Ubuntu – SSH resets to default port on reboot


I changed my default SSH port on my home server (in the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file) to port 54747, then restarted the ssh and sshd services (never sure which one so I did both just to be safe). To test my configuration, I logged out and then back in without any problem.

A couple days later, I installed apt updates, and then rebooted my server. When I tried to SSH back in (on port 54747), I got a connection refused error.

For some reason, I tried to SSH on default port, and it worked ! I went back to check on the sshd_config, but it still had the custom port. So I restarted the sshand sshdservices, and it got back to "regular" behaviour (ssh on port 54747). I tried rebooting again, and connection refused again…

Anyone knows what I did wrong ?

Extra details :

  • Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS
  • Server is also used a HTPC, with an open session (same user as SSH) on my TV
  • I SSH using my laptop's RSA key, and have disabled password auth
  • I used to reboot with sudo reboot -h now, but after searching, I discovered it was discouraged by some people, so I tried sudo reboot, but no differences

Sequence of events :

  1. Change SSH port from 22 to 54747 in /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  2. Restart ssh and sshd services
  3. End current SSH session
  4. SSH back in successfully on port 54747
  5. Reboot
  6. SSH connection error on port 54747, but successful on port 22
  7. Restart ssh and sshd services
  8. SSH back in successfully on port 54747, connection error on port 22
  9. Reboot and go back to 6

EDIT 1 : netstat output

rgo@ATLAS:~$ sudo netstat -lntp | grep :54747
rgo@ATLAS:~$ sudo netstat -lntp | grep :22
tcp6       0      0 :::22                   :::*                    LISTEN      1/init  

EDIT 2 : service sshd status

‚óŹ ssh.service - OpenBSD Secure Shell server
   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/ssh.service; enabled; vendor preset: enabled)
   Active: inactive (dead)

EDIT 3 : lsof -i | grep ssh

systemd      1     root   46u  IPv6  42724      0t0  TCP ATLAS:ssh-> (ESTABLISHED)
systemd      1     root   49u  IPv6  14641      0t0  TCP *:ssh (LISTEN)
sshd      4088     root    3u  IPv6  42724      0t0  TCP ATLAS:ssh-> (ESTABLISHED)
sshd      4088     root    4u  IPv6  42724      0t0  TCP ATLAS:ssh-> (ESTABLISHED)
sshd      4202      rgo    3u  IPv6  42724      0t0  TCP ATLAS:ssh-> (ESTABLISHED)
sshd      4202      rgo    4u  IPv6  42724      0t0  TCP ATLAS:ssh-> (ESTABLISHED)

For reference, ATLAS is the remote server hostname, is my laptop's LAN IP, and command was executed between steps 6 and 7

ufw status

Status: inactive

EDIT 4 : ps -ef |grep sshd

root      4088     1  0 22:40 ?        00:00:00 sshd: rgo [priv]
rgo       4202  4088  0 22:40 ?        00:00:00 sshd: rgo@pts/1 sshd

Best Answer

ssh may be "socket activated" by systemd depending on configuration, which means that initially it is systemd that sets up the listening port, and sshd is only started when a client first connects. This is to speed up startup time: service daemons are only started on demand.

However this means that you must also configure systemd to the matching port. You'll find the system configuration in /lib/systemd/system/ssh.socket which lists ListenStream=22. To override this, create a file /etc/systemd/system/ssh.socket.d/port.conf (creating the directory ssh.socket.d if needed) that contains:


Change the number to the port desired. The first blank entry erases the previous default, and the subsequent entry adds the new one. This overrides the default shipped in /lib/systemd/system/ssh.socket and must be done in addition to changing /etc/ssh/sshd_config.

Then run sudo systemctl daemon-reload to tell systemd about your changes, and sudo systemctl reload ssh if your ssh daemon was previously running.