Step 10: Create an SSH Key

An SSH key uniquely identifies you (and your computer) when your computer is communicating with other computers. Think of an SSH key as a type of password.

Step 10.1: Check for an existing key

Let’s see if you have a pre-existing SSH key on your computer - you might have one from a previous RailsBridge or ElixirBridge workshop you have been to. Type this in the terminal:

ls ~/.ssh/id_rsa

If you see the message No such file or directory, you don’t have one.

Continue to Generate an SSH key

Otherwise skip ahead to the next chapter, Create a Heroku Account

Step 10.2: Generate an SSH Key

Use the same email address below for Heroku, git, GitHub, and ssh.

Type this in the terminal:

ssh-keygen -C -t rsa

Press enter to accept the default key save location.

Next you’ll be asked for a passphrase.

Option 1: No passphrase

Hit enter to accept a blank passphrase, then hit enter again.

Option 2: Passphrase

If your computer is shared with other people, as in a work laptop, you should choose and enter a real passphrase. Twice.

After the key generation is complete, your output should look like this:

Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/student/.ssh/id_rsa):
Created directory '/Users/student/.ssh'.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in /Users/student/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /Users/student/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:

Step 10.3: Verify

Your brand-new public key is now stored at ~/.ssh/

Public vs. Private Keys

If you look inside ~/.ssh/, you will notice two files with the same name: id_rsa and

  • is your public key and can be shared freely.
  • id_rsa is your private key and must be kept secret.

Add your generated public key to the authentication agent using the following command:

Type this in the terminal:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Expected Result

Enter passphrase for /Users/student/.ssh/id_rsa:
Identity added: /Users/student/.ssh/id_rsa (/Users/student/.ssh/id_rsa)"

If you did not see any errors, you can skip to the next chapter.

If you saw this error:

Could not open a connection to your authentication agent

it’s possible your ssh-agent is not running. Here are a few commands that you can try to use to start the ssh-agent:

For some Windows machines:

eval `ssh-agent -s`

For others (confirmed on some Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10 setups):

eval $(ssh-agent)

For Linux:

eval `ssh-agent`

For additional options, this StackOverflow thread has been helpful.