30 Second SSH Public Key Authentication on Linux / CentOS

Create the Private Key / Public Key Combinations on your Local Machine

ssh-keygen -t rsa

This will create two files in the following directory:


The private key is titled ‘id_rsa’, and, the public key which will reside on your server is called ‘id_rsa.pub’:


Remember, you will always require the private key in order to authenticate yourself against the public key residing on your server.

If you’re having trouble understanding this, remember this analogy:

Think of a keyhole as the public key which resides on your server, anyone can attempt to open the door (server) by putting their key in the keyhole, however, only the correct key (private key) will open the door.

Create the SSH Folder on Your Server

SSH into your server and create a folder called ‘.ssh’ in your home directory:

mkdir ~/.ssh

Transfer the Public Key from Local Machine to Your Server

Next, we will transfer the public key you created locally in step 1 to your server using SCP.

scp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub user@host.com:~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Login using Your Public Key

You’re finished! You can now login to your CentOS server using public key authentication via any of the methods below:

Login using a Config File

It’s really easy to login when you use config files.

Simply create a ‘config’ file on your local machine as follows:

touch ~/.ssh/config

Once created, just edit the file using nano and specify your private key, username and hostname:

Host myserver
   HostName myservernameorip.com
   User root
   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Now, you simply login via SSH by issuing the following:

ssh myserver

Login with Specified Private Key

You can alternatively SSH into your server by specifying the private key we created earlier, simply use the -i flag to achieve this:

ssh -i id_rsa root@

That’s all there is to it!


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