Setting Up Your SSH & GPG Keys

 ( 4 min read ) 

I was migrating from PC to PC frequently, and kept re-creating my SSH and GPG keys over and over, so I had saved the commands in a little note file on my backup drive. I decided I’d just post them here so I can selfishly refer to it, but others can refer to it too.

Oh, and I assume you’re running a terminal on a Unix/Linux/macOS system for this. If you’re running Windows, I recommend installing git-bash or uninstalling Windows. 😆️

Generate a SSH keypair:

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "[email protected]"

Generate a GPG (OpenPGP) keypair:

$ gpg --full-generate-key
# or
$ gpg --default-new-key-algo rsa4096 --gen-key

Configure Git

Now tell git about your keys so you can sign your commits, thus proving they came from you and not someone else.

# get your key's fingerprint/keyid
$ gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format LONG

# put the fingerprint in the next command
$ git config --global user.signingkey 7D27A05B42E89DAD

To manually sign a commit, use -S:

$ git commit -S -m 'My signed commit!'

To automatically sign all commits in all local repositories, use:

$ git config --global commit.gpgsign true

Configure GitHub

Now tell GitHub about your keys so it can verify every time you git push your work.

Copy the SSH public key:

$ cat ~/.ssh/

Then paste into your GitHub Account:

Copy the GPG public key:

$ gpg --armor --export [email protected]

Then paste into your GitHub Account:

(Optional) Upload PGP/GPG Public Key to some Public Keyservers

This allows other people to find your public key and use it to securely contact you or send you encrypted files/email. Otherwise they have to get your public key by other means, and its just more cumbersome to do it that way.

# get your key's fingerprint/keyid
$ gpg --list-secret-keys --keyid-format LONG

# put the fingerprint in the next command
$ gpg --send-keys --keyserver 7D27A05B42E89DAD
$ gpg --send-keys --keyserver 7D27A05B42E89DAD

There are more public keyservers out there. Google can help you find them.

Encrypt a File

Here’s how to lock a file so only your friend can open it, with their public key.

$ gpg --encrypt --sign --armor -r [email protected] file.txt
# outputs file.txt.asc

Now you can safely send/email this .asc file to them.

Decrypt a File

Unlock a .asc file your friend sent to you with your private key.

$ gpg --decrypt response.txt.asc > response.txt

Now you can read their message.


If you’ve ever signed up for Keybase or ProtonMail, they each generate an OpenPGP keypair for you. But you probably shouldn’t use these for git signing commits or GitHub. Mainly because if you’re like me and keep moving computers a lot, losing these contact keypairs is more problematic because you shared them with people and/or keyservers and you’d have to figure out how to revoke them and update your friends with your new public key, all-the-while ensuring them you’re not hacked or something.

  • SSH = Secure Shell. A protocol for secure network login and communication.
  • PGP = Pretty Good Privacy. An encryption program written in 1991. OpenPGP was formalized based on the format of the keys used.
  • GPG = GNU Privacy Guard. An implementation of OpenPGP.
  • Keypair = another name for a public key and corresponding private key set. You can share your public key with anyone, but don’t ever share your private key. Check out the Public-Key Cryptography article on Wikipedia.
  • Fingerprint = a short identifier of a public key.

Published: Mar 5, 2020
Tags: git, github, ssh, gpg, openpgp