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I have a private key set up for my github account, the passphrase to which is, I believe, stored in OS X's keychain. I certainly don't have to type it in when I open a terminal window and enter ssh

However, when I'm running bash over an ssh session, or locally inside a tmux session, I have to type in the passphrase every single time I attempt to ssh to github.

This question suggests that a similar problem exists with screen, but I don't really understand the issue well enough to fix it in tmux. There's also this page which includes a fairly complicated solution, but for zsh.


In response to @Mikel's answer, from a local terminal I get the following output:

$ ssh-add -l
2048 [my key fingerprint] /Users/richie/.ssh/id_rsa (RSA)
$ typeset -p SSH_AUTH_SOCK
declare -x SSH_AUTH_SOCK="/tmp/launch-S4HBD6/Listeners"

Whereas over ssh or in tmux I get:


$ ssh-add -l
Could not open a connection to your authentication agent.
$ typeset -p SSH_AUTH_SOCK
bash: typeset: SSH_AUTH_SOCK: not found

echo $SSH_AGENT_PID returns nothing whatever shell I run it from.

share|improve this question
What about typeset -p SSH_AUTH_SOCK? – Mikel Jan 27 '11 at 11:18
@Mikel bash: typeset: SSH_AUTH_SOCK: not found from within ssh/tmux. I'll try it locally tonight, if necessary. – Rich Jan 27 '11 at 12:53
@Mikel I've added that command's output to the question. – Rich Jan 27 '11 at 20:33
AFAIK, question and answers are not OS X-specific. That's relevant to avoid some non-OS X-specific dups, namely and – Blaisorblade Sep 19 '13 at 8:33
@Blaisorblade I was under the impression my passphrase was stored in the OS X keychain (Although I can't remember now why I believed that to be the case). Is that incorrect? – Rich Sep 19 '13 at 8:52
up vote 3 down vote accepted

My colleague created some bash functions to assist with finding a live agent:

He uses it mainly for connecting between systems (laptop to desktop, etc), but I use it most often for local tmux sessions where you logout/in from your window manager (OS X for myself).


  1. Download ssh-find-agent.bash (git clone git:// works).

  2. Add the following to ~/.bashrc:

    . /path/to/ssh-find-agent.bash
  3. Then you can type the following to set SSH_AUTH_SOCK in your current shell:

share|improve this answer
I accepted this answer rather than any of the others that might work because it doesn't required SSH agent forwarding, which is better for my purposes. Thanks! – Rich Feb 5 '14 at 0:00

An elegant solution, picked up from dagit.o:

Create ~/.ssh/rc

if [ -S "$SSH_AUTH_SOCK" ]; then
    ln -sf $SSH_AUTH_SOCK ~/.ssh/ssh_auth_sock

Add to ~/.tmux.conf

set-environment -g 'SSH_AUTH_SOCK' ~/.ssh/ssh_auth_sock
share|improve this answer

In your .tmux.conf configuration file, add this line:


This causes these environment variables to be copied from your main shell to any shells opened within tmux, which then allows ssh-agent to work properly within those tmux shells.

share|improve this answer
This is the appropriate method for getting those values into a tmux session, but all of those environment variables should already be included in the default value of update-environment. The OP should check their update-environment value and possibly update wherever it is already being changed. – Chris Johnsen Feb 19 '12 at 5:35
Hm.. after digging further, I agree -- the settings I listed are already in the defaults, and if I run tmux without a .tmux.conf file, everything works properly. And if I remove the line I quoted from my .tmux.conf file, that is working for me as well, although it didn't before. There's clearly something else going wrong occasionally. Maybe to do with suspend/restore or attach/detach or sshing into a tmux session remotely. I'll keep my eyes open and update if I find the factor which makes it reproducible. – Trevor Powell Feb 19 '12 at 6:43
update-environment is set correctly. However, the problem still occurs. – Rich Mar 23 '12 at 10:33
The problem with this is that config will only be re-executed when no tmux server is present, defying the purpose of re-attaching... Maybe there is a command line switch to re-update those variables? – Tobias Kienzler Nov 6 '13 at 13:45

It happened to me that panes created when connecting via ssh from OS X started asking my passphrase after a while of working ok. I found a way to fix that stealing this line from

eval $(tmux show-environment -t [YOUR-SESSION] | grep '^SSH_AUTH_SOCK')

Just run it from the pane that's complaining.

share|improve this answer

Not sure if you are using bash or another shell, but this guy's tmux setup looks like it would work for bash. Personally, I am using zsh with oh-my-zsh, and I found that ssh-agent started working in tmux after I added

zstyle :omz:plugins:ssh-agent agent-forwarding on

to my .zshrc file and reloaded the config in my running zsh sessions. I also found this guy's zsh-oriented solution, but it turned out to be unnecessary for me.

share|improve this answer

What does:

ssh-add -l


Run it in your normal terminal, then run it inside your tmux session. They should print the same thing.

share|improve this answer
I added the response to these commands to the question. I've also realised that the problem also occurs when I login over ssh (without using tmux), and have edited the question accordingly. – Rich Jan 27 '11 at 9:56
ssh is easy. Turn agent forwarding on. Easiest way to do that is run ssh -A instead of ssh. Use an alias so you don't have to type it every time, or put it in your .SSH/config. – Mikel Jan 27 '11 at 22:37
Cool, thanks. That worked for ssh. Any ideas how to fix it in tmux? – Rich Feb 1 '11 at 17:38

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