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PuTTYgen is a key generator tool for creating pairs of public and private SSH keys. It is one of the components of the open-source networking client PuTTY. Although originally written for Microsoft Windows operating system, it is now officially available for multiple operating systems including macOS, Linux. PuTTYgen.exe is the graphical tool on Windows OS. While on the other side, Linux OS has the only command-line version could be accessible using SSH commands.
- 1 Download PuTTYgen
- 1.1 Download PuTTYgen on Windows
- 1.2 Download PuTTYgen for Mac
- 1.3 Download PuTTYgen for Ubuntu/Linux
- 1.3.3 Types of Keys Supported on PuTTYgen
Puttygen aka Putty Key Generator
The key generation utility – PuTTYgen can create various public-key cryptosystems including Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA), Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA), Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA), and Edwards-curve Digital Signature Algorithm (EdDSA) keys.
The aforementioned public-key cryptosystems principally focus on secure data transmission and digital signatures.
Although PuTTYgen collects keys in its native file format i.e. .ppk files, the keys can easily be converted to any file format. For Windows, the software interface is PuTTYgen.exe, whereas, for Linux OS the command-line adaptation is available using SSH commands.
How to use PuTTYgen?
PuTTYgen is used to generate public or private key pair for creating SSH keys. Below is the complete guidance about how to generate RSA key in the Windows operating system:
- Once you install the PuTTY on your machine, you can easily run PuTTYgen. For the same, go to Windows -> Start Menu -> All Programs -> PuTTY -> PuTTYgen.
- You will see the PuTTY key generator dialog box on your screen
- You will find a “Generate” button in that dialog. Clicking on it will lead to generating the keys for you.
- Now you will need to add a unique key passphrase in the Key passphrase and Confirm passphrase field.
- Click on the “Save Public Key” and “Save Private Key” buttons to save your public and private keys.
- You will see the text starting with ssh-RSA in the Public key for pasting into OpenSSH authorized_keys file field which is located at the top of the window. Copy that entire text to your clipboard by pressing ctrl+c as you will require the key to paste on your clipboard in the public key tool of control panel or directly on the cloud server.
Various Ways to Use RSA Key Pair
RSA key pair generated through PuTTYgen is used in two various ways defined as below:
- To assign while creating a new cloud server
You can choose the public key from the given list of keys at the time of creating a cloud server. If you don’t find your key in that list, then first add and then assign it.
- Assign to an existing cloud server
At the time of connecting to the cloud server, first of all, you need to tell PuTTY to use it for utilizing your newly created RSA key pair.
PuTTYgen being a component of the terminal emulator PuTTY does not have to be downloaded separately, hence, comes with the PuTTY .msi installation package. You can follow the simple steps to download PuTTYgen software for your system. That is the reason why you don’t need to download PuTTYgen separately. Once you download PuTTY software, you will be able to install and run PuTTYgen easily in no time. Below is the complete instruction about how to download and install PuTTY on Windows.
Apart from that, it is also integrated into third-party programs such as WinSCP installation package. Below you can find a complete PuTTYgen download and installation guide for all operating systems.
Download PuTTYgen on Windows
To download PuTTYgen the primary requisite is to acquire the copy of PuTTY installation package. For the 64-bit operating system, one must install the 64-bit version of PuTTY, i.e. putty-64bit-<version>-installer.msi.Similarly, for the 32-bit operating system, the respective 32-bit version of PuTTY, i.e. putty-<version>-installer.msi needs to be installed.
To get PuTTY, go to PuTTY Installation Download page, whereby the complete installation package will be available with setup instructions, installation guide, and download links to all other components of PuTTY such as putty.exe, pscp.exe, psftp.exe, puttytel.exe, plink.exe, pageant.exe and putty.zip.
Following the successful download of the PuTTY installation package. It is time to install the program. Go to How to install PuTTY on Windows, whereby you will find the step by step guidance for PuTTY installation for Windows operating system.
After successfully downloading and installing PuTTY on your Windows machine, you are just 2-3 clicks away to run PuTTYgen. Follow the below-given step by step guidance to run PuTTYgen:
Run PuTTYgen on Windows
To run PuTTYgen, Go to Windows -> Start Menu -> All Programs -> PuTTY -> PuTTYgen. You will see a window for the PuTTY Key Generator on your screen.
Voila! Now you can generate public or private key pair using PuTTYgen.
Download PuTTYgen for Mac
Below is the detailed guide to download PuTTYgen on Mac operating system. Mac OS has a built-in command-line SSH client known as Terminal. To utilize it, go to Finder and then opt for Go -> utilities from the top menu. After that find the terminal which supports SSH connections to remote servers.
However, to run PuTTYgen for mac, the first one must have to install PuTTY. There are multiple ways to install PuTTY, which are Homebrew or MacPorts. Both alternatives will also install the command-line of adaptations of PuTTYgen.
Ported PuTTY for Mac
Mac has the port of PuTTY which can be installed in various ways described as below:
- Installation using Homebrew:
First, install the ‘brew command line’ Once installed use the below-given command to install PuTTY:-
sudo brew install putty
- Installation using MacPorts:
First of all, one must install MacPorts and then use the command-line to install PuTTY. Here is the command to install PuTTY via MacPorts
sudo port install putty
Additionally, a user can also add a shortcut to the desktop by writing the following command line
–cp /opt/local/bin/putty ~/Desktop/PuTTY
However, there is an alternative way to install PuTTY on Mac OS. Cyberduck is a widely used Mac OS SSH Client. Once PuTTY installed on the Mac OS, a user can convert PuTTY derived private key format to OpenSSH.
To convert the private key to standard PEM format, type the following command –
puttygen privatekey.ppk -O private-openssh -o privatekey.pem
You can also read the guide to convert .pem file to .ppk using puttygen.
Download PuTTYgen for Ubuntu/Linux
To download PuTTYgen for Ubuntu (Linux) operating system, a user to first install PuTTY. However, in some Linux distributions, the SSH key generation tool – PuTTYgen needs to be installed independently from the PuTTY client.
For example, Debian Linux requires the below-given code to install PuTTYgen:
sudo apt install putty-tools
Generate Key Pair for Authentication in Linux
To create the key pair for authentication in Linux use the below command:-
puttygen -t rsa -b 2048 -C '[email protected]' -o keyfile.ppk
Various Command Line Options of PuTTY in Linux
Below are few important command line options in the Linux operating system for PuTTY:
PuTTYgen [-t keytype [-b bits] [-q] keyfile]
[-C new-comment] [-P]
[-O output-type -p -l -L]
- Keyfile – It is the name of the existing key file to read at the time of changing the current key.
- –t keytype – The command specifies the type of key to creating. Its acceptable values are RSA and dsa.rsa1.
- -b bits – This command specifies a total number of bit in a particular key. 1024 is the perfect size for DSA key, while 2048 or 4096 are the perfect size for RSA keys.
- –q – The command suppresses the message about progress at the time of key generation.
- -C new-comment – The command will specify the comment to describe the key. It can be used for the new and/or existing key. Key operation is not affected by a comment. However, it is used to recognize the key owner, it’s not reliable completely as any value can be applied to it.
- –P – Using the command will update the passphrase of a key. Passphrase helps to encrypt the private key. As passphrase can’t add or update on a command line, it prompts a new passphrase tool to alter it.
- –old-passphrase-file – The old password of the key remains in this file. The command is used when the key is protected by a passphrase.
- –new-passphrase file – This command prompts the new passphrase of the key. It comes in the action either at the time of generating a new key or while applying –P command to change the passphrase.
- -O output-type – This command defines what to give in output. By default, the private key is the output.
Thus, above are the prominent commands of PuTTYgen in Linux operating system. Besides that, there are many other commands available to perform various tasks from the command prompt in Linux at flank speed.
Types of Keys Supported on PuTTYgen
It is important to know the types of key PuTTYgen supports prior to using it. Below are the key types that it currently supports for SSH-2 and SSH-1 protocol:-
- SSH-1 protocol:- For SSH-1 only supports one key i.e. Rivest–Shamir–Adleman (RSA)
- SSH-2 protocol: – SSH-2 supports multiple key types that include – Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA), Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) and Ed25519.
The above description is a detailed brief on downloading and running PuTTYgen on all major operating systems. For further details please check the Download PuTTY page.-->
Most authentication in Windows environments is done with a username-password pair.This works well for systems that share a common domain.When working across domains, such as between on-premise and cloud-hosted systems, it becomes more difficult.
By comparison, Linux environments commonly use public-key/private-key pairs to drive authentication.OpenSSH includes tools to help support this, specifically:
- ssh-keygen for generating secure keys
- ssh-agent and ssh-add for securely storing private keys
- scp and sftp to securely copy public key files during initial use of a server
This document provides an overview of how to use these tools on Windows to begin using key authentication with SSH.If you are unfamiliar with SSH key management, we strongly recommend you review NIST document IR 7966 titled 'Security of Interactive and Automated Access Management Using Secure Shell (SSH).'
About key pairs
Key pairs refer to the public and private key files that are used by certain authentication protocols.
SSH public-key authentication uses asymmetric cryptographic algorithms to generate two key files – one 'private' and the other 'public'. The private key files are the equivalent of a password, and should protected under all circumstances. If someone acquires your private key, they can log in as you to any SSH server you have access to. The public key is what is placed on the SSH server, and may be shared without compromising the private key.
When using key authentication with an SSH server, the SSH server and client compare the public key for username provided against the private key. If the public key cannot be validated against the client-side private key, authentication fails.
Multi-factor authentication may be implemented with key pairs by requiring that a passphrase be supplied when the key pair is generated (see key generation below).During authentication the user is prompted for the passphrase, which is used along with the presence of the private key on the SSH client to authenticate the user.
Host key generation
Public keys have specific ACL requirements that, on Windows, equate to only allowing access to administrators and System.To make this easier,
- The OpenSSHUtils PowerShell module has been created to set the key ACLs properly, and should be installed on the server
- On first use of sshd, the key pair for the host will be automatically generated. If ssh-agent is running, the keys will be automatically added to the local store.
To make key authentication easy with an SSH server, run the following commands from an elevated PowerShell prompt:
Since there is no user associated with the sshd service, the host keys are stored under ProgramDatassh.
User key generation
To use key-based authentication, you first need to generate some public/private key pairs for your client.From PowerShell or cmd, use ssh-keygen to generate some key files.
This should display something like the following (where 'username' is replaced by your user name)
You can hit Enter to accept the default, or specify a path where you'd like your keys to be generated.At this point, you'll be prompted to use a passphrase to encrypt your private key files.The passphrase works with the key file to provide 2-factor authentication.For this example, we are leaving the passphrase empty.
Now you have a public/private ED25519 key pair(the .pub files are public keys and the rest are private keys):
Remember that private key files are the equivalent of a password should be protected the same way you protect your password.To help with that, use ssh-agent to securely store the private keys within a Windows security context, associated with your Windows login.To do that, start the ssh-agent service as Administrator and use ssh-add to store the private key.
After completing these steps, whenever a private key is needed for authentication from this client, ssh-agent will automatically retrieve the local private key and pass it to your SSH client.
It is strongly recommended that you back up your private key to a secure location,then delete it from the local system, after adding it to ssh-agent.The private key cannot be retrieved from the agent.If you lose access to the private key, you would have to create a new key pairand update the public key on all systems you interact with.
Deploying the public key
To use the user key that was created above, the public key needs to be placed on the server into a text file called authorized_keys under usersusername.ssh.The OpenSSH tools include scp, which is a secure file-transfer utility, to help with this.
Windows 7 Serial Key Generator
To move the contents of your public key (~.sshid_ed25519.pub) into a text file called authorized_keys in ~.ssh on your server/host.
This example uses the Repair-AuthorizedKeyPermissions function in the OpenSSHUtils module which was previously installed on the host in the instructions above.
Windows 7 Pro Key Generator
These steps complete the configuration required to use key-based authentication with SSH on Windows.After this, the user can connect to the sshd host from any client that has the private key.