Adding a SSH Key for GitHub Repository

Scary SSH Keys are Now a Breeze

Jacques Fleischer, Gregor von Laszewski


We present how to configure an SSH Key on GitHub so that you can clone, commit, pull, and push to repositories. SSH keys provide an easy way to authenticate to github. Together with ssh-agent and ssh-add it allows you to do multiple commtits without having to retype the password.


Keywords: ssh

Documentation for Linux and macOS

Please follow the Windows documentation, but instaed of using gitbash, pleas use the regular terminal. on macOS, make sure you have xcode installed.

Uploading the SSH key

Please ensure that you have Git (Git Bash) and a repository on GitHub. This tutorial assumes you already have a GitHub repository as well as a GitHub account.

  1. Open Git Bash by pressing the Windows key, typing git bash, and pressing Enter.

  2. Then, go on GitHub, click on your profile icon in the top right, click Settings, and click SSH and GPG keys on the left hand side. Confirm that there are no SSH keys associated with your account. If there are keys, then perhaps you have made some already. This tutorial focuses on creating a new one.

  3. Go back to Git Bash and type ssh-keygen. Press Enter. Press Enter again when it asks you the file in which to save the key (it should say Enter file in which to save the key (/c/Users/USERNAME/.ssh/id_rsa):.

    1. If you have already created a key here, it will ask you if you would like to overwrite the file. Type y and press Enter.
  4. Enter a password that you will remember for your SSH key. It will not appear as you type it, so make sure you get it right the first time. Press Enter after typing the password that you come up with.

  5. After seeing the randomart image associated with your SSH, you should be able to type a new command. Type cat ~/.ssh/ and press Enter. Your key will appear— remember that this should not be shared with others. The key begins with ssh-rsa and it may end with your username. Copy this entire key by clicking and dragging over it, right-clicking, and clicking Copy.

  6. Return to your web browser which is on the GitHub SSH key settings page. Click the green button that reads New SSH Key and type a Title for this key. You should name it something memorable and distinct; for example, if you just generated the key on your desktop computer, a suitable name is Desktop. If generated on your laptop, name it Laptop, or if you have numerous laptops, differentiate them with distinct names, and so on.

    1. If you only have one computer and you have preexisting keys on this page, maybe some which you do not remember the password to or have fallen out of use, consider deleting them (as long as you are sure this will not break anything).
  7. Paste the key into the key box. You should have copied it from Git Bash in Step #5. Then, click the green button that reads Add SSH key. Congratulations— you have successfully configured your SSH key.

Using the ssh key

Now we will try cloning a repository. We use as an example a repository that we created for a student from a REU. Your example may be different. please adjust the repository name. Your repository will have a format of xxxx-reu-xxx

  1. Navigate to your repository and cd into it. (In case of the REU we recommend to place it into a directory called cybertraining-dsc.

    $ mkdir ~/Descktop/cybertraining-dsc 
    $ cd cybertraining-dsc
    $ git clone

    and replace YOURREPONAME with the name of your repository

  2. Alternatively you can download it via the GitHub Web GUI. Once you are on your repository page, click the green button that reads Code with a download symbol. Click the SSH option and click on the clipboard next to the link so that you copy it. It should say Copied! after you click on it.

  3. Decide where you want your repository folder to be stored. This tutorial will clone the repo into the Documents folder. Go back to Git Bash and type cd ~/Desktop/cybertraining-dsc and press Enter. It is a good idea to create a folder titled reu for organization. Type mkdir reu and press Enter. Type cd reu and press Enter. Finally, type git clone, and after you put a space after clone, paste the copied link from GitHub. For example, your command should look similar to this: git clone Then, press Enter.

    1. The shortcut Ctrl + V does not work in Git Bash for pasting. Instead, you can press Shift + Insert to paste.
  4. Type in your password for your SSH key and press Enter. The repo should clone with no issue. You can now type code . and press Enter to open VSCode in this directory. Click Yes, I trust the authors if prompted in VSCode. If you use PyCharm instead of VSCode, you can open it from Windows search; inside of PyCharm, click File, Open... and then navigate to C:, Users, your username, Documents, and then click on reu so it is highlighted in blue and then click OK. If PyCharm asks, you can choose to open it in This Window or a New Window.

Using ssh-agent and ssh-add

If you do not want to always type in your password you can prior to the first commit in the termnal in which you issue the commits say

$ eval `ssh-agent`
$ ssh-add
Last modified August 15, 2021 : Update (656c4beb)