Custom Ssh Key Setup for Github

Secure Shell (SSH) is a vital protocol for securely connecting to remote servers, and it's particularly essential for developers interacting with version control systems like Git. GitHub, one of the most popular platforms for hosting Git repositories, relies heavily on SSH for secure communication between local machines and its servers. While using SSH keys is a standard practice, customizing the key generation and configuration can enhance security and manageability. In this article, we'll explore the process of generating a custom SSH key and configuring it specifically for GitHub.

Generating a Custom SSH Key

The ssh-keygen command is the go-to tool for generating SSH key pairs. By default, it generates keys with names like id_rsa for the private key and for the public key. However, you can create custom-named keys for better organization and security isolation.

To generate a custom SSH key pair, execute the following command:

$ ssh-keygen -f custom_key_rsa

This command generates a new SSH key pair named custom_key_rsa in the ~/.ssh directory. The -f option specifies the file name of the key pair.

Configuring SSH for GitHub

Once the custom SSH key pair is generated, it needs to be configured for GitHub. This involves specifying the custom key in the SSH configuration file (~/.ssh/config) and associating it with GitHub.

Open or create the SSH configuration file (~/.ssh/config) in your preferred text editor and add the following configuration:

    User git
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/custom_key_rsa
    IdentitiesOnly yes

Let's break down each line of this configuration:

  • Host: Specifies a nickname for the GitHub host along with the custom SSH key name ( This nickname will be used in Git commands to reference this specific configuration.
  • HostName: Specifies the actual hostname of the GitHub server.
  • User: Specifies the username to use when connecting to GitHub (usually git for GitHub).
  • IdentityFile: Specifies the path to the private key file (custom_key_rsa) generated earlier.
  • IdentitiesOnly: Ensures that only the specified identity file is used for authentication.

Utilizing the Custom SSH Key with Git

With the custom SSH key and configuration in place, you can now seamlessly interact with GitHub repositories using the specified key. When cloning, pulling, pushing, or performing any other Git operation, use the configured host nickname ( instead of the default GitHub hostname.

For example, to clone a repository using the custom SSH key configuration, you would use the following command:

$ git clone

Replace user/repository.git with the actual GitHub username and repository name.

In addition to configuring SSH for GitHub, you can extend its versatility for accessing servers with custom settings. By modifying the SSH configuration file (~/.ssh/config), you can streamline access to various servers with specific configurations. Let’s delve into an example.

Server Host Configuration

Suppose you frequently access a server named as the root user on a non-standard port 2211. You can simplify this process by adding the following configuration to your SSH config file:

Host myserver 
    User root 
    Port 2211

This configuration assigns the nickname myserver to the specified server, making it easier to connect. You can now simply use ssh myserver to access as the root user on port 2211.