How to use SSH Copy ID (ssh-copy-id)

How to use SSH Copy ID (ssh-copy-id)

In this article, we'll explore how to use ssh-copy-id effectively and delve into its various options for optimal key management.

Secure Shell (SSH) is an indispensable tool for remotely accessing and managing servers and systems securely. However, managing SSH keys across multiple servers can become cumbersome, especially when dealing with a large number of systems or frequent key rotations. SSH Copy ID (ssh-copy-id) is a handy utility that simplifies the process of securely distributing SSH keys to remote servers. In this article, we'll explore how to use ssh-copy-id effectively and delve into its various options for optimal key management.

ssh-copy-id is a script that facilitates the copying of SSH keys to remote servers securely. It eliminates the need to manually copy and paste public keys to each server, reducing errors and streamlining the process. When you run ssh-copy-id, it appends your public key to the authorized_keys file on the remote server, allowing you to authenticate using your private key.

Before using ssh-copy-id, ensure that you have generated an SSH key pair on your local machine. If not, you can generate one using the ssh-keygen command.

ssh-keygen -t rsa

Execute the ssh-copy-id command followed by the username and hostname of the remote server.

ssh-copy-id username@remote_host

Replace username with your username on the remote server and remote_host with the IP address or domain name of the server.

You may be prompted to enter the password for the remote user. This is required for authentication and authorization purposes.

Once the process completes, you should see a message indicating successful key installation. You can now log in to the remote server without entering a password, provided your SSH key is properly configured.

ssh-copy-id provides several options to customize its behavior. Here's a breakdown of some commonly used options:

  • -i identity_file: Specifies the path to the identity file (private key) to be copied. If not specified, ssh-copy-id uses the default ~/.ssh/

  • -p port: Specifies the port number to connect to on the remote server. By default, ssh-copy-id uses port 22.

  • -f: Forces the copying of the key even if the authorized_keys file already exists on the remote server. Use with caution, as it may overwrite existing keys.

  • -h: Displays a help message listing all available options and usage instructions.


SSH Copy ID (ssh-copy-id) simplifies the distribution of SSH keys to remote servers, enhancing security and efficiency in managing server access. By understanding its usage and options, you can streamline the process of securely configuring SSH key-based authentication across your infrastructure. Whether you're managing a single server or a large-scale deployment, ssh-copy-id is an invaluable tool for SSH key management.