If you use GitHub without setting up an SSH key, you're really missing out. Just think–all of that time you spent entering your email address and password into the console every time you push a commit could have been spent coding.

Well no more. Here's a quick guide to generate and configure an SSH key with GitHub so you never have to authenticate the old fashioned way again.

Check for an existing SSH key

First, check if you've already generated SSH keys for your machine. Open a terminal and enter the following command:

ls -al ~/.ssh

If you've already generated SSH keys, you should see output similar to this:

-rw-------  1 user_name user_name  1766 Jul  7  2018 id_rsa
-rw-r--r--  1 user_name user_name   414 Jul  7  2018 id_rsa.pub
-rw-------  1 user_name user_name 12892 Feb  5 18:39 known_hosts

If your keys already exist, skip ahead to the Copy your public SSH key section below.

If you don't see any output or that directory doesn't exist (you get a No such file or directory message), then run:

mkdir $HOME/.ssh

Then generate a new set of keys with:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C your@email.com

Now check that your keys exist with the ls -al ~/.ssh command and ensure that the output is similar to the one listed above.

Note: SSH keys are always generated as a pair of public (id_rsa.pub) and private (id_rsa) keys. It's extremely important that you never reveal your private key, and only use your public key for things like GitHub authentication. You can read more about how SSH / RSA key pairs work here.

Add your SSH key to ssh-agent

ssh-agent is a program that starts when you log in and stores your private keys. For it to work properly, it needs to be running and have a copy of your private key.

First, make sure that ssh-agent is running with:

eval "$(ssh-agent -s)" # for Mac and Linux


eval `ssh-agent -s`
ssh-agent -s # for Windows

Then, add your private key to ssh-agent with:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Copy your public SSH key

Next, you need to copy your public SSH key to the clipboard.

For Linux or Mac, print the contents of your public key to the console with:

cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub # Linux

Then highlight and copy the output.

Or for Windows, simply run:

clip < ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub # Windows

Add your public SSH key to GitHub

Go to your GitHub settings page and click the "New SSH key" button:


Then give your key a recognizable title and paste in your public (id_rsa.pub) key:


Finally, test your authentication with:

ssh -T git@github.com

If you've followed all of these steps correctly, you should see this message:

Hi your_user_name! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide shell access.

More info on SSH: