Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I need to add a private SSH key to Putty Agent (pagent.exe) every time a Windows server starts up -- before a user logs on interactively. The key is to be used by a service.

If it was a regular user that needed to use the key, I would just place a shortcut in the Startup folder, however, this does not work on a server, because no user logs in.

I need this on Windows Server 2008 as well as Windows Server 2003.

I figure this must be a pretty common use case as public key authentication with SSH and SFTP becomes more widespread.

share|improve this question

You can provide a path to the key on the Target command line in the shortcut

  • Create a shortcut to put in startup.
  • Right click -> properties
  • Modify the Target: section to add the key

    C:\Program Files\putty\pageant.exe C:\Program Files\putty\keys\iain.ppk

When your system starts pageant will load the key and if it requires a pass phrase to unlock it it will ask for it.

You can add multiple keys on the pageant command line too e.g.

C:\Program Files\putty\pageant.exe C:\keys\iain.ppk c:\keys\user1.ppk
share|improve this answer
Will this work for servers on which users never logs in? – ervingsb Jan 3 '12 at 19:12
If the keys don't have a pass phrase then yes. If they do have a pass phrase then someone needs to supply it. – Iain Jan 3 '12 at 19:53
Can you elaborate on this step: "Create a shortcut to put in startup." What startup folder do you mean here? Normally startup folders are related to a specific user and only run when said user logs in, right? – ervingsb Jan 4 '12 at 7:40
The lines above could just as easily be put in a batch file couldn't they? – Iain Jan 4 '12 at 9:06
You could use the builtin "Task Scheduler" which allows you to execute programs at various times, for example system startup. – marc.guenther Feb 23 '12 at 12:08

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.