A quick GitLab SSH key configuration example

The Secure Socket Shell (SSH) is the preferred connection mechanism, especially when compared to HTTPS, to connect from Git to a remote server such as GitLab, GitHub or BitBucket.

In this Git tutorial, we show you how to configure SSH keys to securely connect your local Git instance with your remote repositories.

GitLab SSH key configuration steps

The steps to follow to configure GitLab SSH keys for secure Git connections are as follows:

  1. Create an SSH key pair on your personal computer
  2. Copy the value of the public SSH key
  3. Log into GitLab and navigate to your account’s Preferences tab
  4. Create a new GitLab SSH key
  5. Paste the public key in as the value and set an expiration date
  6. Copy the SSH URL of the GitLab repo you wish to clone
  7. Issue a git clone command with the SSH URL

Create GitLab SSH Keys with ssh-keygen

Both Ubuntu and Windows machines support SSH out of the box.

Updated versions of Windows 10 and Windows Server have built-in support since 2018, so there is no need to download Putty, PuttyGen or Plink to create RAS keys or to SSH in to GitLab. Just open PowerShell in Windows or a Linux terminal window on Ubuntu and issue the following command:

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

The options provided to the ssh-keygen command force the tool to create an RSA compatible key using the latest OpenSSL standards. The -C switch simply adds a comment to the end of the public file.

Git and SSH tutorials

Need to setup SSH for GitHub, GitLab, or CodeDeploy? These SSH Key tutorials will help:

These quick tutorials will get you working with Git and the secure shell in no time.

Accept all of the defaults when prompted for a passphrase or a special storage location. By default, all GitLab SSH keys must go in an .ssh folder under the user’s home directory. Furthermore, a blank passphrase is acceptable unless your organization’s compliance rules state otherwise.

This operation will create Git SSH keys named id_ras.pub and id_rsa respectively.

Copy the public SSH key

You must configure the value of the public key in GitLab. Open the public key in a text editor and copy the value to the clipboard:

GitLub SSH Key Git

Copy the .pub key produced from the GitLab SSH key generation operation and configure it into GitLab.

Configure GitLab SSH keys

Log into GitLab and click on your account preferences.

Click the SSH Keys link and paste the copied value into the text field.

Set an expiration date, and then click the blue button to persistently add the GitLab SSH key.

GitLab SSH Key Config

Configure GitLab SSH keys under your account preferences.

Clone GitLab with SSH

With the SSH key configured in GitLab, you can now perform regular Git operations such as clone, push, pull and fetch over SSH. Simply clone your repository of choice with the SSH URL, which is found on the landing page of your GitLab project. My GitLab SSH URL is structured as follows:

[email protected]:cameronmcnz/five-commits.git

Now that you’ve configured GitLab SSH and copied the SSH URL, issue a clone command in PowerShell. The GitLab SSH clone operation pauses to ask if you can confirm the authenticity of the keys being used. Type in yes and allow the operation to continue.

PS C:\gitlab\ssh\example> git clone [email protected]:cameronmcnz/five-commits.git
Cloning into ‘five-commits’ from GitLab over SSH…
Authenticity of GitLab SSH Key can’t be established.
Do you still want to connect to GitLab over SSH (yes or no)? yes
Clone from GitLab over SSH: 100% (222/222), 2.23 MiB | 3.41 MiB/s, done.
Resolving deltas from GitLab over SSH: 100% (111/111), done.

Pull and push to GitLab over SSH

Once the clone operation is successful, continue to use Git as you normally would. All future pull and push operations to GitLab will happen over a secure SSH connection.

And that’s how easy it is to configure GitLab SSH keys to ensure all distributed Git operations happen over a secure channel.

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