In case it matters:

  • OS: Ubuntu 10.04
  • SSH: OpenSSH_5.3p1 Debian-3ubuntu5

I'd like one SSH config file to include another one. The use case would be to define whatever I want in my default .ssh/config file and then pre-pend a couple of extra things in a separate file (e.g. ~/.ssh/foo.config). I want the second file to incorporate the first one, though, so I don't have to duplicate everything in the first one. Is that doable? Thanks!


12 Answers 12


From 7.3p1 and up, there is the Include keyword, which allows you to include configuration files.


    Include the specified configuration file(s).  Multiple pathnames may be specified and each pathname may contain glob(3) wildcards and, for user configurations, shell-like “~” references to user home directories.  Files without absolute paths are assumed to be in ~/.ssh if included in a user configuration file or /etc/ssh if included from the system configuration file.  Include directive may appear inside a Match or Host block to perform conditional inclusion.
Source: ssh_config(5).

You should put the Include clause on top of the file.

For example you could have in ~/.ssh/config:

Include config.d/home

Host github.com
    HostName github.com
    User git

and in ~/.ssh/config.d/home:

Host laptop
    HostName laptop.lan

From the comments, use the below to include all files in the config.d directory:

Include config.d/* 
  • 22
    check version with $ ssh -V
    – Pieter
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 1:25
  • 27
    Use Include config.d/* to include all entries in config.d. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 5:41
  • 49
    Ftr: this has to go in the top of the file and cannot just be appended to the list of Host entries.
    – dtk
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 16:47
  • 4
    @dtk another workaround is to put the Include inside a Host * entry and avoid reordering the config
    – dfogni
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 10:11
  • 4
    He ain't lyin' about making sure to put it at the top. Commented May 6, 2021 at 22:38

If you want to start a ssh client, you could do this in bash:

#files are .ssh/config and ~/.ssh/foo.config
alias ssh='ssh -F <(cat .ssh/config ~/.ssh/foo.config)'

then you use ssh normally and it will have both files read in that order.

For the server daemon sshd you could do the same, just use -f instead of -F and write this down where you start the daemon directly. you don't need an alias.

A second possibility according to the man page is to put the system wide configuration in /etc/ssh/ssh_config and the user one in ~/.ssh/config.

Update Apparently there is a problem with some bash versions and how the devices are created. (see http://bugs.alpinelinux.org/issues/1465)

This is a workaround (though in my opinion ugly):

mkfifo /tmp/ssh_fifo
cat ~/.ssh/config ~/.ssh/foo.config >/tmp/ssh_fifo & 
ssh -F /tmp/ssh_fifo myserver
rm /tmp/ssh_fifo

so if you want, you may create a function out of it (or a script):

ssh() {
    tmp_fifo=$(mktemp -u --suffix=_ssh_fifo)
    mkfifo "$tmp_fifo" 
    cat ~/.ssh/config ~/.ssh/foo.config >"$tmp_fifo" 2>/dev/null & 
    /usr/bin/ssh -F "$tmp_fifo" "$@"
    rm "$tmp_fifo"
  • 1
    Sadly this doesn't work on OSX's ssh: Can't open user config file /dev/fd/63: Bad file descriptor Commented Aug 23, 2012 at 13:10
  • It does not work for me also on (Ubuntu 11.10) Linux giving the same error as @AshBerlin posted above. Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 15:13
  • @AshBerlin you may try it too, this should work also for OSX, until the bug gets fixed
    – estani
    Commented Nov 27, 2012 at 19:32
  • Given ssh checks three places, 1. command line, 2. ~/.ssh/config, 3. /etc/ssh/ssh_config, you shouldn't need to pass ~/.ssh/config on the command line as well. Just alias ssh='ssh -F ~/.ssh/foo.config' and ~/.ssh/config should get picked up after that. As long as you don't mind foo.config being loaded first that should be cleaner than the above workaround.
    – jim
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 3:27
  • 1
    @jim no it doesn't work like that. The first one found is used. Have you tried it? from the man page "-F configfile: Specifies an alternative per-user configuration file. If a configuration file is given on the command line, the system-wide configuration file (/etc/ssh/ssh_config) will be ignored."
    – estani
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 10:52

In 2012, to my knowledge, this is not possible.

Here are the links to corresponding open feature requests / bug tickets:



  • 2
    Also this bug on Debian: bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=631189
    – Lluís
    Commented Jul 3, 2014 at 11:50
  • 14
    OMG. It is hapening. From 2016-04-15 13:01:08 EST: Slightly modified patch applied, this will be in openssh-7.3
    – oschrenk
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 0:15
  • 10
    This answer was correct at the time, but is outdated now. Commented Dec 6, 2018 at 21:40

Starting with ssh 7.3 (released on August 1st, 2016), an Include directive is available.

Include: Include the specified configuration file(s). Multiple path names may be specified and each pathname may contain glob wildcards and shell-like "~" references to user home directories. Files without absolute paths are assumed to be in ~/.ssh. An Include directive may appear inside a Match or Host block to perform conditional inclusion.

(Here is the link to the resolved bug report, that also includes tha patch: https://bugzilla.mindrot.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1585#c24)


Similarly to the other 'ugly' here's mine one-liner:

alias ssh="cat ~/.ssh/config.d/* > ~/.ssh/config; ssh"
  • Note that sftp command will not trigger config recalculation. Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 22:44
  • 2
    (I still like the answer because it uses "config.d/" and is very simple.) Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 22:49
  • 2
    simple, elegant, yet hacky
    – code_monk
    Commented May 29, 2016 at 14:31
  • beware: will overwrite any existing ~/.ssh/config file
    – mhansen
    Commented Feb 23, 2020 at 6:47

Well, I kinda cheat to do this. In my bash .profile-ish files I have a block that replaces various pieces of my home directory on login, so I just generate a new one each time. Example:

rm ~/.ssh/config
cat ~/conf/myservers.sshconfig >> ~/.ssh/config

[ -f ~/conf/workservers.sshconfig ] && cat ~/conf/workservers.sshconfig >> ~/.ssh/config
(or something like this:)
for i in `ls ~/conf/sshconfigs` ; do
    cat $i >> ~/.ssh/config

chmod 600 ~/.ssh/config

This also lets me do things like add config blocks to the ssh config file only if i'm on host A or B, but not on my home systems.

Now I know, someone will gripe that if you log in a lot this could cause excessive slowdown, but in practice I've never actually noticed it. And I'm sure you could put this in a script and fire it via cron too.


I personally use those commands to compile the ssh config:

alias compile-ssh-config='echo -n > ~/.ssh/config && cat ~/.ssh/*.config > ~/.ssh/config'
alias ssh='compile-ssh-config && ssh'
# (This will get used by other programs depending on the ~/.ssh/config)
# (If you need you can run the compile-ssh-config command via cron etc.)


alias compile-ssh-config='echo -n > ~/.ssh/config-compilation && cat ~/.ssh/*.config > ~/.ssh/config-compilation'
alias ssh='compile-ssh-config && ssh -F ~/.ssh/config-compilation'
# (This is saver and won't over write an existing ~/.ssh/config file)


alias ssh='ssh -F <(cat .ssh/*.config)'

does not work for me, returning:

ssh: Can't open user config file /dev/fd/63: Bad file descriptor

Hope this will be of any help.

  • You could go a step further and combine this with fswatch, for automated compilation on file change
    – cavalcade
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 6:34

Another, FUSE-based solution (not tested myself):


"Rather than having to continue managing one big file, [...] instead build a config "file" dynamically from many smaller logical chunks."

I've also found an article doing this via FIFOs: http://www.linuxsysadmintutorials.com/multiple-ssh-client-configuration-files/

  • 1
    I find the comment content to be descriptive enough - it says "FUSE" (Perhaps expanding the acronym would be better); The link is just to an implementation.
    – aviv
    Commented Jun 23, 2013 at 20:20
  • 1
    Wasn't aware of short answers problem, answer expanded. Looks like I will have to check back the site for my answers from time to time, in absence of email notifications :) Learnt to use favs, by now. Thanks for the comments.
    – amontero
    Commented Jul 7, 2013 at 14:17
  • Related: the answer by @Benjam who does it using a Makefile triggered by a shell alias. superuser.com/a/1349574/53308
    – dolmen
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 15:58

None of these alias solutions work for git or other programs other than ssh.

I've slapped together a quick-and-dirty, but you might want to improve on it.

Add this to your ~/.bashrc

mkdir -p ~/.ssh/config.d/
[ -e ~/.ssh/config ] && mv ~/.ssh/config ~/.ssh/config.bak.$(date -Ins)
cat ~/.ssh/config.d/* > ~/.ssh/config

Each time you start a session, it'll merge together all the files in ~/.ssh/config.d. (line 3)

The downside with this version is that if you change ~/.ssh/config next session you open your changes would be lost, so to prevent that I move the existing file to a .bak file. (line 2) The problem there is you're gonna have a whole lot of .bak files after a while.

  • Excellent with adding some is_anything_changed condition
    – vp_arth
    Commented Jul 4, 2015 at 4:57

I cannot upgrade SSH on my machine neither.

I used GNU make to generate the ssh config file only when needed:

# Concatenates all the .config files.
aInput  = *.config
aOutput = ~/.ssh/config

aCurrentMakefile = $(lastword $(MAKEFILE_LIST))

$(aOutput): $(shell ls $(aInput)) $(aCurrentMakefile)
    @echo "Generating $(aOutput)"
    @echo "# File generated by $(aCurrentMakefile) on $(shell date +'%F %T.%6N')" > $(aOutput)
    @cat $(aInput) >> $(aOutput)

Then ssh is aliased to

alias ssh='make -s -f ~/Tools/config.d/makefile -C ~/Tools/config.d && ssh'

It works like a charm.

  • Good trick. However it might be faster to rebuild every time instead of triggering make which will trigger much more I/O. At least we now have Include.
    – dolmen
    Commented Jan 3, 2023 at 15:55

You can easily upgrade SSH version on Ubuntu to v7.3 (tested on Ubuntu Xenial 16.04) by installing packages from Yakkety:

echo "deb http://old-releases.ubuntu.com/ubuntu yakkety main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/yakkety.list
apt-get update
apt-get install -y ssh
rm /etc/apt/sources.list.d/yakkety.list
apt-get update

Check SSH version

ssh -V
OpenSSH_7.3p1 Ubuntu-1, OpenSSL 1.0.2g 1 Mar 2016

Configure SSH to use includes from ~/.ssh/config.d directory

mkdir ~/.ssh/config.d
sed -i '1iInclude config.d/*' ~/.ssh/config

My dumb answer :

  • Tried to install OpenSSH > 7.3 on Xenial (16.04)
  • Didn't like the mess it made

So I settled for this :

  • Keep your separate OpenSSH config files in ~/.ssh/config.d/
  • When you change one, do cat ~/.ssh/config.d/* > ~/.ssh/config
  • On the glorious day you upgrade to a distro version that has OpenSSH 7.3p1 or newer, you can instead create a file that contains

Include config.d/*

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