How to Use the ssh-copy-id Command

Secure Shell (SSH) is a powerful tool that enables secure communication between devices over a network. One of its most practical applications is authenticating and managing remote servers. In this guide, we’ll delve into the ssh-copy-id command and show you how to use it effectively to streamline your remote server management.

Understanding the ssh-copy-id Command

The ssh-copy-id command is a utility that simplifies the process of copying an SSH public key to a remote server. By using this command, you can establish passwordless authentication and streamline remote server access. Before diving into the specifics, let’s first understand the importance of SSH keys in server management.

SSH keys are cryptographic keys that provide secure, passwordless authentication. They are generated in pairs—a public key and a private key. The public key is shared with the remote server, while the private key is kept secure on the client device. During authentication, the server uses the public key to verify the client’s private key, ensuring secure access without the need for passwords.

Key Components of the ssh-copy-id Command

The ssh-copy-id command has three primary components:

  1. User: The remote server’s username you want to authenticate with.
  2. Host: The remote server’s IP address or domain name.
  3. Port: The remote server’s SSH port (optional, defaults to 22).

The general syntax for the ssh-copy-id command is:

ssh-copy-id [-p port] [user@]host

Generating an SSH Key Pair

Before using ssh-copy-id, you’ll need an SSH key pair. Here’s how to generate one:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Run the following command:
    ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "[email protected]"
  1. Follow the prompts to choose a save location and passphrase (optional).

Now, you should have an SSH key pair in your chosen directory, with the public key having a .pub extension.

Using the ssh-copy-id Command

With an SSH key pair in hand, you’re ready to use the ssh-copy-id command. Follow these steps:

  1. Open a terminal window.
  2. Run the ssh-copy-id command with your remote server’s username, IP address or domain name, and SSH port (if necessary):
    ssh-copy-id -p 2222 [email protected]
  1. Enter the remote server’s password when prompted.

The public key should now be copied to the remote server, and you can access it without a password by using the private key.

Tips for Secure and Efficient ssh-copy-id Usage

Here are some best practices for using the ssh-copy-id command securely and efficiently:

  • Always use a strong, unique passphrase for your SSH keys.
  • Regularly rotate your SSH keys for added security.
  • Use the -i flag to specify a specific key file if you have multiple keys.


Occasionally, you may encounter issues while using the ssh-copy-id command. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

Permission Denied (publickey)

This error occurs when the remote server rejects the connection due to an incorrect public key or a missing private key. To resolve this issue:

  1. Ensure that the correct public key is added to the remote server.
  2. Verify that the private key is present on your local machine.
  3. Check the permissions on your local SSH key files. They should be set to 600 for private keys and 644 for public keys.

Could not resolve hostname

This error indicates that the remote server’s domain name or IP address is incorrect or unreachable. To fix this issue:

  1. Double-check the remote server’s IP address or domain name.
  2. Confirm that the remote server is online and accessible.
  3. Verify that your local machine’s DNS settings are correct.

Connection timed out

A “Connection timed out” error occurs when the remote server is unreachable, possibly due to a network issue. To resolve this problem:

  1. Check if the remote server is online and accessible.
  2. Confirm that your local machine has a stable internet connection.
  3. Verify that the remote server’s firewall settings allow incoming SSH connections.

Additional SSH Resources

For more information on SSH and related tools, check out the following resources:


The ssh-copy-id command is an essential tool for managing remote servers securely and efficiently. Don’t forget to explore additional resources to further enhance your SSH skills, such as SSH Essentials and Advanced SSH Tips and Tricks.

Gyula Virag
Gyula Virag

Gyula is a developer and a passionate geek father with a deep love of online marketing and technology. He always seeks challenging adventures and opportunities to create something permanent in the digital world.

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