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How to Find SSH Keys on Ubuntu

Find SSH Keys on Ubuntu

Secure Shell (SSH) keys play a vital role in securely accessing Linux servers. They allow passwordless logins and provide strong encryption to prevent unauthorized access. As an Ubuntu user, being able to locate and manage your SSH keys is important for utilizing SSH connections and enhancing security.

This guide will walk through the steps to find SSH keys on Ubuntu. We will understand what SSH keys are, learn the prerequisites before locating keys, go through the process to find keys in the file system, comprehend the contents of key files, and finally look at troubleshooting tips for common problems. Follow along to become adept at discovering SSH keys on your Ubuntu machine.

Understanding SSH Keys

SSH keys are a pair of cryptographic keys that can be used to authenticate a client to an SSH server. Each key pair consists of a public key and a private key. The private key is kept secret and stored on the client’s machine, while the public key is stored on the server. When a client attempts to connect to the server, the server uses the public key to encrypt a message. The client uses its private key to decrypt the message. If the decryption is successful, the server knows that the client is legitimate and grants access.

SSH keys are of three types: RSA, DSA, and ECDSA. However, RSA is more universally supported and is the recommended choice for new keys. Modern versions of SSH also support Ed25519, a type of key that uses elliptic curve cryptography.


Before we delve into the process of finding SSH keys on Ubuntu, it’s important to have a basic understanding of Linux commands and the file system structure. You should also have OpenSSH installed on your system, which is the most common SSH client and server package on Linux.

Locating SSH Keys on Ubuntu

SSH keys are typically stored in a hidden directory in the user’s home directory. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to locate them:

  1. Open a Terminal Window: You can do this by searching for ‘Terminal’ in your system’s application launcher or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl + Alt + T.
  2. Navigate to the SSH Directory: Type cd ~/.ssh and press Enter. This command changes the current directory to the .ssh directory in your home directory.
  3. List the Contents of the Directory: Type ls and press Enter. This command lists all the files in the current directory. You should see files named id_rsa (your private key) and id_rsa.pub (your public key).

Remember, the private key (id_rsa) should be kept secret and secure, while the public key (id_rsa.pub) can be shared with other systems you wish to connect to securely.

Understanding the SSH Key Files

The id_rsa file contains your private key. It’s a text file, but it contains special formatting so it should not be edited directly. The id_rsa.pub file contains your public key, which can be added to the authorized_keys file on other systems to allow password-less SSH logins.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

If you don’t see the id_rsa and id_rsa.pub files in the .ssh directory, it’s likely that SSH keys have not been generated for your user account. You can generate a new SSH key pair by typing ssh-keygen in the terminal and following the prompts. If you encounter permission errors when trying to access the .ssh directory or the SSH key files, it’s likely that the file permissions are set incorrectly. The .ssh directory should have permission of 700 (read, write, and execute for the owner only), and the SSH key files should have permission of 600 (read and write for the owner only). You can adjust the permissions using the chmod command.


Understanding how to locate SSH keys on Ubuntu is a crucial skill for managing secure communication on your system. By following this guide, you’ve learned where SSH keys are stored, how to navigate to the correct directory, and how to troubleshoot common issues. Remember, the security of your system relies on keeping your private key secure, so handle it with care.


r00t is a seasoned Linux system administrator with a wealth of experience in the field. Known for his contributions to idroot.us, r00t has authored numerous tutorials and guides, helping users navigate the complexities of Linux systems. His expertise spans across various Linux distributions, including Ubuntu, CentOS, and Debian. r00t's work is characterized by his ability to simplify complex concepts, making Linux more accessible to users of all skill levels. His dedication to the Linux community and his commitment to sharing knowledge makes him a respected figure in the field.
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