Quick steps: Create and use an SSH public-private key pair for Linux VMs in Azure
With a secure shell (SSH) key pair, you can create virtual machines (VMs) in Azure that use SSH keys for authentication, eliminating the need for passwords to sign in. This article shows you how to quickly generate and use an SSH public-private key file pair for Linux VMs. You can complete these steps with the Azure Cloud Shell, a macOS or Linux host, the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and other tools that support OpenSSH.
VMs created using SSH keys are by default configured with passwords disabled, which greatly increases the difficulty of brute-force guessing attacks.
For more background and examples, see Detailed steps to create SSH key pairs.
For additional ways to generate and use SSH keys on a Windows computer, see How to use SSH keys with Windows on Azure.
Supported SSH key formats
Azure currently supports SSH protocol 2 (SSH-2) RSA public-private key pairs with a minimum length of 2048 bits. Other key formats such as ED25519 and ECDSA are not supported.
Create an SSH key pair
ssh-keygen command to generate SSH public and private key files. By default, these files are created in the ~/.ssh directory. You can specify a different location, and an optional password (passphrase) to access the private key file. If an SSH key pair with the same name exists in the given location, those files are overwritten.
The following command creates an SSH key pair using RSA encryption and a bit length of 4096:
ssh-keygen -m PEM -t rsa -b 4096
If you use the Azure CLI to create your VM with the az vm create command, you can optionally generate SSH public and private key files using the
--generate-ssh-keys option. The key files are stored in the ~/.ssh directory unless specified otherwise with the
--ssh-dest-key-path option. The
--generate-ssh-keys option will not overwrite existing key files, instead returning an error. In the following command, replace VMname and RGname with your own values:
az vm create --name VMname --resource-group RGname --generate-ssh-keys
Provide an SSH public key when deploying a VM
To create a Linux VM that uses SSH keys for authentication, specify your SSH public key when creating the VM using the Azure portal, Azure CLI, Azure Resource Manager templates, or other methods:
- Create a Linux virtual machine with the Azure portal
- Create a Linux virtual machine with the Azure CLI
- Create a Linux VM using an Azure template
If you're not familiar with the format of an SSH public key, you can display your public key with the following
cat command, replacing
~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub with the path and filename of your own public key file if needed:
A typical public key value looks like this example:
ssh-rsa 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 username@domainname
If you copy and paste the contents of the public key file to use in the Azure portal or a Resource Manager template, make sure you don't copy any trailing whitespace. To copy a public key in macOS, you can pipe the public key file to
pbcopy. Similarly in Linux, you can pipe the public key file to programs such as
The public key that you place on your Linux VM in Azure is by default stored in ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub, unless you specified a different location when you created the key pair. To use the Azure CLI 2.0 to create your VM with an existing public key, specify the value and optionally the location of this public key using the az vm create command with the
--ssh-key-values option. In the following command, replace myVM, myResourceGroup, UbuntuLTS, azureuser, and mysshkey.pub with your own values:
az vm create \ --resource-group myResourceGroup \ --name myVM \ --image UbuntuLTS \ --admin-username azureuser \ --ssh-key-values mysshkey.pub
If you want to use multiple SSH keys with your VM, you can enter them in a space-separated list, like this
--ssh-key-values sshkey-desktop.pub sshkey-laptop.pub.
SSH into your VM
With the public key deployed on your Azure VM, and the private key on your local system, SSH into your VM using the IP address or DNS name of your VM. In the following command, replace azureuser and myvm.westus.cloudapp.azure.com with the administrator user name and the fully qualified domain name (or IP address):
If you specified a passphrase when you created your key pair, enter that passphrase when prompted during the login process. The VM is added to your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file, and you won't be asked to connect again until either the public key on your Azure VM changes or the server name is removed from ~/.ssh/known_hosts.
If the VM is using the just-in-time access policy, you need to request access before you can connect to the VM. For more information about the just-in-time policy, see Manage virtual machine access using the just in time policy.