Bash – How to specify the private SSH-key to use when executing shell command on Git


A rather unusual situation perhaps, but I want to specify a private SSH-key to use when executing a shell (git) command from the local computer.

Basically like this:

git clone -key "/home/christoffer/ssh_keys/theuser"

Or even better (in Ruby):

with_key("/home/christoffer/ssh_keys/theuser") do
  sh("git clone")

I have seen examples of connecting to a remote server with Net::SSH that uses a specified private key, but this is a local command. Is it possible?

Best Solution

None of these solutions worked for me.

Instead, I elaborate on @Martin v. Löwis 's mention of setting a config file for SSH.

SSH will look for the user's ~/.ssh/config file. I have mine setup as:

Host gitserv
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa.github
    IdentitiesOnly yes # see NOTES below

And I add a remote git repository:

git remote add origin git@gitserv:myrepo.git

And then git commands work normally for me.

git push -v origin master


  • The IdentitiesOnly yes is required to prevent the SSH default behavior of sending the identity file matching the default filename for each protocol. If you have a file named ~/.ssh/id_rsa that will get tried BEFORE your ~/.ssh/id_rsa.github without this option.