SSH access to ESXi/ESX hosts with public/private key

by Hojung posted Nov 12, 2014


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To allow SSH access to ESXi/ESX hosts with public/private key authentication:

  1. Generate public/private keys. For detailed instructions, see the OpenBSD Reference Manual from OpenBSD

    • These instructions generate two files in ~/.sshid_rsa and
    • In ESXi 5.x, the ssh-keygen command is located at /usr/lib/vmware/openssh/bin.
    • The preceding link was valid as of November 26, 2013. If you find the link to be broken, provide feedback on the article and a VMware employee will update the article as necessary.

  2. On the remote host, store the public key content, in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys.

    • For ESXi 5.0, the location of authorized_keys is: /etc/ssh/keys-<username>/authorized_keys
    • More than one key can be stored in this file.

  3. To allow root access, changePermitRootLogin no to PermitRootLogin yes in the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file.
  4. To disable password login, ensure thatChallengeResponseAuthentication and PasswordAuthentication are set tono.
  5. Reload the service:

    • For ESXi, run the command:

      /etc/init.d/SSH restart

    • For ESX, run the command:

      service sshd reload

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