Switching SSH keys between Heroku accounts

At times, I have to switch between a few different Heroku accounts. Apart from having to login again, the other annoyance is having the right SSH key active. If you don’t have the right SSH key active, (i.e. if the SSH auth agent has more than one key added to it, or if it has no keys at all),  you’ll see errors that look like:

Your key with fingerprint: ... is not authorized to access <application-name>.
fatal: the remote end hung up unexpectedly

The proper solution for this involves configuring them in the SSH configuration files (~/.ssh/config or /etc/ssh/ssh_config). [See this article or ssh_config manpage for details]

But I’m loath to maintain all that configuration just for the sake of occasionally switching between accounts. Here’s what I usually do instead:

  1. Clear any active identities (removing all ambiguity about which SSH key should be picked up for auth)
    $ ssh-add -D
  2. ssh-add key for the account
    $ ssh-add ~/.ssh/an_account_key
  3. Push to Heroku
    $ git push heroku-remote master

Of course, this assumes that the key is already associated with your Heroku account. If you haven’t, you can do that (after heroku login) with:

$ heroku keys:add ~/.ssh/an_account_key


Note: On Linux, if you’re on GNOME, the gnome-keyring-daemon keeps adding keys back to the auth agent as you keep trying to remove them with ssh-add -D. So, it’ll look like the command is not working. The solution is to disable the damn thing (Google for it). I find the daemon annoying for the popups it keeps throwing at me, so personally, I’d be glad to see it gone.


While I use this technique mostly with Heroku, this is useful for any situations involving SSH and multiple keys. It’s useful when switching between SSH accounts, or switching between GitHub accounts (or other Git accounts), and in general, anything involving switching SSH keys for SSH auth. Of course, if you find yourself switching between the same set of accounts (keys) frequently, consider configuring them using ssh_config.


[PS: This post is based on one of my SO answers: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/13752908/managing-multiple-ssh-keys-on-heroku/13876622#13876622]

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