id_rsa is normally a default key.

I've created a new key named 'keyhello'

Update: I've also added this key by doing:

ssh-add /home/myuser/.ssh/keyhello

But I believe it still isn't my default key.

So, how can we put keyhello to be the default identity, instead of the id_rsa ?

I do see a -t but I've tried:

ssh-agent /home/mysuser/.ssh/keyhello -t 

No luck with this. I get a "Permission Denied" (if I put sudo ssh-agent ... I got the same "Permission Denied w/out even prompt me my sudo pass).

5 Answers 5


In your ~/.ssh/config file put:

IdentityFile /home/myuser/.ssh/keyhello

which will tell the outgoing ssh connections to use that as the default identity

  • 3
    Go it. If the config file doesn't exist. I must create it.
    – MEM
    Mar 28, 2011 at 10:18

/usr/bin/ssh-copy-id will use the last created file that match id_*.pub. To change which one is default just touch it.

me@my-machine:~/.ssh$ touch id_rsa id_rsa.pub
  • You might need to use ssh-add -D after touching, before retrying ssh-copy-id
    – raarts
    Apr 19, 2023 at 11:15

You can specify an alternate keyfile on the command line with the -i option, or you can change it permanently with IdentityFile in the ssh client config file.


In my file /usr/bin/ssh-copy-id at line 59:

most_recent_id="$(cd "$HOME" ; ls -t .ssh/id*.pub 2>/dev/null | grep -v -- '-cert.pub$' | head -n 1)"


The most recent file will be the default, and you can probably change this. Note that your file must start with 'id'.


if you want to change the default one you send, change id_*.pub to to keyhello.pub in file /usr/bin/ssh-copy-id. You will find that on line 60 or something. The line starts with DEFAULT_PUB_ID_FILE and you will see after that "$HOME/$(cd "$HOME" ; ls -t .ssh/id_*.pub".

  • Seriously?  The only way this user can make a configuration change that affects them (and only them) is to modify a system file (potentially affecting all the users on the system)?  Is your answer better than the other (6½-year-old) answers to this question? Sep 17, 2017 at 8:33

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