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OpenSSH Change a Passphrase With ssh-keygen command

How do I change OpenSSH passphrase for one of my private keys under Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, Apple OS X or Unix like operating systems?

You need to use the ssh-keygen command to generates, change manages and converts authentication keys for ssh. You should the see following files at $HOME/.ssh or ~/.ssh directory i.e. /home/you/.ssh/. You can use the ls -l $HOME/.ssh/ command to see the following files:

=> id_dsa : DSA authentication identity of the user

=> id_dsa.pub : DSA public key for authentication

=> id_rsa : RSA authentication identity of the user

=> id_rsa.pub : RSA public key for authentication

Changing a Passphrase with ssh-keygen

The -p option requests changing the passphrase of a private key file instead of creating a new private key. The program will prompt for the file containing the private key, for the old passphrase, and twice for the new passphrase. Use -f {filename} option to specifies the filename of the key file. For example, change directory to $HOME/.ssh. Open the Terminal app and then type:
$ cd ~/.ssh/

To change DSA passphrase, enter:
$ ssh-keygen -f id_dsa -p

To change RSA passphrase, enter:
$ ssh-keygen -f id_rsa -p
Sample outputs:

Animated gif 01: Changing your openssh passphrase

Animated gif 01: Changing your openssh passphrase

  • See ssh-keygen(1) man page for information on command line options.
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{ 14 comments… add one }
  • Stu February 4, 2008, 8:07 pm

    If something relies on the private key will it still work the same way? I mean a SSL certificate for example…

  • JOsh Beauregard October 16, 2009, 2:54 pm

    thanx for the quick mem check

  • Pierre Dej July 19, 2010, 9:20 am

    Thanks for this!

  • bambini vestiti April 2, 2011, 10:42 am

    Thank applause and encouragement, for the valid reason that he offers me better power and courage!

  • rebecca September 21, 2012, 12:48 am

    change password key to best family ever

  • Richard November 7, 2013, 5:35 pm

    for newbie like me, I had to also add ‘ssh-add id-rsa’ to make it work. Very helpful tutorial

  • Sumanth November 8, 2013, 10:58 am

    Thank you very much, its indeed a very helpful article

  • Murphy Randle April 23, 2014, 2:51 am

    This is just what I needed. Thanks! And the animated gif demonstration was extra helpful. :)

  • Giovanni Grimone July 24, 2015, 4:10 pm


    Thanks for sharing this useful information. It worked like a charm!

    Just another thing, what tool did you use to capture the screen input to an animated GIF, please?

    Thanks again,

  • Lucas Pereira Caixeta August 26, 2016, 10:01 am

    Simple, objective and clean explanation.
    Thank you so much!

  • A October 26, 2016, 1:51 pm

    Let’s say I want to give my SSH key used to access some servers to some else (e.g. because I’m not maintaining these servers anymore).

    I can change the password as explained above and give “id_rsa” and “id_rsa.pub” to this person and he’ll be able to SSH on these servers without changing anything on the servers, right?

    • R November 1, 2016, 9:29 am

      Yes, you can do that. Note there is no passphrase on the pub key.

  • kazi shahin November 29, 2016, 1:09 pm

    Forgot my Passphrase, how to set a new Passphrase ?

  • Amit January 10, 2017, 10:30 am

    Thank you, it was very helpful.

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