Using Git and Cygwin to auto-publish a website to Windows Server 2008

15 Jul 2012

Categories: Git Tags: Cygwin Git Windows Web Development Version Control

Note that this guide is largely given “by example”. The reader will very likely have to make changes to the names of paths and URLs to fit their own particular setup. It is also assumed that the reader is already familiar with Cygwin (or at least Unix) and Windows Server.

Setting up OpenSSH

  1. Download and install Cygwin if you have not already done so. For our purposes, the only additional packages required are OpenSSH and Git. A text editor such as vim or mcedit is also useful. I installed mine to C:\cygwin.

  2. Launch the Cygwin terminal (as administrator). Run the ssh-host-config command to set up our SSH server. The following interactive dialog is then initiated. Be sure to answer ‘yes’ to use privilege separation, to create an sshd user, to install sshd as a service, and to create a privileged user named cyg_server:

  3. To disable root and password logins, add the following line to /etc/sshd_config:

PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no
  1. (Optional) To allow only a specific user (or users) to connect, add the following line to /etc/sshd_config:
AllowUsers <username>
  1. (Optional) To synchronize Windows user accounts with Cygwin, for example if a new Windows user was created:
mkpasswd -l > /etc/passwd
  1. Start the service with net start sshd.

Enabling public key authentication

  1. It is advisable to use a standard Windows user account for SSH and Git access. For the rest of the guide I will assume we are using a user called ‘newuser’.

  2. You may need to create a home and .ssh directory for newuser if they do not already exist:

mkdir -p /home/newuser/.ssh
chown -R newuser /home/newuser
  1. Add your public key info to /home/newuser/.ssh/authorized_keys. If you need to create these and don’t know how, there are plenty of guides for using PuTTYgen to achieve this.

  2. Test that you can now log in via SSH. If not, make sure that the sshd service is running, your firewall is properly configured, and your user settings and keys are all correct.

Setting up Git

  1. Log in to the remote server via SSH. If you can do this, most of the work is already done.

  2. Create a new empty Git repository on the remote server. For example:

$ git init --bare ~/test.git
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/newuser/test.git/
  1. If everything is set up correctly, cloning the remote repository should now work. For example, with my setup:
$ git clone ssh://
Cloning into 'test'...
Enter passphrase for key '/home/Peter/.ssh/id_rsa':
warning: You appear to have cloned an empty repository.
  1. Make a few additions and test pushing:

     $ cd test/
     $ echo hello > hello.txt
     $ git add hello.txt
     $ git commit -m "Test commit"
     [master (root-commit) f465617] Test commit
     1 files changed, 1 insertions(+), 0 deletions(-)
     create mode 100644 hello.txt
     $ git push origin master
     Enter passphrase for key '/home/Peter/.ssh/id_rsa':
     Counting objects: 3, done.
     Writing objects: 100% (3/3), 223 bytes, done.
     Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0)
     To ssh://
     * [new branch]      master –> master

Auto-publishing a website

The idea is that we maintain a central bare Git repository and our website is a clone of this. We use the Git post-receive hook to automatically pull changes from the central repository to the website. Therefore, when we push changes from a remote client, these changes are automatically reflected in the website. In my setup, my bare Git repository is located in C:\inetpub\git\mysite.git and my wwwroot is located in C:\inetpub\wwwroot\

  1. Log in to the remote server via SSH. Create symbolic links to the git and wwwroot directories for convenience (remember we are in a cygwin environment here, and also make sure newuser has the required permissions on these directories):
ln -s /cygdrive/c/inetpub/git git
ln -s /cygdrive/c/inetpub/wwwroot wwwroot

The bare repository can now be accessed at ssh://

  1. Ensure that your website clone has a remote that correctly points to the bare repository (cygwin path; the local remote is correct in this case):

     $ cd ~/wwwroot/
     $ git remote -v
     local   /home/newuser/git/mysite.git (fetch)
     local   /home/newuser/git/mysite.git (push)
     origin  C:/inetpub/git/test.git (fetch)
     origin  C:/inetpub/git/test.git (push)

If not, add a new one. For example:

$ git remote add local /home/newuser/git/mysite.git
  1. Add the following to the /home/newuser/git/mysite.git/hooks/post-receive script. This executes when a push is completed successfully. It is necessary to unset GIT_DIR so that git-pull uses the current working directory instead of the target git repository:
unset GIT_DIR
cd /home/newuser/wwwroot/
git pull local master

And done!