SSH-ADD(1) User Commands SSH-ADD(1)


ssh-add - adds private key identities to the OpenSSH authentication agent


ssh-add [-cCDdKkLlqvXx] [-E fingerprint_hash] [-H hostkey_file]
[-h destination_constraint] [-S provider] [-t life] [file ...]
ssh-add -s pkcs11 [-vC] [certificate ...]
ssh-add -e pkcs11
ssh-add -T pubkey ...


ssh-add adds private key identities to the authentication agent,
ssh-agent(1). When run without arguments, it adds the files ~/.ssh/id_rsa,
~/.ssh/id_ecdsa, ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa_sk, ~/.ssh/id_ed25519,
~/.ssh/id_ed25519_sk, and ~/.ssh/id_dsa. After loading a private key,
ssh-add will try to load corresponding certificate information from the
filename obtained by appending to the name of the private key
file. Alternative file names can be given on the command line.

If any file requires a passphrase, ssh-add asks for the passphrase from the
user. The passphrase is read from the user's tty. ssh-add retries the
last passphrase if multiple identity files are given.

The authentication agent must be running and the SSH_AUTH_SOCK environment
variable must contain the name of its socket for ssh-add to work.

The options are as follows:

-c Indicates that added identities should be subject to confirmation
before being used for authentication. Confirmation is performed by
ssh-askpass(1). Successful confirmation is signaled by a zero exit
status from ssh-askpass(1), rather than text entered into the

-C When loading keys into or deleting keys from the agent, process
certificates only and skip plain keys.

-D Deletes all identities from the agent.

-d Instead of adding identities, removes identities from the agent.
If ssh-add has been run without arguments, the keys for the default
identities and their corresponding certificates will be removed.
Otherwise, the argument list will be interpreted as a list of paths
to public key files to specify keys and certificates to be removed
from the agent. If no public key is found at a given path, ssh-add
will append .pub and retry. If the argument list consists of "-"
then ssh-add will read public keys to be removed from standard

-E fingerprint_hash
Specifies the hash algorithm used when displaying key fingerprints.
Valid options are: "md5" and "sha256". The default is "sha256".

-e pkcs11
Remove keys provided by the PKCS#11 shared library pkcs11.

-H hostkey_file
Specifies a known hosts file to look up hostkeys when using
destination-constrained keys via the -h flag. This option may be
specified multiple times to allow multiple files to be searched.
If no files are specified, ssh-add will use the default
ssh_config(5) known hosts files: ~/.ssh/known_hosts,
~/.ssh/known_hosts2, /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts, and

-h destination_constraint
When adding keys, constrain them to be usable only through specific
hosts or to specific destinations.

Destination constraints of the form `[user@]dest-hostname' permit
use of the key only from the origin host (the one running
ssh-agent(1)) to the listed destination host, with optional user

Constraints of the form `src-hostname>[user@]dst-hostname' allow a
key available on a forwarded ssh-agent(1) to be used through a
particular host (as specified by `src-hostname') to authenticate to
a further host, specified by `dst-hostname'.

Multiple destination constraints may be added when loading keys.
When attempting authentication with a key that has destination
constraints, the whole connection path, including ssh-agent(1)
forwarding, is tested against those constraints and each hop must
be permitted for the attempt to succeed. For example, if key is
forwarded to a remote host, `host-b', and is attempting
authentication to another host, `host-c', then the operation will
be successful only if `host-b' was permitted from the origin host
and the subsequent `host-b>host-c' hop is also permitted by
destination constraints.

Hosts are identified by their host keys, and are looked up from
known hosts files by ssh-add. Wildcards patterns may be used for
hostnames and certificate host keys are supported. By default,
keys added by ssh-add are not destination constrained.

Destination constraints were added in OpenSSH release 8.9. Support
in both the remote SSH client and server is required when using
destination-constrained keys over a forwarded ssh-agent(1) channel.

It is also important to note that destination constraints can only
be enforced by ssh-agent(1) when a key is used, or when it is
forwarded by a cooperating ssh(1). Specifically, it does not
prevent an attacker with access to a remote SSH_AUTH_SOCK from
forwarding it again and using it on a different host (but only to a
permitted destination).

-K Load resident keys from a FIDO authenticator.

-k When loading keys into or deleting keys from the agent, process
plain private keys only and skip certificates.

-L Lists public key parameters of all identities currently represented
by the agent.

-l Lists fingerprints of all identities currently represented by the

-q Be quiet after a successful operation.

-S provider
Specifies a path to a library that will be used when adding FIDO
authenticator-hosted keys, overriding the default of using the
internal USB HID support.

-s pkcs11
Add keys provided by the PKCS#11 shared library pkcs11.
Certificate files may optionally be listed as command-line
arguments. If these are present, then they will be loaded into the
agent using any corresponding private keys loaded from the PKCS#11

-T pubkey ...
Tests whether the private keys that correspond to the specified
pubkey files are usable by performing sign and verify operations on

-t life
Set a maximum lifetime when adding identities to an agent. The
lifetime may be specified in seconds or in a time format specified
in sshd_config(5).

-v Verbose mode. Causes ssh-add to print debugging messages about its
progress. This is helpful in debugging problems. Multiple -v
options increase the verbosity. The maximum is 3.

-X Unlock the agent.

-x Lock the agent with a password.


If ssh-add needs a passphrase, it will read the passphrase from the
current terminal if it was run from a terminal. If ssh-add does
not have a terminal associated with it but DISPLAY and SSH_ASKPASS
are set, it will execute the program specified by SSH_ASKPASS (by
default "ssh-askpass") and open an X11 window to read the
passphrase. This is particularly useful when calling ssh-add from
a .xsession or related script.

SSH_ASKPASS_REQUIRE allows further control over the use of an
askpass program. If this variable is set to "never" then ssh-add
will never attempt to use one. If it is set to "prefer", then
ssh-add will prefer to use the askpass program instead of the TTY
when requesting passwords. Finally, if the variable is set to
"force", then the askpass program will be used for all passphrase
input regardless of whether DISPLAY is set.

Identifies the path of a UNIX-domain socket used to communicate
with the agent.

Specifies a path to a library that will be used when loading any
FIDO authenticator-hosted keys, overriding the default of using the
built-in USB HID support.


Contains the DSA, ECDSA, authenticator-hosted ECDSA, Ed25519,
authenticator-hosted Ed25519 or RSA authentication identity of the

Identity files should not be readable by anyone but the user. Note that
ssh-add ignores identity files if they are accessible by others.


Exit status is 0 on success, 1 if the specified command fails, and 2 if
ssh-add is unable to contact the authentication agent.


ssh(1), ssh-agent(1), ssh-askpass(1), ssh-keygen(1), sshd(8)


OpenSSH is a derivative of the original and free ssh 1.2.12 release by Tatu
Ylonen. Aaron Campbell, Bob Beck, Markus Friedl, Niels Provos, Theo de
Raadt and Dug Song removed many bugs, re-added newer features and created
OpenSSH. Markus Friedl contributed the support for SSH protocol versions
1.5 and 2.0.

illumos December 18, 2023 illumos