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SSH Keys in cPanel: Everything You Need to Know

Securing your web server environment is more important than ever in this digital age. SSH keys offer a great method for ensuring secure and convenient access to your server, and cPanel, one of the most popular web hosting control panels, provides a seamless interface for managing these keys. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about SSH keys in cPanel, from the basics of SSH itself to how you can generate, manage, and use SSH keys to secure your server access.

This blog is a part of our cPanel server management services where we make sure your cPanel server works efficiently with any issues.

What is SSH?

SSH, or Secure Shell, is a cryptographic network protocol used for secure communication between a client and a server over an insecure network. It provides several alternatives to less secure remote shell protocols like Telnet and rlogin, by offering strong authentication and encrypted data communications between two computers connecting over an open network, such as the internet.

The Importance of SSH Keys

SSH keys are an essential component of SSH, providing a more secure way of logging into a server with SSH than using a password alone. An SSH key pair comprises two keys:

  1. Private Key: Kept secret and secure by the user, and is used to decrypt the data encrypted by the public key.
  2. Public Key: Installed on the server, and can be shared with anyone. It is used to encrypt data that can then only be decrypted by the corresponding private key.

This key pair mechanism ensures that even if a network is intercepted, the data remains secure because without the private key, the encrypted data cannot be decrypted. Furthermore, SSH keys help in automating access to servers without the need for entering passwords, thereby reducing the risk of brute force attacks.

Setting Up SSH Keys in cPanel

cPanel simplifies the process of setting up SSH keys. Here’s a step-by-step guide to generate, download, and authorize SSH keys in cPanel:

Step 1: Accessing SSH Keys in cPanel

  • Log into your cPanel account.
  • Scroll down to the `Security` section and click on `SSH Access`.
  • Click on `Manage SSH Keys`.

Step 2: Generating a New SSH Key

  • Click on `Generate a New Key`.
  • Enter a key name, or leave it as the default.
  • Choose a key password (passphrase) for an additional layer of security (optional but recommended).
  • Select the key type (RSA or DSA) and key size. RSA keys of at least 2048 bits are recommended for sufficient security.
  • Click on `Generate Key`.

Step 3: Authorizing the SSH Key

  • Back in the `Manage SSH Keys` page, locate your newly generated public key under the `Public Keys` section and click on `Manage`.
  • Click on `Authorise` to allow your server to use this key for SSH sessions.

Step 4: Downloading the Private Key

  • Find your private key under the `Private Keys` section and click on `View/Download`.
  • You can download the key to your computer or use the provided instructions to convert and download the key for use with specific SSH clients like PuTTY.

Using SSH Keys for Secure Access

With your SSH keys generated and set up in cPanel, you can now use them to securely access your server. Depending on your operating system and preferred SSH client, the process may vary slightly. Here are the general steps:

  • Ensure your private key is securely stored on your client machine.
  • Use an SSH client like PuTTY (Windows) or the terminal (Linux, macOS) to initiate an SSH connection. You will typically need to specify the path to your private key and the username@hostname of your server.
  • If you’ve set a passphrase for your private key, you’ll be prompted to enter it.

Best Practices for SSH Key Management

  • Regularly update your SSH keys to ensure they comply with current security standards.
  • Use strong, unique passphrases for your private keys.
  • Never share your private key. If you need to grant access to someone else, generate a separate key pair for them.
  • Regularly review and revoke keys that are no longer in use to minimize potential attack vectors.


SSH keys offer a powerful and secure method of accessing your servers, and cPanel’s interface simplifies the management of these keys. By understanding how to generate, manage, and use SSH keys within cPanel, you can significantly enhance the security of your server access. Always follow best practices for SSH key management to maintain the integrity and security of your server environments.


Q1. How do I generate an SSH key in cPanel?

Log into cPanel, navigate to the Security section, and click on SSH Access > Manage SSH Keys. Click Generate a New Key, fill in the details, and click Generate Key to create a new SSH key pair.

Q2. Can I import my existing SSH key into cPanel?

Yes. In the SSH Access section under Manage SSH Keys, click on Import Key. You can then enter your existing private or public key details and import it into cPanel.

Q3. How do I authorize an SSH key in cPanel?

After generating or importing an SSH key, go to Manage SSH Keys, find your public key under the Public Keys section, click Manage, and then click Authorize. This will allow the key to be used for SSH access.

Q4. Do I need to generate a new SSH key for each website I manage in cPanel?

Not necessarily. You can use the same SSH key for multiple websites or cPanel accounts if you manage them. However, for enhanced security, it’s recommended to use separate keys for different environments.

Q5. How do I download my SSH private key from cPanel?

In the Manage SSH Keys section, locate your private key under the Private Keys area. Click View/Download, and then you can download the key to your computer. If needed, follow the instructions to convert the key for specific SSH clients like PuTTY.

Q6. Is it safe to use SSH keys generated by cPanel?

Yes, it is safe to use SSH keys generated by cPanel as long as you follow best practices. Ensure your private key is kept secure and use a strong passphrase for added protection. Regularly update your keys and review their usage for optimal security.