How to generate an SSH key for GitHub

When using GitHub for version control and collaboration, one of the safest ways to communicate with your repositories is through SSH keys. SSH, which stands for Secure Shell Protocol, is a method for secure remote login from one computer to another. In this article, we will explain how to create an SSH key that can be used to authenticate your GitHub account, thus bolstering your security and streamlining your workflow.

Are you looking for a way to connect to GitHub securely using an SSH Key? This article will walk you through generating an SSH key and adding it to the ssh-agent, ensuring that your repository manipulations are both safe and efficient. Find out more about SSH and GitHub.

Why Use an SSH Key with GitHub?

Using an SSH key for GitHub means that every time you interact with your remote repositories, you don’t have to type in your username and password. Instead, your authentication is handled automatically and securely in the background.

Check for Existing SSH Keys

Before creating a new SSH key, it’s a good idea to check whether you already have any existing SSH keys. This can be done by searching through the ~/.ssh directory on your local machine for any files named,, or similar, depending on the encryption algorithm used.

Creating Your SSH Key

If you need a new SSH key for your GitHub account, it’s a straightforward process. Here’s how you can create one:

Open Your Terminal

Access your terminal, which will be used to generate the SSH key.

Run the SSH-Keygen Command

In your terminal, use the following command, replacing code>[email protected]</code with the email you use for GitHub:

ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C "[email protected]"

For systems that do not support the Ed25519 algorithm, use:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "[email protected]"

This command initiates the process of key generation, saving the key with your email as a label for easy identification.

Navigate Through the Prompts

After executing the command, you’ll be asked to confirm the file location, and you will have the option to create a secure passphrase for your SSH key. While a passphrase is not mandatory, it is a recommended layer of security.

Starting the SSH-Agent

Once your SSH key is generated, you should start the ssh-agent in the background to manage your keys and passphrases.

Execute the SSH-Agent

To get the ssh-agent up and running, use the following command:

eval "$(ssh-agent -s)"

Editing the SSH Config File

If necessary, you might need to modify your SSH configuration. Do this by editing the ~/.ssh/config file or creating it if it doesn’t exist.

Adding Your SSH Key to the SSH-Agent

With the ssh-agent started, you can now add your new SSH private key to it via:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Using Keychain for macOS Users

For those using macOS, there’s an opportunity to store the passphrase in their keychain:

ssh-add -K ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Adding Your SSH Public Key to Your GitHub Account

The next critical step is incorporating your new public SSH key into your GitHub account settings.

Copy Your SSH Public Key

Navigate to your ~/.ssh directory, locate the file with the .pub extension, such as, and copy its contents. This is your public SSH key.

Accessing SSH and GPG Keys in GitHub Settings

Log into your GitHub account, click on your profile picture in the top right corner, select “Settings” from the drop-down menu, and then find “SSH and GPG keys” in the sidebar.

Registering Your New Key

Click on “New SSH key,” provide a descriptive title, and paste in your copied public key. After reviewing the information, click “Add SSH key” to finalize the process.

Summary and Next Steps

Creating and using an SSH key with GitHub not only keeps your data secure but also makes your life easier by removing the need to enter your credentials repeatedly. Remember to start by checking your system for pre-existing keys, generate a new key if necessary, and ensure it’s added to the ssh-agent. Finally, add your public key to your GitHub settings to enable seamless authentication in future operations.

After securing your GitHub account with SSH, you’re all set! Consider branching out and learning about other security practices or exploring advanced GitHub features to enhance your development workflow. If you found this guide helpful, keep delving into more articles to sharpen your developer skill set.