How to sign Git commits using SSH key on Windows

Sign your Git commits using SSH key instead of GPG key

Since GitHub started supporting GitHub SSH commit verification in 2022,1 I started using my SSH key in 2023 to sign my Git commits. Why? Because, I think managing my GPG keys is too complicated, and I don’t need GPG’s web of trust, since no one wanted to perform a key signing party with me. So in 2023, I started winding down the usage of my GPG key, and started transitioning to my SSH key for signing my Git commits.

Generate or convert your SSH key to OpenSSH format

If you don’t have an SSH key today, you can start generating one. If you wanted to, you can use vanityssh-go to create an SSH key with a vanity fingerprint, just like me.

If your SSH key is in PuTTY format, you can open it using PuTTYgen, and export it to OpenSSH key.

If your SSH key is already in OpenSSH format, you can proceed.

Placing your SSH key to proper location

  1. Put your SSH private key to %UserProfile%\.ssh folder. The SSH private key should not have a file extension. For this example, my SSH private key has a filename id_ed25519.
  2. If you have a .pub file, put your public key to %UserProfile%\.ssh folder. It must have the same filename as the SSH private key but with the .pub extension.
    1. If you don’t have a .pub file, open the key using PuTTYgen, and copy the whole text inside “Public key for pasting into OpenSSH authorized_keys file” and create a text file, paste the public key inside it, and save it with the same filename as your private key but with the .pub extension. For this example, my SSH public key has a filename

Telling Git to use your SSH key to sign commits

  1. Configure Git to use SSH to sign commits and tags.
    git config --global gpg.format ssh
  2. Set your SSH signing key in Git with the path to the public key. For this example, the location of the key is in %UserProfile%\.ssh.
    git config --global user.signingkey "~/.ssh/"
  3. Configure Git to always sign commits.
    git config --global commit.gpgsign true
  4. Configure Git to always sign tags.
    git config --global tag.gpgsign true

Now every time you commit, it will automatically sign using your SSH key. If your SSH key has a passphrase, it will ask for the passphrase for every commit.

Alternative declarations

  • Using absolute path: /Users/<username>/.ssh/
  • Using absolute path with drive letter: C:/Users/<username>/.ssh/
  • Using absolute path using Windows’ directory separator: C:\\Users\\<username>\\.ssh\\

Verify commits locally

  1. Create an allowed signers file to %UserProfile%\.ssh folder with filename allowed_signers.
  2. Configure Git to read allowed signers file.
    git config --global gpg.ssh.allowedSignersFile "~/.ssh/allowed_signers"
  3. Add your entry to the allowed signers file following this format: <email> namespaces="git" <ssh_public_key>.
    Example allowed_signers file with my SSH public key:
[email protected] namespaces="git" ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIOaZjKxxkbg8q9NasTp/5SbrKyJPmnxzlq8beLfKu23O
  1. Use git log --show-signature to view the signature status for the commits.

If an error showing “Unsupported certificate option” appears, update your OpenSSH for Windows.

By Shawn M.
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