Configuring a Git Server

There are many ways to set up a Git server. In this article I am going to show you how you can do it using the SSH protocol. First I am assuming you have a UNIX or GNU/Linux machine with you. I am not very sure if this works well on windows, I am assuming it would.

Installing basic packages on the server

You must have ssh installed in your machine and the daemon must be running. On Fedora it comes in by default, while on Ubuntu you have to install the openssh-server package. On a Mac the service is disabled by default. Go to System Preferences -> Sharing and enable Remote Login.

Now that you have sshd enabled we can proceed to setting up the git server. You must have git installed in the machine, get the instructions for your machine here. For the rest of the document I am going to call the server r2d2 and the client machine gandalf.

Creating the Repository

It is best to have a dedicated user for the git repository. I have created a user called git in r2d2 and have placed my repositories inside the directory ~git/repositories. Either you can copy an existing repository or create a new one. I will show you both. To create a new repository hello_world run this command in the repository directory.

git --init bare hello_world.git

To copy an existing repository, assuming the repository is in /var/ftp/hello_world, run

git clone --bare /var/ftp/hello_world hello_world.git

Now that you have the repository create let me show you how to access it.

Accessing the Repository

On the client gandalf I need to create a ssh key pair. My user on gandalf is satyajit. To create the ssh key pair I run this command:


You will see an output similar to this

Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/satyajit/.ssh/id_rsa): 
Created directory '/home/satyajit/.ssh'.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in /home/satyajit/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/satyajit/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
83:77:da:13:a9:da:26:eb:dd:7b:9a:35:59:ff:50:cd satyajit@r2d2
The key's randomart image is:
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|                 |
|                 |
|                 |
|       .   .   ..|
|      . S +   . E|
|       . * . o o |
|        o o + . .|
|      .+.. +.. ..|
|     .++o =+    .|

This will create two files ~/.ssh/id_rsa and ~/.ssh/ The is your public key. Copy this file into the server r2d2. Lets say I copied it to ~git/keys as To give access to the git user add the key to the authorized_keys.

cat ~/keys/ >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

This will copy your public key to the authorized keys in the server. Doing this allows access to the server via ssh using the git user, without having to type in the git's password.

To clone the repository hello_world, from your client gandalf run:

git clone git@

Please note I have used the server's IP address here, you can replace it with the host name of your server. Since git has read and write permission on the repositories folder you can push the data too.

If you want to share the repository with other users just copy their public keys and append them to the authorized_keys file.

Further if you want to prevent shell access to the system using the user git edit the /etc/passwd file:

sudo vim /etc/passwd

At the bottom of the file you will find the git user's configuration:


Just replace the /bin/sh to /usr/bin/git-shell as shown below:


Now if you try accessing ssh using the user git you will get a response similar to

ssh git@
fatal: What do you think I am? A shell?
Connection to gitserver closed.


Please keep in mind this is definitely not the best method to use in a public network. It is suitable for a small team in a local network. When you have many users copying and managing all the public keys will become a task by itself. Stay tuned for another article on how to do that.

Created on Nov 19 2011