A Practical Guide to Managing Multiple GitHub Accounts

Fredrick Mgbeoma
The Andela Way
Published in
4 min readOct 17, 2018


TD; LR — This article is a practical guide to setting up and managing multiple GitHub accounts on the same machine.

Credit: Shopify

At some point in your work life as a software developer, the need to switch between multiple GitHub accounts may arise. This is especially true if you are a freelance developer. Also, It could simply be a desire to have separate GitHub accounts for work-related projects and personal projects.

Table of Contents


  • Two active GitHub accounts
  • A Unix based machine
  • Some knowledge of working with the terminal

Create SSH keys

Let’s start by creating two separate SSH keys. Open your computer terminal. Proceed and follow the steps below to create and save two separate keys.

$ cd ~/.ssh
$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_personal_email@domain.com"
# save as id_rsa_personal
$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "your_work_email@domain.com"
# save as id_rsa_work

Running the above commands will create four (4) files in the .ssh directory in your local machine:


NB: The files with the .pub extension are the public files that you would add to your GitHub account.

Add SSH keys to GitHub account

Firstly, copy one of the keys you created, say, the personal key by running the command below:

$ pbcopy < ~/.ssh/id_rsa_personal.pub

Head over to GitHub, log in and follow the steps below to add the newly created key to your GitHub account.

  • Go to Settings by clicking on the drop-down icon beside your avatar located at the top right of the navigation bar.
  • Click on theSSH and GPG keys link on the navigation by the left.
  • Click on the green New SSH key button by the top right.
  • Add a title to identify the key you are about to paste.
  • Paste the personal key in the key input field provided. Click on Add SSH key and confirm your GitHub password when prompted.

Go through the same steps to add your work SSH key.

Create configuration files to manage keys

Head back to the .ssh folder in your terminal and create a configuration file for your keys using the command below:

$ touch config

Open and edit the file using nano/vim. I used nano: $ nano config

# Personal account - default config
Host github.com-personal
HostName github.com
User git
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_personal
# Work account
Host github.com-work
HostName github.com
User git
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa_work

To save and exit — ctr+o and ctrl+x .

To make the process of managing the SSH keys more stress-free, let’s create two git configuration files. The first file would be for the global git configuration for use in personal projects and the second file would be for work projects.

Launch your terminal. Navigate to the root directory and create the global git configuration file with the content below:

$ cd ~
$ nano ~/.gitconfig


name = John Doe
email = johndoe@domain.com
[includeIf "gitdir:~/work/"]
path = ~/work/.gitconfig

NB: To save and exit — ctr+o and ctrl+x .

Create the work specific git config:

$ nano ~/work/.gitconfig


email = john.doe@company.com

To explain what is going on here a bit. The above configuration uses Conditional includes introduced in git 2.13 to handle multiple configurations.

In order for the work configuration to work correctly, we are assuming that you have a directory called work which contains all your work-related projects. If this is not the case, feel free to change work configuration to suit your preferences.

Save key identities in local machine

Remove any previously-stored key identities using the command:

$ cd ~
$ ssh-add -D

Add the newly created key identities:

$ ssh-add id_rsa_personal
$ ssh-add id_rsa_work

Check if the keys were saved correctly using the command:

$ ssh-add -l

Good job so far 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

Proceed to authenticate the keys with GitHub using the commands below:

$ ssh -T github.com-personal
# Hi USERNAME! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide shell access.
$ ssh -T github.com-work
# Hi USERNAME! You've successfully authenticated, but GitHub does not provide shell access.

Test on GitHub repository

Head back over to your personal GitHub account. Create a new repository with your desired project name, say, test-ssh. Follow the steps below to clone the repository, create your first commit and push to GitHub:

$ git clone git@github.com-personal:USERNAME/test-ssh.git 
$ cd test-ssh
$ touch index.html
$ echo "Hello World" >> index.html
$ git add .
$ git commit -m 'Add index file'
$ git push origin master

In this case, you have cloned the project using your personal git configuration which is the default. The same method can be used for your work-related projects. Bear in mind that all work projects need to be in thework directory for the work git configuration you have set up to work correctly.

Cheers 🥂🥂

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See more articles by the author — https://www.codeisbae.com

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Fredrick Mgbeoma
The Andela Way

A daring programmer with a passion for making dreams come true.