2018 / 01 / 24
2018 / 01 / 25
How to set up your own private Git repositories with Gitolite

Your very own CLI based git hub :)


Say you want to manage your own private Git repositories for a Project/Team/Company.

What are your options?
GitHub is very convenient, as is Bitbucket, or even your own installation of GitLab.

But, there is a place for simpler ways to administer your own private Git repositories, and keep your sources totally under your control. —You lil’ control freak. ;)

Gitolite is small, simple and powerful.

User access control and repo creation are dead easy and just a git commit & git push away!

This guide will show you how to set up your own private Git infrastructure with Gitolite for easy repository and user management.

Read on!


What do you need for this tutorial?

  • A public server somewhere. If you don’t have one, you can get a VPS (Virtual Private Server) from Linode, DigitalOcean or similar providers.
  • An account with access to sudo.

Let’s assume a local ~/.ssh/config file with this content:

Host git-server
  # This is the IP for your VPS
  Port 22
  # This is the remote user
  User yolo


First, let’s login on the remote machine; the one you want to setup Gitolite on.
Open a terminal and SSH into it:

ssh git-server

Then install git:

sudo apt install git

Now, add the user that will be in charge of managing the repos and enforce the access control rules, then disable its password access for security reasons:

sudo adduser git
sudo passwd -l git

On your local machine, open a new terminal and copy your public key to the remote machine:

scp ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub git-server:

If successfully, you’ll have the id_rsa.pub file available on the remote machine in the $HOME directory for the remote yolo user.

It’s time to create the $HOME directory for the git user; then we’ll move the id_rsa.pub file to /home/git/.ssh/yolo.pub and adjust some permissions and directory ownership:

sudo mkdir -p /home/git/.ssh
sudo mv ~/id_rsa.pub /home/git/.ssh/yolo.pub
sudo chmod 700 /home/git/.ssh
sudo chown -R git:git /home/git/

Let’s impersonate the git user, then clone and install Gitolite:

sudo su git -l
git clone https://github.com/sitaramc/gitolite ~/gitolite
mkdir ~/bin
~/gitolite/install -to ~/bin

Exit the git user shell and re-login to make the commands we just installed in ~/bin available to us.
Then setup Gitolite with yolo.pub as the admin key:

sudo su git -l
gitolite setup -pk ~/.ssh/yolo.pub

Exit the remote machine —you’ll need to type exit twice, because you are two levels deep (yolo => git).


If the scripts in <code>~/bin</code> aren’t picked up automatically, you might need to create a ~/.bash_profile file and modify the $PATH by appending ~/bin to it like this:

export PATH=$PATH:~/bin

Ubuntu picks the scripts in ~/bin just fine.

Now let’s clone the gitolite-admin master repo:

git clone git@git-server:gitolite-admin ~/gitolite-admin

You are now able to create new repositories and give access to users using their public SSH keys!

Repositories and user management

Get the public keys from users that want Git access and put them in ~/gitolite-admin/keydir.
Name them accordingly (e.g. tom.pub and jerry.pub) since those names are the ones you are going to use to configure user access control.

New repository and user access

To create a new repository called yolo-project, give yourself permission to do anything, then give read-write access to tom and jerry, open the ~/gitolite-admin/conf/gitolite.conf file and put these lines in:

repo yolo-project
  RW+ = yolo
  RW = tom jerry

After that you’ll need to commit and push those changes to the remote gitolite-admin repo:

cd ~/gitolite-admin
git add .
git commit -m "Add new repo, add new keys, give access"
git push

That’s it, Gitolite will take care of creating the new repository, then gate access to it according to your specified rules.

Cloning the new repo

It’s as easy as:

git clone git@git-server:yolo-project

Now you can add content to it and use git as usual.

Upload an existing repository

What if you have an existing Git project and, want to upload that instead?
That’s also easy, cd into your existing repository and:

git remote add origin git@git-server:yolo-project

Test it out with:

git remote -v

Finally, push your commits and setup tracking for the main branch:

git push --set-upstream origin main

Congrats, we are done! :D

Now you have a complete infrastructure for private Git repositories.
Easily manage repos and users.
It’s just a simple git commit & git push away!

Access control rules info

If you want to know which repos you have access to, try with this:

ssh git@git-server info