH, or Secure Shell, is a cryptographic network protocol that provides a secure way to access and manage remote systems over an unsecured network. It offers encrypted communication between the client and server, ensuring that data remains confidential during transmission. SSH Key is widely used in the IT industry for remote administration, file transfers, and secure command-line server access.

Using SSH is essential for maintaining high security when connecting to remote servers or systems. It eliminates the need to rely on less secure methods like passwords and helps prevent unauthorized access.

What is an SSH key and how does it work?

An SSH key is a pair of cryptographic keys, one private and one public. These keys work together to establish a secure connection between your local machine (client) and the remote server. The private key should be kept safe and never shared, while the public key can be freely distributed to servers or services you want to access securely.

When you attempt to connect to a remote server using SSH, your client machine sends the public key to the server. The server then checks if the corresponding private key is authorized for access. If the keys match, the server allows the connection, providing a secure way to authenticate without using passwords.

Generating a New SSH Key

How to Generate SSH Key
How to Generate SSH Key for Secure Authentication

How to generate SSH key on Windows 10 or Windows 11

  1. Open the Command Prompt or PowerShell on your Windows machine.
  2. Use the following command to generate the SSH key pair:
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
  1. You will be prompted to choose the location to save the key pair. Press Enter to accept the default location.
  2. Next, you will be asked to provide a passphrase. It is recommended to use a strong and memorable passphrase to add an extra layer of security.

How to generate ssh key on Linux or Mac OS

  1. Open the terminal on your Linux or Mac machine.
  2. Use the same SSH keygen command as above to generate the key pair:
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C ""
  1. You can choose the save location and passphrase following the same steps as in the Windows section.

How to choose a passphrase for your SSH key

When selecting a passphrase for your SSH key, opt for a strong combination of characters, including uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or common phrases. A strong passphrase significantly enhances the security of your SSH key.

Adding your SSH key to the ssh-agent

What is the ssh-agent and why use it?

The ssh-agent is a program used to manage SSH keys on your local machine. It keeps your private keys in memory, allowing you to use them without entering the passphrase every time you connect to a remote server. This saves time and enhances the user experience while maintaining security.

How to start the ssh-agent and add your SSH key

  1. Open the terminal or command prompt.
  2. Start the ssh-agent by executing the following command:
eval "$(ssh-agent -s)"
  1. Add your SSH private key to the ssh-agent using:
ssh-add /path/to/your/private-key
  1. Enter the passphrase when prompted.

How to check if your SSH key is added to the ssh-agent

To check if your SSH key is added to the ssh-agent, use the following command:

ssh-add -l

If your key is listed, it means it has been successfully added to the ssh-agent.

Adding your SSH key to your GitHub account

How to Generate SSH Key

How to copy your public SSH key

  1. Use the following command to display your public key in the terminal:
cat ~/.ssh/
  1. Copy the entire output displayed in the terminal.

How to add your public SSH key to GitHub

  1. Log in to your GitHub account.
  2. Go to “Settings” from the top-right menu and select “SSH and GPG keys.”
  3. Click on “New SSH key” and give it a title.
  4. Paste your public SSH key into the “Key” field.
  5. Click “Add SSH key” to save it.

How to test your SSH connection to GitHub

  1. Open the terminal or command prompt.
  2. Use the following command to test the SSH connection to GitHub:
ssh -T
  1. If everything is set up correctly, you should receive a message confirming the successful authentication.

You Can Also Read Full Guide on GitHub About: Connecting to GitHub with SSH

Benefits of using SSH keys for authentication

Using SSH keys for authentication offers several advantages, including:

  1. Enhanced Security: SSH keys are more secure than traditional passwords, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential data breaches.
  2. Convenience: Once added to the ssh-agent, you can connect to remote servers without repeatedly entering the passphrase, making the process more convenient and efficient.
  3. Easy Management: With a single SSH key pair, you can access multiple servers and services, streamlining key management.
  4. Compatibility: SSH is supported by most operating systems and platforms, making it versatile and widely accessible.

Tips and best practices for managing your SSH keys

To maximize the security of your SSH keys, consider the following best practices about how to generate ssh key:

  1. Regularly update your SSH keys and rotate them to mitigate potential risks.
  2. Never share your private SSH key with anyone or upload it to public repositories.
  3. Use strong passphrases for your private keys to add an extra layer of security.
  4. Limit access to your SSH keys and only grant them to trusted individuals who need them for specific tasks.
  5. Monitor your SSH key usage and audit the access regularly to detect any suspicious activities.

Remember, implementing these best practices will help ensure the continued safety of your systems and data.


In conclusion, generating an SSH key is a crucial step in ensuring secure authentication while accessing remote systems or services. Using SSH keys instead of passwords provides a more robust and reliable security measure.

By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can generate an SSH key, add it to the ssh-agent, and link it to your GitHub account seamlessly. Embrace the power of SSH keys to enhance your cybersecurity posture and protect your data from unauthorized access.

Related FAQs:

1. How to generate an RSA SSH key?

To generate an RSA SSH key, follow these steps:

  • Open your terminal or command prompt.
  • Use the command: ssh-keygen
  • Follow the prompts to specify the key’s name and location.
  • Choose a passphrase for added security (optional).
  • Your RSA SSH key will be generated and saved in the specified location.

2. How to set up SSH public key authentication?

To enable SSH public key authentication:

  • Create an SSH key pair using ssh-keygen.
  • Copy the public key ( to the remote server’s ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file.
  • Ensure proper file permissions for authorized_keys.
  • You can now authenticate using your SSH private key.

3. How to generate an SSH key pair for SFTP?

To generate an SSH key pair for SFTP:

  • Run ssh-keygen to create a key pair.
  • Provide a secure location for the keys.
  • Copy the public key to the SFTP server’s authorized keys file.
  • Use the private key for SFTP authentication.

4. Is SSH key-based authentication secure?

Yes, SSH key-based authentication is highly secure. It uses cryptographic keys for authentication instead of passwords, making it resistant to most hacking attempts.

5. Which SSH key size is more secure?

Generally, longer SSH keys (e.g., 2048 or 4096 bits) are more secure than shorter ones. Longer keys provide greater security against brute-force attacks.

6. How to generate an SSH key for a connection?

To generate an SSH key for a secure connection:

  • Run ssh-keygen in your terminal.
  • Follow the prompts to generate the key pair.
  • Save the private key securely and use the public key for authentication.

7. Is an SSH key required for SFTP?

While not mandatory, using an SSH key for SFTP is recommended for enhanced security. It replaces password-based authentication with a more secure method.

8. What is the format of an SSH key?

An SSH key consists of two parts:

  • A private key (usually in PEM format) that you keep secure on your local machine.
  • A public key (in OpenSSH or similar format) that you share with the server you want to authenticate to.

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