Getting a git server with Gitolite

Github helped popularize git and its concepts to many. Nevertheless, it involves making public all the codes you want to host, unless you buy a fairly expensive subscription, and for a limited number of projects. Moreover, Github is not open, and it is therefore necessary to give it some trust to store its projects.

Several solutions exist to host a git server on his personal server. For example, Gitlab aims to become equal to Github, with a graphical interface and many tools; thereby, it is very large and relatively heavy for a small server.

Here we will see how to install Gitolite, which provides a very light and functional git server, in order to synchronizing repositories between different working stations.

Gitolite homepage


Creating git user on the server

First, we will create on the server a git user, which will be needed:

sudo adduser git

Once connected to git on the server, we create a bin directory that will contain binaries, that we then add to the path:

cd ~
mkdir bin

Creating an authentication key

In order to connect to Gitolite, we will used SSH key-based authentication, both simpler and more secure than HTTP. If you do not already have a key, it is necessary to create one. For this, we will used ssh-keygen locally:

cd ~/.ssh
ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -a 100

When the path is requested, enter your username <user>. The password is optional: if you choose one, it will be asked each time a git command is requesting the server.

We then send the public key on the server:

cat ~/.ssh/<user>.pub | ssh git@<hostname> -p <port> 'umask 0077; mkdir -p .ssh; cat >> <user>.pub'

Finally, we create a ~/.ssh/config file that contains the following information:

Host git
  HostName <hostname>
  Port <port>
  User git
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/<user>

Installing Gitolite

Back to the user git on the server, we can now install Gitolite:

cd ~
git clone git://
gitolite/install -ln
gitolite setup -pk ~/<user>.pub

Locally, you can now check that everything works well with ssh git. This should return something like:

PTY allocation request failed on channel 0
hello <user>, this is git@<hostname> running
gitolite3 v3.6.5-9-g490b540 on git 2.1.4

 R W    gitolite-admin
 R W    testing

That’s all ! Now, if you want to clone a repo directory, simply run the command git clone git:repo. The git push, pull, fetch … will operate without password.


The main originality of Gitolite is that its configuration system uses a specific git repository. To configure Gitolite, simply clone the gitolite-admin repository:

git clone git:gitolite-admin

This repository contains a conf/gitolite.conf file that lists the directories and permissions, and a keydir folder containing the users public keys (your <user>.pub key, provided during the installation, is already there).

For example, to add a project repository, just edit conf/gitolite.conf to add:

repo project
    RW+     =   <user>

To apply all changes, commit then push those files on the server. Don’t hesitate to consult the documentation:

Gitolite documentation