I have accounts on two machines: H1 and H2. I created ssh keys on H1 and installed it on S1. I can now ssh to S1 from H1. I want to do the same from H2. How do I install the ssh keys generated on H1 on H2?

migrated from stackoverflow.com Sep 6 '11 at 15:42

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  • 2
    Since ssh-copy-id is a more fool-proof (no overwrite of existing keys or accidentally copying the private key instead of the public key) and less known solution, please consider to accept one of those answers as the accepted answer. – agtoever Aug 21 '14 at 16:12

Edited: If you own both machines, you may share your private key. But this solution is not safe for case of stolen notebook or for machines you don't own.

You may copy your private keys from H1 to H2, if you want to use the same private key to be able to login from H2 to S1. When you at H1 do the commands:

H1$ ssh H2 mkdir ~/.ssh
H1$ scp  ~/.ssh/id_rsa ~/.ssh/id_dsa H2:~/.ssh/

Warning! This will delete and replace any private key you had at H2.

Better way is to generate new private keys on H2 (ssh-keygen) and install their public part on S1 with ssh-copy-id util. In this safer case you will have two sets of keys; one is for H1-S1 login and second for H2-S1 login. There will be two public keys authorized at S1. And you will be able to revoke any of them or both (for example, when you notebook is stolen, or owner of the machine decides to disable you account and reuse all your files).

  • 8
    Copying a private key is really not a good idea. Having a single key at multiple locations 1. makes it more vulnerable, 2. increases risk that you lost control of all the locations, 3. does not allow you to disable access from just one location. From the security point of view you should generate a new key-pair on every location - the solution from Mu Qiao. – pabouk Sep 4 '13 at 16:56

Use ssh-copy-id


ssh-copy-id [-i [identity_file]] [user@]machine


ssh-copy-id is a script that uses ssh to log into a remote machine and append the indicated identity file to that machine's ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file.

  • 1
    @I want to do ssh from H2 to S1. I want to transfer and install my private and public key from H1 to H2. Will this do that? – Bruce Sep 6 '11 at 15:17
  • 3
    @Bruce no, you need to regenerate the keys on h2 and use that command to copy your keys. Another approach is letting h1 and h2 share home directory. – Mu Qiao Sep 6 '11 at 15:19

Use two private keys

Set up H2 using the same process (but not the same private key) as you did when you set up H1:

  • There is never a good reason to copy a private key from some other machine. If you haven't already generated a fresh private key on H2, do so now. Also generate the corresponding public key. In a terminal on H2,

type: ssh-keygen -t rsa

  • Copy your H2's public key to the server. In a terminal on H2,

type: ssh-copy-id username@S1.net

(but use your actual username on S1 and S1's hostname, and later type in your password on S1 when it asks for it).

This installs the public key of your workstation into the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file for that user on the server.

  • There is no step 3. From now on, you can log into the S1 from your H2, and also log into the S1 from your H1.


I assume that what you are really asking is

  • I have a server ("S1")
  • I log in to my server from my personal laptop ("H1")
  • I also want to log in to my server from my workstation ("H2").

What is the right way to do that?

  • I suppose I could simply log in with the same password from both places. That can't be the right way, because everyone says that public key authentication is much better than passwords. (a)
  • I suppose I could simply copy the private key from my laptop to my workstation. That can't be the right way, because everyone says that the private key is never supposed to leave the client machine.

People have it hammered into their head that one account on a server has a single username and, of course, a single authorized password.

Public-key systems like ssh are better than the password system: One account on a server has a single username and any number of authorized public keys, all of them listed in the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file.

(more details).


Would ssh-copy-id do the job for you: http://linux.die.net/man/1/ssh-copy-id?

  • @I want to do ssh from H2 to S1. I want to transfer and install my private and public key from H1 to H2. Will this do that? – Bruce Sep 6 '11 at 15:16
  • 2
    If you are logged in to either S1 or H1 (which now have your key) using ssh-copy-id will allow you to transfer your public key (not private) to the H2. In general it is best to limit the number of machines on which your private key is installed. Try to keep it to a few secure machines only to prevent its loss. – Alex Sep 6 '11 at 15:21
  • How do I copy my private key to H2? – Bruce Sep 6 '11 at 15:25

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