Troubleshooting SSH keys setup

This article helps solving common issues setting up your SSH keys.

Besides password authentication you can use SSH keys to authenticate with fortrabbit services, including deploying via Git, accessing live logs and remote MySQL access. SSH key authentication is more secure and arguably more convenient. Additionally, it allows several users-accounts to collaborate on one or more Apps.

The goals here are:

  1. Create an SSH key pair consisting of public and private key.
  2. Store the keys in the right location, so that your Operating System can make use of them.
  3. Save the public key with your fortrabbit Account

Do you have any SSH keys already?

To check if you have any existing SSH keys installed: Open a terminal (Mac OS & Linux) or a Git Bash (Windows) and type:

ls ~/.ssh

If you see an existing key pair listed (for example and id_rsa) that you would like to use to connect to fortrabbit, you can skip the generation and add the public SSH key (contents of to your fortrabbit Account in the Dashboard (see below).

If you don't have any key pairs or you receive an error that ~/.ssh doesn't exist, then you will need to generate new keys.

On Windows: If you don't know what the Git Bash is, or you have a different setup, check our recommendation on the Git article.

Generate SSH keys

Currently, we support only RSA keys. Please use 4096 bit keys, or longer.

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C user@fortrabbit -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa_fortrabbit
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in /home/jaroslav/tmp/key.
Your public key has been saved in /home/jaroslav/tmp/
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:WmTkXErKkJvmFW5GUkg5JjR9BnMi+FEK79dPqehTFZM user@fortrabbit
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 4096]----+
|.o++B*o o..      |
|.oo+O*=*Eo       |
| .o+ Xo.*o       |
| .. +.=o..       |
|  .o.+..S        |
|   ....*         |
|    ..o .        |
|   ..            |
|    ..           |

You may omit -f and the file-path to use the default location.

SSH keys generation on Windows

The procedure to create SSH keys is slightly different on *nix (Mac OS, Linux) systems and Windows.

There are different ways to set up and use Git with Windows, thus there are also different ways set up and store the keys. We recommend using the official installer from the Git website, together with Git Bash. Check out this concise tutorial from GitHub:

You can also have a look at the very detailed Git and SSH key setup on Windows from Beanstalk to learn about alternative ways.

SSH keys generation on Mac OS & Linux

This tutorial from GitHub should cover your needs:

Save your public SSH keys with your fortrabbit Account

After you have set up Git and created your local SSH key and stored it in the correct place, you'll need to tell fortrabbit about that. Navigate to:

  • Dashboard > Your Account > Access methods > Add a new SSH key

You might be asked to re-enter your fortrabbit Account password to do this. Then you will see a form with a textarea to paste the public key in to. Unless you chose a different file name for your key, this should be the contents of the file ~/.ssh/

This is what a valid SSH key looks like (don't paste this):

IvP1bffus+WdY75 you@localhost

Make sure you paste the public part of the key and not the private.

The above is multi-line only for readability. Please remove the line breaks from the SSH key when adding it to the Dashboard. The key must start with ssh-rsa, other key types are not supported with our services.

You can also import your GitHub keys.


The following section covers some errors you may encounter when using an SSH key with our services. Please also see the general connection trouble shooting before.

Permission denied error

If you see this after issuing the commands git push or git pull,

Permission denied (publickey).
fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

then you the key you are using is not associated with your Dashboard account. Verify that you have imported your key into your fortrabbit account and that Git is correctly installed on your machine. It may take a upto two minutes for a new key to get activated, after it is imported. Usually it works within 30 seconds.

If you still see this error, please review the ssh-setup tutorials above.

SSH keys under Windows with PuTTY

We advise not using PuTTY for this. If you generated an SSH key with PuTTY, you will need to make sure that the private key is saved in the location where git.exe or ssh.exe are looking for it. These questions and answers may help you if you want to use PuTTY.

Keep in mind that PuTTY uses a custom .ppk format for storing keys. The PuTTY Private Key format does not work with the OpenSSH ssh client or Git. It is possible extract/convert the private key from a .ppk file with the PuttyGen utility included with PuTTY.

If you can not get the keys to work

If you tried everyting and it is still not working, you can revert back to password authentication. Read this: remove the public keys from your fortrabbit Account

If it worked before and suddenly stops working

If you have deployed using SSH keys before and now it doesn't work any more: please check if you have changed something, compare your local keys with the remote one, see if any change in collaboration happened (e.g. you are not part of a team anymore?). If not, have a look at our status page — maybe it's us, not you. Also, don't hesitate to contact our support as well.

You are asked for a password when using a key and the Account password isn't working

In this case, you have probably used a passphrase with your key. This has nothing to do with the fortrabbit Account or services. When a new key is generated, there is usually this prompt: Enter passphrase for key. You want to use whatever you said then.

To avoid typing this may times per day, you can use the ssh-agent. See this help article on GitHub to find out how.

About SSH key authentication

SSH key authentication is a more secure alternative to plain old passwords. The main concept is that instead of a short password, one uses a key file which is virtually impossible to guess. You give us the public part of your key and when logging in it will be used, together with the private key and username, to verify your identity.

The public part of the key, ending in .pub is safe to give out, while the private part should not be shared.

After you import a public key into your fortrabbit account, it can then be used to authenticate you. When an SSH client connects, the server will encrypt some secret using the public key. If the client is able to decrypt the secret with the private key and send it back to the server, then the server knows that the client has the private key and can be trusted.

You may watch these educational videos if you need more info:

Account SSH keys

Your Account on fortrabbit may store several SSH keys. We recommend you use this method for authentication. Doing so allows you to push code, view logs, and connect to the MySQL database for all of your Apps. If you lose your key and import a new one, then the old one will no longer be valid. The benefit of this is you do not have to update passwords.

In addition, other users who have an Account on fortrabbit may collaborate on your Apps if you add them as a collaborator. Their SSH keys will then be allowed to deal with your App.

App-only SSH keys

In certain scenarios, you may want to grant someone or something access to an App without creating a new Account. For these purposes, you can use App-only keys that are separate from any Account on fortrabbit. The App-only keys are managed via the Dashboard.

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