When I login via ssh with -v I see that ssh is authenticating the following way

debug1: Authentications that can continue: publickey,gssapi-with-mic,password,hostbased

I would like to change the order ...any idea how?

My bigger problem is that user with locked accounts, can still login via public-keys. I have found that I could add the user to a group "ssh-locked" add deny that group from sshing, but I am still wondering if there is a way to tell ssh'd: Please check password before keys...

  • 1
    I think you're approaching this the wrong way - keys are (usually) more secure than passwords. If the account is locked, you need to tell the sshd daemon to not let the user login regardless of the authentication method. Jun 24, 2011 at 7:58
  • Like I said, I found a solution, via DenyGroups. I am asking it for the sake of interest.
    – oz123
    Jun 24, 2011 at 7:59

4 Answers 4


The ssh server decides which authentication options it allows, the ssh client can be configured to decide in which order to try them.

The ssh client uses the PreferredAuthentications option in the ssh config file to determine this.

From man ssh_config (see it online here):

             Specifies the order in which the client should try protocol 2 authentication methods.  This allows a client to prefer
             one method (e.g. keyboard-interactive) over another method (e.g. password).  The default is:


I don't believe it's possible, without playing with the source, to tell the OpenSSH server to prefer a certain order - if you think about it, it doesn't quite make sense anyway.

  • 1
    If you are using Git Bash for Windows, save your ssh config to ~/.ssh/config Jan 13, 2015 at 22:31
  • The order can make sense if one method depends on a previous one. For example 2FA under keyboard-interactive might depend on the user having first provided a valid password.
    – steveayre
    Sep 25, 2018 at 22:42
  • Can you post a source for where you copy-pasted the PreferredAuthentications info above? I don't see it in man ssh, nor in /etc/ssh/ssh_config, nor in /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Where did you get this info? Nov 8, 2019 at 18:04
  • Found it! It was in man ssh_config. I submitted an edit for review to update your answer to contain this source. Please cite sources next time! Many thanks. Nov 8, 2019 at 19:49

Adding this:

PreferredAuthentications keyboard-interactive,password,publickey,hostbased,gssapi-with-mic

...to my /etc/ssh/ssh_config helped me to solve this, and saved a lot of time too!

You can check if it works by using ssh -v user@host command to connect, where -v stands for "verbose".

  • 2
    Ensure that you're adding this to the correct file ssh_config and not sshd_config. The latter will cause your ssh to fail!
    – Oranges13
    Dec 16, 2016 at 3:07
  • You can also modify .ssh/config. Not everyone is able to become root.
    – Et7f3XIV
    Mar 28 at 8:18

Adding to the other two answers already mentioning the PreferredAuthentications option, I'd like to add you don't need to edit any file to set this setting if you don't want. Rather, you can just set it at the command-line for an individual call to ssh, with the -o option, as follows:

ssh -o PreferredAuthentications=publickey,gssapi-with-mic,hostbased,keyboard-interactive,password user@hostname


  1. To read more about the PreferredAuthentications option, see man ssh_config (see it online here). Also read about the ssh -o option in the man ssh manual pages (online here).

For a truly locked account, you can usually play with its expiration date as well. The ways to do so depend on your host's OS, e.g. on Linux it would be chage -d 0 someuser.

See also https://unix.stackexchange.com/questions/343535/what-is-the-solaris-equivalent-of-chage-d :-)

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