I have two public keys, one for some servers and one for others. How do I specify which key to use when connecting to a server?

2 Answers 2


Assuming you're on a Unix/Linux environment, you can create or edit the file ~/.ssh/config.

That config file allows you to establish the parameters to use for each host; so, for example:

Host host1
  HostName <hostname_or_ip>
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/identity_file1

Host Host2
  HostName <hostname_or_ip2>
  User differentusername
  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/identity_file2

Note that host1 and host2 can also be not hostnames, but rather labels to identify a server.

Now you can log onto the to hosts with:

ssh host1
ssh host2
  • 57
    You can also use -i <keyfile>, but I'd definitely recommend the config file method in the general case.
    – womble
    Jul 30, 2011 at 8:43
  • I tried this but I keep getting prompted of the passphrase for my key. Even when I enter the passphrase correctly, the ssh login doesn't work. I tried using a blank passphrase too Feb 29, 2016 at 20:27
  • I had to do ssh differentusername@host2 for a proper login, but otherwise this worked wonderfully, thank you!
    – agrippa
    Jun 21, 2019 at 21:57

On Fedora 27, you can put the private/public keys under ~/.ssh/ and then when you ssh to a host, both of them will be tried automatically.

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