Differences between ‘ssh-keygen’ and ‘Puttygen’ SSH keys

There are some key differences between SSH keys generated by ssh-keygen and Puttygen, so you may run into problems importing or adding kesy generated by the latter one, while importing ssh-keygen‘s keys goes swimmingly. Here are some tips on this problem. Of course, we’re talking about public SSH keys, as private one are secret and shouldn’t be added or imported anywhere.

Public SSH key generated by ssh-keygen are as simple as possible (stored in one line, as single, not terminated string) and look like that:

ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAABIwAAAQEAwQ1EerHxB9LtK+bQbeHikGkrvEEEjz0x2WpMP6zys8HX
B+4Q/Xg2UbcK4ytiyoAGW5+gAewhOAfsrZ+9avresE1ZodqVGhDfC27isPkcnJJMKe/NEKueT2POdZl2
Db1hzimv+aZy+It+OFzpSiX0mv3grLxqvFviwX+J9NMg8J9BZsdAzweACbzcL+U22b17SreAQTEo6uRM
FARHZ6rWrOjIq4iKxyqU3KSoaOdslYGzs9ENLsGiEW7h+WQSakGZ0XoT3L+147kV3F46lkME0b/tUQUk
YEUAuLkpKp8V5UOKyk+PUq4crUDpJF2caTiI4MlHTSa9Pu40r7s7wkOhF6== 

In most cases you can import or add them right away, by copying and pasting whole string into proper field or by uploading entire file.

Things goes a little bit more complicated with Puttygen, that is a program added as support for generating SSH Keys for famousy PuTTy program. It generates very similar public SSH key, splitting it to 64 characters per line, but when writing it to a file, it surrounds key with additional information. For example:

PuTTY-User-Key-File-2: ssh-rsa
Encryption: aes256-cbc
Comment: rsa-key-20050813
Public-Lines: 4
5pbDJDF6fO1bw33vziJ3hnoR4VWSTsPlATMs9zngI6vlzSTAu7BgdkkUdkDzItEv
5EXWKX1su9lzJDLa9usZUjSA7rfylq7u39wTRTTGzu0tqpvh6rU66b19TKvMHKhH
36O2tdh0YFl8Jso0XnKPEesF2C0rZOk63KDkSgA9xzRWvnxmor9uq7ZQ43YWv7rs
ItdK/ec=
Private-Lines: 8
2IVeYSHhh382u5oyGd7OmSbHpLjTqom2NQhLmpG3syZuuA4A5e3TrXQxVzzDMDZC
bqABN4Ud2c2QvhyWGKQeQr0tZbMYeBUi0Avt0HclikOLl8UQdZ3tYkrYid7WKyJc
AVKOuDGqYF4GsbzsiNhuQuiHrzmpFnyouIrzHQHDmpplK5xKbM2hUYj0bR71HifA
5OxJ9TMUvj5cCE8wqQb4TBBlN4evy0KaTzXxUk3g64L2cjOLpr1zhMOOgPbZLNjR
1SZkGvqo2LL7DuUcyst3tdew8920kopy6kSeVQ9zN5okx7sV6Ws9eBTevyz7jdsk
JarGhpRoSvgflOVZxGXb7vBNtRkjhSPqUDnjNYFZYbmJU1NR5aqjXVYWUyYw8Sfo
CuImHVeuKmSgUei8OOBhPtJzk1CvplvhyeDmfbkyoWldeRTDkhof1ruiYXz8SEvd
euykSOOMivgczvG0y9tZ2fFprn==
Private-MAC: 2a2a44e6ab921d5c8ab6bdf198ba1575e3d839c9

Plus — as you can see — it stores pair of both private and public in one file. That is, why you can’t and shouldn’t in the same time upload, paste or add this file anywhere.

Instead, copy all lines put between Public-Lines: 4 and Private-Lines: 8 and use them as SSH key in a format very similar to the one generated by ssh-keygen. Depending on to what kind of service you’re adding or uploading your public SSH keys, you may need to do some additional things with string extracted the way described above.

This includes:

  • adding space () and your e-mail in the end of SSH key string,
  • joining all lines together, to one line and single, un-terminated string,
  • prepending your key (either one- or multi-line) with type of a key (PuTTY-User-Key-File-2 field’s value, ssh-rsa in this example).

But after these (or some similar) simple operations your Puttygen’s generated public SSH key should be accepted just as it would be generated by ssh-keygen.

Alternatively, you can open Puttygen, load your private key and copy entire contents of edit field named Public key for pasting into OpenSSH authorized_keys file.

Note, that if you generate public SSH key for the very same machine, and with the same type (for example SSH RSA), using both methods (ssh-keygen and Puttygen), it may in some certain situations be equal (part between Public-Lines: 4 and Private-Lines: 8 in case of latter generator) or can differ a little bit (for example, the same beginning, different ending). I don’t know, when what happens.

Leave a Reply