My understanding of the way ~/.ssh/config works is that each 'Host ' line takes effect for any host matching after that point in the config file.

I have a number of personal servers and work servers that I need to connect to. I'm trying to do something like the following:

# General Settings
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath   ~/.ssh/controlmaster/%r@%h:%p
ForwardAgent  yes
ForwardX11    yes
GSSAPIAuthentication no
PubkeyAuthentication yes

# Personal Servers
Host *
User harleypig
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/personal_id_rsa

Host host1
Hostname host1.com

Host host2
Hostname host2.com

# Work Servers
Host *
User alan.young
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/work_id_rsa

Host work1
Hostname work1.companyserver.com

Host work2
Hostname work2.companyserver.com

Host *
User devuser

Host dev1
Hostname dev1.companyserver.com

Host dev2
Hostname dev2.companyserver.com

The docs seem to indicate that host1 and host2 should use 'personal_id_rsa' and the user harleypig. work1, work2, dev1 and dev2 should use 'work_id_rsa' and the first two should be the user 'alan.young' and dev1 and dev2 should be the user 'devuser'

However, this is not happening. Whatever 'Host *' I put first is what all of the following hosts try to connect with. Am I misunderstanding or missing something?

  • Thank you, between both of these answers I was able to get my connections working.
    – harleypig
    Jul 13, 2011 at 22:06

2 Answers 2


From the ssh_config manual:

Since the first obtained value for each parameter is used, more host-specific declarations should be given near the beginning of the file, and general defaults at the end.

So in your example, all hosts will use User harleypig and IdentityFile ~/.ssh/personal_id_rsa.

Think of Host directives with wildcards as fallbacks: use the following settings only if they haven't been set yet. You need to write something like this:

Host host1
Hostname host1.com
Host host2
Hostname host2.com
Host host*
User harleypig
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/personal_id_rsa

You can put multiple patterns on a Host line if a given set of host aliases can't be matched with wildcards, e.g. Host host* more* outlier.

  • Can Host has subdirectory? I mean: Host host2.com/companyName
    – Dr.jacky
    Aug 7, 2020 at 19:21
  • @Dr.jacky That's not a subdirectory. The slash character is not a directory separator here. It works if you run ssh host2.com/companyName, but it may not work in other contexts. For example you can't use rsync host2.com/companyName:/remote/path /local/path because rsync doesn't recognize host2.com/companyName as a hostname. Use - as a separator instead. Aug 7, 2020 at 20:30
  • 1
    You're right. For my case, it should be like this: git clone [email protected]:companyName/repoName.git. and in .gitconfig: Host github.com-companyName.
    – Dr.jacky
    Aug 7, 2020 at 20:31

You are definitely doing it wrong.

  • You should always put Host * as the last entry.
  • You can not have multiple Host * entries

If your work machines have a name format which you can generalize to target just the work machines, for e.g: machine1.work.com, host.work.com, fileserver.work.com then you can target your work machines as:

Host *.work.com
User alan.young
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/work_id_rsa

Same applies for your personal machines.

  • For me, putting Host * at the beginning of the file seems to work fine. Perhaps the fact that you're using a wildcard trumps the fact that it is the first entry when prioritizing them?
    – Zaz
    Feb 11, 2016 at 22:31
  • Btw, the Host *.work.com is an invalid syntax. It only works the other way around: Host myserver* Feb 20, 2017 at 20:09
  • 10
    @MincăDanielAndrei it works both ways, its just a wildcard expression and you can use it as any other wildcard. Host git-codecommit.*.amazonaws.com This is a working example from my ~/.ssh/config Feb 21, 2017 at 13:01
  • 1
    @MincăDanielAndrei That behavior is documented in the man pages, if it doesn't work (for me neither) it is a bug.
    – goetz
    Jun 5, 2017 at 4:34
  • 5
    @HameedullahKhan That's wrong, you can in fact have multiple Host *, the documentation is not very clear, but just try it.
    – goetz
    Jul 9, 2017 at 16:38

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