I am using Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

  • Whenever, I ssh-copy-id for the first time it puts my username@host at the end of the authorized_keys file line as expected.

On Remote machine:

sacredos@sacredos-DT:~$ cat /home/sacredos/.ssh/auth*
ssh-rsa ... sacredos@sacredos-LT

On Local machine:

sacredos@sacredos-LT:~$ ssh-add -l
4096 SHA256:... sacredos@sacredos-LT (RSA)
  • When, I go to ssh-copy-id to another computer or subsequent ones, it puts the path to the id file there instead.

On Remote machine after clearing and recopying the key over:

sacredos@sacredos-DT:~$ cat /home/sacredos/.ssh/auth*
ssh-rsa ... /home/sacredos/.ssh/id_rsa

On Local machine after copying the key over again:

sacredos@sacredos-LT:~$ ssh-add -l
4096 SHA256:... /home/username/.ssh/id_rsa (RSA)
  • I installed a system fresh to check that is not something I did with configs and such but it behaves the same. It also doesn't matter if it is the same machine in a cleared state or a new machine, if the key is ssh-copy-id'ed over two times or more this happens.

What is going on here?

  • 1
    This is really unclear. Can you give more explicit and reproducible examples of what you expected to see and what you actually saw?
    – cryptarch
    Jan 10, 2019 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


From the ssh-copy-id(1) man page:

Default behaviour without -i, is to check if ssh-add -L provides any output, and if so those keys are used. Note that this results in the comment on the key being the filename that was given to ssh-add(1) when the key was loaded into your ssh-agent(1) rather than the comment contained in that file, which is a bit of a shame. Otherwise, if ssh-add(1) provides no keys contents of the default_ID_file will be used.

So you should always use eg. -i ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub (as mentioned in the manpage) or dispense with using ssh-agent if you want to preserve the comment from the identity file.

Notice that by default on debian (and probably on ubuntu too) a GUI session is run as a subprocess of ssh-agent (look at /etc/X11/Xsession.d/90x11-common_ssh-agent), so you will be using ssh-agent even if you didn't mean to.

Also, the key will be automatically added to ssh-agent when running ssh (via ssh-copy-id), without having to run ssh-add, if you have the AddKeysToAgent option enabled (see the ssh_config(5) manpage).

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