Error Permission denied (publickey) when I try to ssh

March 16, 2017 50.3k views
DigitalOcean Debian

Recently I threw out my old linux laptop and set everything up again in my new laptop. The only trouble I have now is not being able to log in to my DO instance via ssh. This instance had one ssh key setup before and in the sshd config it had permitrootlogin set to no. So I created a new ssh key to be able to login from this new laptop.

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C "gitlab" -b 4096

Then added the public key this to the instance. Now I try to login

$ ssh user@server

I get asked password for this user. I am able to login using the password. This isn't how I was logging in before. I used to type my ssh passphrase. So I thought this may be because this is a new key and I disabled password authentication in sshd config. After this, I get the error

$ ssh user@server
Permission denied (publickey)

I checked online and set the permission to .ssh folder to 700. Still I get the same error. I can access the online console of the instance, but don't know what to do.

How do I resolve this?

7 Answers


When you create a user using useradd, you'll need to specify their home directory or use usermod to change it (as would be the case if the user already exists).

What I normally do is create the directories first:

mkdir -p /home/myuser/.ssh

Create the authorized_keys file:

touch /home/myuser/.ssh/authorized_keys

Then add the user:

useradd -d /home/myuser myuser

Set proper permissions:

chmod 700 /home/myuser/.ssh
chmod 644 /home/myuser/.ssh/authorized_keys

Set ownership:

chown -R myuser:myuser /home/myuser/*

Once that's done, you should be able to login with myuser.

If you already have a user:

usermod -d /home/myuser myuser

and then continue with the above.

I have done all the above steps in my local machine and I still get the same error.

Permission denied (publickey)

Should this be done in my DO instance? If so, I remember seeing a authorized_keys file in the .ssh folder with some contents already presumably from the first time setup.

Should I append my publickey onto the authorized_keys file in the DO instance?

Hi @zaneakarl

I couldn't get into it.

Then I tried opening the web console from digitalocean dashboard and pasting it there. The problem was that it is not possible to paste text onto the web console.

Luckily for me, I was able to copy the key from my another computer (mouse/keyboard connected via synergy) and paste it into a file tmp and the did:

cat tmp >> .ssh/authorized_keys

Immediately I was able to log into the droplet.

Now, thinking back I don't really remember how I was able to paste the key into the tmp file in the first place. I checked the command history and am not able to find how I did it. Sorry.

If I find it, I will update it here.

  • Shoot, well thanks for trying anyway.

  • Your solution worked for me. To add the "tmp" file. I uploaded my with the wget command. i.e.:


    then I used your command:

    cat  >> .ssh/authorized_keys


From your local machine, run the ssh command: ssh root@your-droplet-ip

I've wasted time on this issue on three seperate occasions. I am about 20 minutes away from leaving DigitalOcean for good.

1) If web UI console is going to be the only reliable way to boot into a box after password reset, add paste functionality.
2) I can't put my finger on it, but I believe the web UI pw reset breaks more things then it fixes, ssh with a key is a struggle to get working

Ahh I'm switching now.

Hi, just solve this issue with the same method above.
1) open with web UI console
2) wget https://xxxxxxx
3) cat > .ssh/authorizedkeys

There seems to be some problem with the setup of Droplet.
The .ssh/authorizedkeys wasn't correct originally.
The "vim -d id .ssh/authorized_keys" said they are different.
then do the third command.
and everything works.

hope this helps.

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