Using Git with SSH key on Windows

Just a quick write up as reminder how to generate a SSH key on Windows and use it with Git. Git comes with OpenSSH which includes ssh-keygen. Of course you can use Putty to generate SSH keys, but why not do it the quick and easy way with Git? If you use Putty you need to convert the generated key from Putty format to the standard SSH format.

Okay lets get started. Follow along with the following steps.

1. Make Open SSH utilities accessible

Add the Git directory containing the OpenSSH command line utilities to the Windows Path. They are installed in the following location.

C:\Program Files\Git\usr\bin

You can do this the traditional way using Windows Control Panel executing the following steps.

  • Pressing the Windows key to open up the Start Menu
  • Search for “advanced system settings” (just start typing)

Alternatively you can browse through the Control Panel.

  • Select System and Security
  • System
  • Click on the Advanced system settings hyperlink in the left hand pane

Or do it the easy way if you have Rapid Environment Editor (RapidEE) installed. Use the following command line from a shell with administrative privileges to add it to the system wide path (for all users) or leave out the -M flag to add the variable to the user path.

rapidee -A -M Path "C:\Program Files\Git\usr\bin"

2. Generate the SSH key pair

NOTE: If you want Git to work with the generated SSH key pair without any further configuration then accept the default location and name of the SSH key pair.

An SSH key consists of a private and public key. The private key should be stored safely, the public key can be shared with others. Don’t forget to set a passphrase for your private key. The passphrase prevents unauthorised usage of the private key by protecting the key itself with a password. Although the directory holding the private keys should be inaccessible to other users, the root user of the system, or anyone who can access the private key can copy and use it if not protected by a passphrase.To add a passphrase to a key just type it when prompted during the key generation process. Keep in mind that the password must be at least 5 characters long. A good passphrase should be at least 10 characters long, and consist of random upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.

Generate the SSH key pair with the following command.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "nidkil-git-key"

The -t is the key type, -b is the key length (the higher the more secure) and -C is a comment that is added to the key which makes it easier to identify. The comment is added to the end of the key. Don’t believe me? Open the public key file and you will see your comment. Handy isn’t it?

3. Use the SSH public key

If you did not change the default location and name, the SSH key pair can be found in the directory .ssh in the users home directory.

That’s all fooks. Have fun.

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