I've been struggling with this for a couple hours so any help is greatly appreciated...

I have 2x servers both of which I can ssh to with public keys from OSX, no issues at all there so I'm certain everything is good with sshd_config.

I'm trying to configure a cron job for rsync to sync the two servers and need server B (backup) to ssh into server A using a public key.

I cannot for the life of me work out why it doesn't find my public keys - they are in ~/.ssh/ (ie. /root/.ssh) and all file permissions are correct on A & B.

This is the output:

debug2: we did not send a packet, disable method
debug3: authmethod_lookup publickey
debug3: remaining preferred: keyboard-interactive,password
debug3: authmethod_is_enabled publickey
debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/identity
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/identity
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_dsa
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/id_dsa
debug2: we did not send a packet, disable method
debug3: authmethod_lookup password
debug3: remaining preferred: ,password
debug3: authmethod_is_enabled password
debug1: Next authentication method: password

Also note it is looking for private keys which don't exist...

drwx------. 2 root root 4096 May 25 10:15 .
dr-xr-x---. 4 root root 4096 May 24 18:52 ..
-rw-------. 1 root root  403 May 25 01:37 authorized_keys
-rw-------. 1 root root    0 May 25 01:41 config
-rw-------. 1 root root 1675 May 25 02:35 id_rsa_tm1
-rw-------. 1 root root  405 May 25 02:35 id_rsa_tm1.pub
-rw-------. 1 root root  395 May 25 02:36 known_hosts
  • 1
    please give us the output of ls -la /root/.ssh/ – mreithub May 25 '14 at 10:16
  • @mreithub Thanks for the quick reply - added above. – Danny May 25 '14 at 10:18
  • 1
    try removing the _tm1 from your key file names (i.e. mv id_rsa_tm1 id_rsa and mv id_rsa_tm1.pub id_rsa.pub) – mreithub May 25 '14 at 10:20
  • @mreithub That worked! Thanks you very much, however i don't understand why i cannot append other strings to the file name. I do so on my iMac to connect to the servers without any issues... ie I can use id_rsa.tm1.imac.pub without any issues. What if i wanted multiple keys? – Danny May 25 '14 at 10:26

Have a look at your ssh man page:

   -i identity_file
          Selects a file from which the identity (private key) for public
          key authentication is read.  The default is ~/.ssh/identity for
          protocol   version   1,   and  ~/.ssh/id_dsa,  ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa,
          ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 and ~/.ssh/id_rsa  for  protocol  version  2.
          Identity files may also be specified on a per-host basis in the
          configuration file.  It is possible to have multiple -i options
          (and  multiple  identities  specified  in configuration files).

or the ssh_config man page:

          Specifies a file from which the user's DSA, ECDSA,  ED25519  or
          RSA   authentication   identity   is   read.   The  default  is
          ~/.ssh/identity for  protocol  version  1,  and  ~/.ssh/id_dsa,
          ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa, ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 and ~/.ssh/id_rsa for proto‐
          col version 2.  Additionally, any identities represented by the
          authentication  agent  will  be  used for authentication unless
          IdentitiesOnly is set.

You see, there are a few special file names which are tried if you do not specify a key. Those are also the files you see in your log output.

To use a key in a file with different name you have three options:

  • specify the file explicitly using the above -i option.
  • configure the file in your client config using the above IdentityFile option.
  • add the key to your agent using ssh-add.

For interactive sessions the agent is the most flexible one. For your cron job the -i option is probably the easiest one.


A malformed authorized_keys file on the destination host is another reason ssh outputs the "we did not send a packet" message and asks for a password instead of using pubkey auth:-

debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Offering RSA public key: ~/.ssh/id_rsa
debug3: send_pubkey_test
debug2: we sent a publickey packet, wait for reply
debug1: Authentications that can continue: publickey,password
debug2: we did not send a packet, disable method

The problem in this particular case was that the public key data, which had been pasted into .ssh/authorized_keys at the destination host, was missing its first character:-

sh-rsa AAAA...

The solution was simply to add the missing "s".

ssh-rsa AAAA...

And so:-

debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Offering RSA public key: ~/.ssh/id_rsa
debug3: send_pubkey_test
debug2: we sent a publickey packet, wait for reply
debug1: Server accepts key: pkalg ssh-rsa blen 279
debug1: Authentication succeeded (publickey).
  • 2
    thank you, every time I get this error it's because my authorized_keys file on the remote host (server) is malformed. I wish the error didn't make it sound like there was a problem with the client. – tamale Sep 18 '17 at 14:53
  • 2
    Pasting into vim without pressing 'i' first! – Jordan Davidson Feb 28 '18 at 4:36
  • For me it didn't seem malformed but I deleted the file and from the source machine I did the ssh-copy-id again to recreate it. Problem solved. – alvarez Jul 27 '18 at 7:34

This exact string of error messages in the question can also occur in the case of a miss-matched private/public key pair on the local side. No that doesn't make any sense but I just tore my hair out for a long time trying to figure out what was going on.

  • Remote system A has .ssh/mykey.pub copied into .ssh/authorized_keys.
  • Local system B has .ssh/mykey that is the correct private key to match system A's public key, but also has a .ssh/mykey.pub file that is a miss-match, possibly the previous version of a replaced key.

SSH from B to A (ssh -i mykey A)will fail with the messages in the question, most notably if you turn on -vv from the ssh client you'll see:

Trying private key: .ssh/mykey
we did not send a packet, disable method

This is a lie because the actual key wasn't tried, it apparently used the local public key file with the matching name to figure out if it was likely to work and then didn't actually do anything when they were a mismatch. No amount of debug information on either side really hints at the problem.

  • Wow! This one killed quite a bit of time for me too! Lost some hair! So in my case it was this too, only my pub key was indeed in the client side authorized_keys file, except it included a name@host entry at the very end, where my sshd host did not. I did not realize you need to match the authorized_keys on each end, in fact, I don't think I've ever matched them before. This was a problem only when my client was CentOS 7, connecting to Ubuntu 12.04. Going from MacOS, or other Ubuntu systems worked just fine. – gregthegeek Mar 7 '17 at 0:15
  • So how do you fix this problem? You've described my problem to a T. My problem is further exacerbated because I'm leap frogging between a number of systems. Actually specifying the file isn't working for me – Madivad Apr 17 '17 at 16:55
  • @Madivad You fix the problem by having matched public/private keys locally (or no public keys at all). – Caleb Apr 17 '17 at 18:33
  • @Caleb That sounds more simple than it is unless (and I think the penny has dropped) this means I should be copying both public and private keys to each system that I want to use as an SSH client? I've tried creating an IdentityFile, but I'm obviously using it wrong – Madivad Apr 17 '17 at 22:52
  • Removing the orphaned id_rsa.pub file on client solved this for me. I just ran into this problem yet again on a new Centos 7 client connecting to Ubuntu 12.04 server. authorized_keys name@host issue wasn't fixing it. I matched up directories, perms, exact same id_rsa key file, but there was an extra id_rsa.pub (on client side). Removed, now it works. I had ran ssh-keygen to create directories quick, then rsync from known good system. But that left an extra pub file not matching any private key (it was not on source rsync). I re-added unmatched pub file to verify. Make sure matched or remove. – gregthegeek May 12 '17 at 18:35

The default file names ssh is looking for are id_rsa and id_rsa.pub.

If you want to use other file names, you either have to specify them in ssh_config (using the IdentityFile setting) or via the ssh command line parameter -i.


I had the same issue on RedHat; checked logs and found that home directory had incorrect user rights.

sshd[2507]: Authentication refused: bad ownership or modes for directory /home/user

Fixing home dir rights solved this.

  • 4
    Welcome to U+L Stack Exchange site. You could make your answer more helpful to others by providing an example of what correct permissions should look like. – Erathiel May 20 '15 at 9:50
  • I had a very similar issue except with ~/.ssh dir. At least on Fedora 28 when ~/.ssh permissions were 0775, I could not connect with public/private keys. So I changed permissions to 0755 and worked like a charm :) – PovilasB Jun 30 '18 at 18:11


/sbin/restorecon -r /root/.ssh

A possible problem with selling context

  • I'm on Ubuntu and there's no such binary. – Sridhar Sarnobat Apr 14 '18 at 4:18

A simple way to debug in Debian/Ubuntu is: Connect with password and tail the log

tail -f /var/log/auth.log

Try to connect from an other terminal and you will see the error...

In my case the /root directory was 770 and not 700 which is the default The error was "Authentication refused: bad ownership or modes for directory /root"

Fix this and you are done.

  • thx you so much, man! you saved my day! – Anthony May 15 at 19:15

After running

ssh-copy-id user@remote-host

normally it should work. But if it fails, try this: login to the remote host as the user you want to login in future and run:


It helped me.



vim /etc/ssh/ssh_config

#add your key 
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/yourkey

service sshd restart

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