How to choose the key used by SSH for a specific host?

How to choose a key used rather than the default ~/.ssh/id_rsa when ssh to a remote server for a specific host?

You have at least 2 choices for choosing the key used by ssh. Taking ~/.ssh/key1 and as the example here.

Method one, specify the key in command line with the -i option of ssh. Check more in the manual.

The command line to be used is:

ssh -i ~/.ssh/key1

Method two, use the ssh config file. This is useful when you do not have the -i option available, such as using git, rsync or lftp.

You can add to your ~/.ssh/config lines as follows.

  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/key1

This tells ssh that for host, use the key file in ~/.ssh/key1.

Eric Ma

Eric is a systems guy. Eric is interested in building high-performance and scalable distributed systems and related technologies. The views or opinions expressed here are solely Eric's own and do not necessarily represent those of any third parties.


  1. Hi Eric,

    Thanks for the tutorial. Your ~/.ssh/config file example contains a typo. It should be IdentityFile, not IdentifyFile.

    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/key1


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