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Automating ssh-copy-id

ranb2002 profile image Benjamin Rancourt Originally published at on ・3 min read

Last month, I receive a more recent laptop at my workplace and I needed to reinstall my distribution, Manjaro, on it. 💻 Fortunately, I have a semiautomatic procedure to setup myself quickly, but there was a part that did not really strike a chord in me:

# Add my public key to the principal servers (one command at at a time) 
ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ $USER@SERVER_1
ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ $USER@SERVER_2
# ...
ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ $USER@SERVER_22
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Excerpt of my procedure

For those that do not know the useful ssh-copy-id command, it is a tool part of OpenSSH that adds an SSH public key on a server as an authorized key. With that, you do not need to enter your password each time you log in at that server.

But it has a little (and normal) drawback: the first time you connect to the server to install a new SSH public key, you need to enter your password. 🔑 With more than 20 machines that I want to be able to connect without being prompting my password, I knew that I would need to enter the same amount of times my complicated password… And it was only the minimum, as I could get it wrong… ❌

So, I decide to try to add more automation to that part of my script. I looked up on the Internet, but I did not find a perfect solution for me. So I glued together some answers and I came with the Bash program below:

# Script to automatically add our public key on a list of servers
# to remove the pain from typing each time our password
# when we want to access a server.

# [manual] If you want to copy your key to only one server
# ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ SERVER

# Definition of the servers

# Make sure we have your password
if [-z "$1"]; then
  echo "You must supply your password!"
  echo " ./ 'PASSWORD'"

# Export the password into an environment variable
export SSHPASS=$1

# Iterate over all servers
for SERVER in "${SERVERS[@]}"
  # Echo the server name
  echo $SERVER

  # Copy our key the first time to allow
  sshpass -e ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no $USER@$SERVER || echo "FAILED"

  # Clean the .ssh folder
  ssh $USER@$SERVER 'rm -rf .ssh'

  # Add back our key, as we have remove the former authorized keys, along with the new one!
  sshpass -e ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no $USER@$SERVER || echo "FAILED"
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My script

To remove old public keys of previous installations, I also add the deletion of the .ssh folder on each server. It may be a brutal way, but I am sure they are no leftovers! 💀

By taking less than 30 minutes to come to this solution, I estimate that I save at least the same amount of time for myself for the next five years. My investment will pay off quicker if other people in my workplace use it! 🧹

By automating more and more of my procedure at each reinstallation, it becomes easier and easier! 🤖

I wish this script helps you!

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