How to SSH into GitHub on Windows example

OpenSSH, the open source version of the Secure Socket Shell (SSH) tools, is a standard part of the Windows 10 and Windows Server 2019 operating systems. This greatly simplifies how to connect to GitHub with SSH on Windows.

Step-by-step Windows GitHub SSH example

To connect to GitHub with SSH from Windows, follow these steps:

  1. Open PowerShell
  2. Run the ssh-keygen command to create SSH keys
  3. Copy the value of the SSH public key
  4. Save the public key in your GitHub account settings
  5. Perform a Git clone operation using your repo’s SSH URL

Create SSH Keys for GitHub

To start, store a public SSH key on GitHub. This is validated against a locally stored private key that Git uses to validate and establish a connection. GitHub SSH keys are created with the ssh-keygen tool that comes prepackaged with updated versions of Windows.

In Windows PowerShell, issue the following ssh-keygen command to create GitHub SSH keys:

PS C:\github\ssh\example> ssh-keygen -o -t rsa -C "[email protected]"

You will be asked for an optional passphrase. It’s permissible to click enter and leave this blank.

ssh-keygen flags Purpose Suggested
-C Comments or metadata to add to the public key Email address
-t The type of GitHub SSH key to create RSA
-o Use the newest OpenSSH format Leave blank

You will also be asked for a location to save the GitHub SSH keys on Windows. Again, just click enter to accept the default location, which is the .ssh folder under the user’s home directory.

The Windows GitHub SSH keys live in the .ssh folder under the current user’s home directory. The following directory listing under the .ssh folder of a user named Cameron shows the two files created by the ssh-keygen tool:

PS C:\Users\Cameron\.ssh> dir
LastWriteTime      Name
-------------      ----
1/1/2022           id_rsa
1/1/2022           id_rsa.pub

GitHub SSH config

Open the SSH public key in a text editor such as Notepad++, perform a Select All, and copy the key.

GitHub SSH KeyGen Key Git

Copy the public GitHub SSH key and store this value as a registered SSH key in your GitHub account.

With the SSH key copied, log into GitHub, navigate to your account settings, and paste the public key as a new SSH key.

GitHub SSH Windows

To obtain a secure, GitHub SSH Windows connection, you must register the public key in your online account settings.

SSH to GitHub on Windows

With the SSH keys generated, and the public key registered in your GitHub account, you can now use Git to connect to GitHub over SSH on Windows.

Simply copy the SSH URL from the GitHub page of the repository you wish to clone, and then provide that SSH link to the Git clone command:

PS C:\github\ssh\example> git clone [email protected]:cameronmcnz/java-jakarta-ee.git
Cloning GitHub SSH Windows into ‘java-jakarta-ee’…
Host authenticity cannot be established.
Do you still want to connect(yes or no)? yes
Receiving objects: 100% (55/55),5.78 MiB | 1.32 MiB/s, Windows GitHub SSH done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (66/66), Windows GitHub SSH done.

Notice the initial git clone with GitHub SSH on Windows complains about being unable to establish the host authenticity. That warning message is expected. Just type yes and allow the GitHub SSH clone operation to continue.

Once the remote repository is cloned, you can continue to use Git as you normally would, issue commits, add submodules, rebase branches and push back and forth with GitHub. All operations that use the network will automatically use an SSH connection.

And that’s how easy it is to connect to GitHub over SSH on Windows based machines.

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