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How to access GitHub with SSH keys

Sometimes we need to access private repositories of a github account from linux servers for various purposes. For example, I have MFA enabled on my Github account, I need to clone a private repository inside a Linux server hosted in AWS. This article explains how to deal with such situations.

This is pretty much a re-hash of the steps provided in but in a slightly friendlier way.

Generating a new SSH key and adding it to the ssh-agent

Adding a new SSH key to your GitHub account

Login into your server and generate SSH keys by issuing the following command:

ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C "<YOUR_EMAIL_ADDRESS>"

You would be prompted for a filename, password and re-type password. You can accept the defaults and click enter or enter a separate filename and password.

Now start the SSH agent by issuing the following command:

eval "$(ssh-agent -s)"

Now add the previously generated key for usage by issuing the following command:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

Now either copy the content of the public key by using the clip command or view the content of the public key by using the cat command:

clip < ~/.ssh/id_ed25519.pub
cat < ~/.ssh/id_ed25519.pub

Now go to your GitHub account, sign-in and click on your profile on the right side top and click settings.

GitHub Profile Menu

From the left menu click SSH and GPG Keys

GitHub profile settings page’s left-side menu

Click New SSH Key

SSH Keys

Provide a title, a friendly name to remember, and enter the public key and click Add SSH key.

Add SSH key screen

Depending on your settings you might be prompted to re-authenticate or for MFA.

Now try cloning a repository from your Linux terminal. First copy the SSH URL of the repo:

Git clone URL screen

Then issue the following command on the Linux terminal to clone the main branch or a specific branch.

git clone <SSH_URL>
git clone --branch <BRANCH_NAME> <SSH_URL>

Hoping this helps someone :).