How to SSH on Mac: A Beginner’s Guide


Welcome, Mac users! Are you wondering how to SSH on Mac? Well, you’ve come to the right place. SSH (Secure Shell) is a cryptographic network protocol that allows secure communication between two computers. It’s widely used by IT professionals, developers, and system administrators to securely access remote servers and execute commands. In this article, we’ll guide you through the 12 steps to SSH on a Mac. Don’t worry if you’re a beginner, we’ll explain everything in simple terms. So, let’s dive in!


Step 1: Open Terminal

The first thing you need to do is to launch the Terminal app on your Mac. You can do this by searching for Terminal in the Spotlight or by navigating to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.


  • You can create a shortcut to open Terminal by going to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Then, select New Terminal at Folder and assign a keyboard shortcut to it.
  • You can also use iTerm2, an alternative to Terminal that offers more features and customization options.

Step 2: Install Homebrew

Homebrew is a package manager for macOS that allows you to install and manage command-line applications. To install Homebrew, open Terminal and enter the following command:

/bin/bash -c "$(curl -fsSL"


This command will download and run a shell script that installs Homebrew. You’ll be prompted to enter your password, as this requires administrative privileges. Once Homebrew is installed, you can use it to install SSH and other command-line tools.

Step 3: Install SSH

To install SSH using Homebrew, enter the following command in Terminal:

brew install ssh


This command will download and install the latest version of SSH on your Mac. Homebrew will also install its dependencies automatically.

Step 4: Generate SSH Keys

SSH uses public-key cryptography to authenticate users. This means you’ll need to generate a pair of SSH keys (one private and one public) that will be used to verify your identity. To generate SSH keys, enter the following command in Terminal:

ssh-keygen -t rsa


This command will create a new RSA key pair in the .ssh directory of your user account. You’ll be prompted to enter a passphrase, which is an extra layer of security to protect your private key. Make sure to remember this passphrase or store it in a safe place.

Step 5: Add SSH Key to Agent

SSH Agent is a program that manages SSH keys and facilitates authentication. To add your SSH key to the agent, enter the following command in Terminal:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa


This command tells SSH Agent to add your private key to the keychain. You’ll be prompted to enter your passphrase if you set one up in the previous step.

Step 6: Configure SSH

You can configure SSH by editing the ssh_config file located in the /etc/ssh directory. To open the file in nano editor, enter the following command in Terminal:

sudo nano /etc/ssh/ssh_config


This command opens the ssh_config file in the nano text editor with administrative privileges. You can customize SSH settings such as the port number, cipher suites, and authentication methods.

Step 7: Connect to Remote Server

Now that you’ve set up SSH on your Mac, you can connect to a remote server using SSH. To connect to a server, enter the following command in Terminal:

ssh username@ip_address


This command tells SSH to connect to the remote server using the specified username and IP address. If this is your first time connecting to the server, you’ll be prompted to add the server’s host key to your known_hosts file for security reasons.

Step 8: Authenticate with Password or Key

When you connect to a remote server using SSH, you’ll need to authenticate yourself using a password or a key. If you’ve already added your SSH key to the server, you can authenticate automatically without entering a password. If not, you’ll need to enter your password when prompted.


  • To avoid entering your password every time you connect to the server, you can set up passwordless SSH authentication using your SSH key.
  • You can store your SSH key on a USB drive or a secure cloud service like iCloud or Dropbox for added security and convenience.

Step 9: Transfer Files with SCP

You can use the scp (secure copy) command to transfer files securely between your Mac and a remote server. To transfer a file from your Mac to the server, enter the following command in Terminal:

scp /path/to/local/file username@ip_address:/path/to/remote/directory


This command tells scp to copy the file from your Mac to the remote server using SSH. Make sure to replace the placeholders with the actual paths and addresses.

Step 10: Create SSH Tunnel

You can create an SSH tunnel to securely access a service running on a remote server, such as a database or a web server. To create an SSH tunnel, enter the following command in Terminal:

ssh -L local_port:remote_address:remote_port username@ip_address


This command tells SSH to forward traffic from a local port to a remote service through an encrypted tunnel. You can use this technique to access services that are only available on the remote server’s network.

Step 11: Disconnect from Server

When you’re done using SSH, you can disconnect from the remote server by entering the following command in Terminal:



This command tells the SSH session to terminate and returns you to the local shell prompt. Make sure to save your work and close any open files before disconnecting.

Step 12: Update SSH

It’s important to keep your SSH installation up-to-date to protect against security vulnerabilities and to take advantage of new features. To update SSH using Homebrew, enter the following command in Terminal:

brew upgrade ssh


This command tells Homebrew to update the SSH package to the latest version. Homebrew will automatically download and install the new version, and update any dependencies if necessary.

Tips and Tricks:

Tip 1: Use Keychain to Manage SSH Keys

You can use the Keychain Access app on your Mac to manage your SSH keys and passwords. This allows you to securely store and retrieve your credentials without having to enter them manually each time.

Tip 2: Set SSH Timeout

You can set a timeout value for your SSH sessions to automatically disconnect after a certain period of inactivity. This can help protect your connections from unauthorized access and free up server resources.

Tip 3: Use SSH Config File

You can create a ssh config file in the ~/.ssh directory to customize your SSH settings for specific hosts or networks. This allows you to save time and avoid typing long commands every time you connect.

Tip 4: Use SSH with Git

You can use SSH with Git to securely communicate with remote repositories and push/pull changes. This allows you to collaborate with other developers and manage your code more efficiently.

Tip 5: Use SSH with GUI Tools

You can use SSH with GUI tools such as Cyberduck, FileZilla, and Transmit to transfer files and manage remote servers. This allows you to take advantage of the convenience and graphical interface of these applications without compromising security.

Tip 6: Use SSH as VPN

You can use SSH as a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt your traffic and protect your online privacy. This allows you to access blocked websites, bypass censorship, and stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks.

Tip 7: Use SSH for Port Forwarding

You can use SSH for port forwarding to access services running on a remote server that are not directly accessible from your local network. This allows you to send and receive data securely and avoid exposing your network to external threats.

Tip 8: Use SSH for Remote Desktop

You can use SSH for remote desktop to connect to a remote computer and control it using your local mouse, keyboard, and screen. This allows you to work from anywhere and access your files and applications as if you were physically present.

Tip 9: Backup Your SSH Keys

You should always backup your SSH keys to a secure location to avoid losing them in case of hardware failure, theft, or other disasters. You can use a cloud service, an external hard drive, or a password manager to store your copies.

Tip 10: Learn More About SSH

You can learn more about SSH and its applications by reading online tutorials, books, and documentation. This allows you to become a confident and skilled user of SSH and impress your colleagues and clients.

Advantages and Disadvantages: How to SSH on Mac


1. Security – SSH provides encrypted communication over an insecure network, making it more secure than other remote communication protocols.

2. Flexibility – SSH can be used to access a remote machine from virtually anywhere in the world, as long as there is an internet connection.

3. Remote Access – With SSH, users can remotely access machines and servers without physically being there, making it easier to manage remote systems.

4. Cross Platform – SSH is not limited to Macs only. It can be used on various operating systems, including Linux and Windows, making it easy to connect to different devices.

5. Passwordless Access – SSH allows users to log in without needing to enter their passwords every time, making it more convenient for frequent SSH users.

6. File Transfer – SSH can be used to transfer files securely between machines, making it easier to share files between remote locations.

7. Low Overhead – SSH has a small footprint and minimal bandwidth requirements, making it ideal for low-powered devices with limited resources.

8. Built-In – Macs come with SSH preinstalled, making it easy for users to get started with remote access without needing to install additional software.

9. Scripting – SSH can be scripted to automate repetitive tasks, making it easier to manage multiple machines at once.

10. User Management – SSH allows for granular control over user access, making it easier to manage user accounts and permissions.


1. Initial Setup – Setting up SSH on a Mac for the first time can be daunting, requiring users to go through several configuration steps.

2. Learning Curve – SSH is not an intuitive protocol, and users will need to invest time and effort to learn how to use it effectively.

3. Security Risks – While SSH is a secure protocol, it is not immune to security risks. Users need to stay up-to-date with security best practices to minimize the risks.

4. Limited GUI Support – SSH lacks graphical user interface (GUI) support, making it a less convenient option for users who prefer a visual interface.

5. System Complexity – SSH can be complex, and users may need to have a deep understanding of their systems to use it effectively.

6. Port Forwarding – SSH port forwarding can be complicated, requiring users to carefully configure their systems to avoid security risks.

7. Debugging – When things go wrong with SSH, debugging can be challenging, often requiring users to sift through complex logs to find and fix the problem.

8. Firewall Configuration – Firewalls can interfere with SSH connections, making it difficult to connect to remote machines without configuring firewall rules.

9. Performance Overhead – While SSH has a low overhead, it still adds some performance overhead to the system, which can be a concern for resource-limited devices.

10. Lack of Centralized Management – SSH lacks centralized management, making it more challenging to manage multiple machines and users effectively.


1. What is SSH?

SSH (Secure Shell) is a secure network protocol that allows encrypted connections between two computers. It is commonly used for remote login and secure file transfers.

2. Why use SSH?

SSH provides a secure way to access a remote computer and transfer files over an unsecured network. It ensures that sensitive information is protected from unauthorized access.

3. How do I check if my Mac has SSH installed?

To check if SSH is installed on your Mac, open the Terminal app and type “ssh” followed by enter. If it is installed, you will see a list of available options for the SSH command.

4. How do I install SSH on my Mac?

SSH is usually pre-installed on Mac OS X and macOS. However, if you need to install it manually, open the Terminal app and type “sudo apt-get install openssh-client”. You will need administrator privileges to install this.

5. How do I connect to a remote computer using SSH?

To connect to a remote computer using SSH, open the Terminal app and type “ssh username@remotehost”. Replace “username” with your remote computer username and “remotehost” with the IP address or domain name of the remote computer.

6. How do I transfer files using SSH?

To transfer files using SSH, use the “scp” command. For example, to transfer a file from your local computer to a remote computer, type “scp file.txt username@remotehost:/destination/folder/”.

7. How do I generate SSH keys on my Mac?

To generate SSH keys on your Mac, open the Terminal app and type “ssh-keygen”. Follow the prompts to generate your public and private keys, which will be saved in the ~/.ssh/ directory.

8. How do I add my SSH key to a remote server?

To add your SSH key to a remote server, copy your public key from the ~/.ssh/ file and paste it into the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the remote server.

9. How do I change the SSH port on my Mac?

To change the SSH port on your Mac, edit the “/etc/ssh/sshd_config” file using a text editor such as nano. Change the “Port” setting to your desired port number, save the file, and restart the SSH service using the “sudo service ssh restart” command.

10. How do I disable SSH access on my Mac?

To disable SSH access on your Mac, edit the “/etc/ssh/sshd_config” file and change the “Protocol” setting to “0”. Save the file and restart the SSH service using the “sudo service ssh restart” command.

11. How do I troubleshoot SSH connection issues?

To troubleshoot SSH connection issues, check that the remote server is online and that you have the correct username, IP address, and port. You can also try disabling any firewalls or antivirus software temporarily.

12. How do I change my SSH password?

You cannot change your SSH password directly. Instead, you must change your login password on the remote server, which will also change your SSH password.

13. How do I securely store my SSH keys?

To securely store your SSH keys, use a password manager or an encrypted USB drive. Make sure to backup your keys to prevent data loss.

How to SSH on Mac

Secure Shell (SSH) is a protocol used to access another computer securely over an unsecured network. If you’re a Mac user, you can use the default Terminal application to connect to remote servers through SSH. In this article, we’ll guide you on how to SSH on Mac in a few simple steps.

Conclusion and Closing

Now that you know how to SSH on Mac, you can easily connect to remote servers securely. Remember that SSH requires the remote computer to have an SSH server installed. Make sure you have the necessary permissions and credentials before connecting to a remote server.

SSH is a powerful tool for managing remote servers, and it’s essential for system administration tasks. Knowing how to SSH on Mac gives you the flexibility to access servers from anywhere and run commands remotely. We hope this article has helped you get started with SSH on Mac.

Thank you for reading, and happy SSH-ing!