Using credential helpers to cache passwords

Posted on Wed 04 November 2015 in Effective git usage

Various git commands need to know your credentials to access services:

  • HTTP transfers to authenticated sources (git fetch/push)
  • Proxy authentication for those transfers
  • The MediaWiki remote
  • The git-send-email command

All these commands, and also various third-party add-ons such as git-spindle, use a common subsystem to retrieve these credentials. By default these just ask you for a username and password, but you can configure credential helpers to avoid typing these all the time.

The simplest is the 'cache' helper, which caches any credential in memory for a number of seconds (by default 15 minutes). Enabling it is simple:

$ git config --global credential.helper cache

Or if you want to use a nonstandard timeout:

$ git config --global credential.helper 'cache --timeout=3600'

It works transparently as you can see in the following output

$ git clone
Cloning into 'example'...
Username for '': dennis
Password for '':
remote: Counting objects: 404, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (261/261), done.
remote: Total 404 (delta 226), reused 235 (delta 131)
Receiving objects: 100% (404/404), 124.59 KiB | 0 bytes/s, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (226/226), done.
Checking connectivity... done.
$ git -C example ls-remote
7c3c37ba945276ca872217850ab8ceeb2e7249e5    HEAD
7c3c37ba945276ca872217850ab8ceeb2e7249e5    refs/heads/master

While the cache helper is certainly useful, it still makes you type in your password regularly. There are a few other helpers that actually store your password on disk, some more secure than others.

git config --global credential.helper store
git config --global credential.helper netrc

The store and netrc helpers use unencrypted plain-text files for storing credentials. The store helper has its own format, the netrc helper will read your .netrc file. These are useful if you cannot use any of the credential helpers below, which all require a desktop environment.

git config --global credential.helper store wincred
git config --global credential.helper store osxkeychain
git config --global credential.helper store gnome-keyring

The wincred, osxkeychain and gnome-keyring credential helpers integrate with the secure credential storage provided by Windows, OSX and Gnome. These are the preferred credential helpers as they never store passwords unencrypted.

For KDE there is no helper to integrate with kwallet. Instead, KDE sets the SSH_ASKPASS variable to ksshaskpass, which then integrates with kwallet. It's a fairly poor integration with git as you will need to modify your urls for your remotes to include your username, e.g. from to