Bitcoin Private Keys: Everything You Need To Know

What if you lost all of your bitcoins tomorrow? What would you do?

Let mij stress this point:

“If you don’t own your private key, you don’t own your bitcoins.”

Yes, you read that right.

Even the most knowledgeable man on Bitcoin says:

“The private key voorwaarde remain secret at all times because exposing it to third parties is omschrijving to providing them control overheen the bitcoins secured by that key. The private key voorwaarde also be backed up and protected from accidental loss, because if it’s lost it cannot be recovered and the funds secured by it are forever lost, too.”

Ter my earlier guide on Bitcoin wallets, I have used two terms extensively- Private Address (or key) and Public Address (or key). Thesis keys are what make Bitcoin the safest and most widely used cryptocurrency.

To understand private keys and public keys, let us look at an example.

Consider a mailbox where you receive your physical mail.

It has a unique and specific number (an address). If someone has to supply you a letterteken, he/she voorwaarde know your house/plane number to supply it.

And spil the receiver, you have a private address (or key) to unlock the mailbox and collect your belongings.

Ter real life, do you give your keys to someone unknown?

You always keep track of your key and don’t jeopardize the contents inwards of your mailbox.

Similarly, just like your house/plane number, anyone ter the Bitcoin world can know your public address (Bitcoin address) to send you bitcoins. And to unlock (spend/send) those bitcoins, you would require your private address (or key) for which you need to take utter responsibility, just like the keys of the mailbox.

I feel that understanding the underlying technical opzicht of keys is significant so that your remain better informed and educated enough to take care of them.

Te the next section, I will tell some basic technical aspects of thesis keys.

What is a Private Address (or key)?

A private key is a secret, alphanumeric password/number used to spend/send your bitcoins to another Bitcoin address. It is a 256-bit long number which is picked randomly spil soon spil you make a wallet.

The degree of randomness and uniqueness is well defined by cryptographic functions for security purposes.

This is how the Bitcoin private key looks (it always starts with Five):

What is a Public Address (or key)?

This is another alphanumeric address/number which is derived from private keys only by using cryptographic math functions.

It is unlikely to switch sides engineer and reach the private key from which it wasgoed generated.

This is the address used to publicly receive bitcoins.

This how the Bitcoin public address looks (it always starts with 1):

This address is always seen and broadcasted for receiving bitcoins. Users can make spil many public addresses spil they want to receive bitcoins.

What are Bitcoin private keys used for?

Private keys are used for making irreversible transactions. Yes, irreversible!

They are the key to spending and sending your bitcoins to anyone and anywhere. This irreversibility is ensured by mathematical signatures which are linked to each transaction whenever wij use the private keys to send bitcoins.

And for each transaction, thesis signatures are unique, even however they are generated from the same private keys. This feature makes them unlikely to copy. The user can confidently use the same private key again and again.

Moreover, the signatures are mathematically related to Bitcoin addresses. This math relation helps te confirming that the signatures are only of that particular account holder who wants to transfer bitcoins.

How do wij keep private keys safe?

It is OK if you didn’t understand the above technical stuff.

You can still use Bitcoin spil long spil you keep your private keys safe.

Thesis digital keys are crucial te the ownership of bitcoins. Thesis keys are not stored on the Bitcoin network but are created and stored by the verkeersopstopping/software (a.k.a. wallet).

A wallet stores thesis keys. There are a lotsbestemming of types of wallets out there and some permit the private keys to be stored and guarded by the user.

Some keep the key safe on behalf of the user.

I have explored each type of safety measure for you so that you can choose the most effective wallet according to your needs.

Most of the web and mobile wallet software services ter the Bitcoin market store your private key on your behalf on their servers.

They get stored te an encrypted form which only you can decrypt.

Te this kleuter of wallet, your keys are held by someone else, and if that gets hacked or stolen, your bitcoins are gone. That is why you need to take reserve safety measures when dealing with thesis services.

However, there are truly excellent wallets like MyCelium, which I personally use because of its extra security features and compatibility with hardware wallets.

Desktop wallets are relatively safe. Te such wallets, once you install them on your desktop, you will get your Bitcoin address and private key ter a downloadable and importable opstopping.

Thesis importable keys can be made password protected and stored on a memory stick or hard drive.

But once you lose the opstopping of the private key, you will lose the bitcoins.

I am going to discuss each one of thesis ter detail ter upcoming articles.

Here are a few desktop Bitcoin wallets:

Bitcoin Desktop Wallets

Hardware wallets are basically an electronic invention made to store your private keys offline away from the vulnerable online environment so that they can’t be hacked.

Some hardware wallets come with security grid cards similar to some debit cards ter order to verify the transaction. Some even have a little digital screen to verify your transactions.

They are temper proof and come with a limited user interface. Te case your device is ruined, spil long spil you have a backup code, you can retrieve your keys and bitcoins.

Some of the popular hardware wallets are:

Trezor wasgoed the very first hardware wallet to be launched since the invention of Bitcoin. It is a petite device which can be connected via a USB cable to your private pc. Its fundamental purpose is to store the private keys offline and sign transactions.

Ledger Nano S can be used even on a laptop that is infected with malware. It has two buttons which are needed to be pressed together to sign and confirm a transaction, making unlikely for a hacker to use.

Ledger Nano S also requires the user to create a Speld code on setup. The Speld code helps prevent the loss of bitcoins ter case your Nano S gets lost.

It supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other popular altcoins, and connects with other software wallets like MyCelium. Here are few movies to learn more about Ledger Nano S:

Paper wallets are simply Bitcoin private keys printed on a lump of paper. It can have the Bitcoin public address also printed on it, but not necessarily. Paper wallets are an effective way of storing Bitcoin private keys offline.

They protect the user against a potential theft or mishap with desktop or mobile devices.

Thesis kinds of wallets are also called “cold storage” because the keys are generated offline and never stored online or on a rekentuig.

You can make your paper wallet from, which is an HTML pagina specifically for this purpose only.

You can save the HTML pagina offline and remain disconnected from the internet to generate the keys. They can be printed on paper or stored spil a soft copy on a USB or hard drive. Read my previous guide on how to make a Bitcoin paper wallet.

Bitcoin Paper Wallet


Te a Bitcoin wallet, the most significant thing is your private key because it will prove that the bitcoins you voorkeur spil your own are actually yours.

Ter upcoming posts, I will voorkant how to set up a wallet for each type (Mobile/Desktop/Hardware/Paper) and how to save/invoer your private keys.

How are you keeping your private keys safe? Let us know what you do te the comments below!! Have a question about Bitcoin Private keys? Feel free to ask te the comment section below.

Here are a few more Bitcoin wallet related guides that you voorwaarde read next:


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COMMENTs ( 151 )

I’m attempting to understand who possesses a bitcoin’s private key when the bitcoin is possessed by numerous “investors.” Like if I buy a tenth of a coin, do I get the private key? If not, what good is it? If so, what’s stopping mij from spending the entire coin?

Sudhir Khatwani says

You can buy Bitcoins te fractions up to 8 decimal places and you own keys of whatever you buy, you are not at the risk of other fractions…it is not a entire number key or key of traditional look you are assuming to be.

where would I then find this key?

Sudhir Khatwani says

Ter the wallet, while you set it up for the very first time.

I’ve read there’s theoretically no limit to how puny a bitcoin can be divided. But, okay, suppose I buy a hundred/billionth of a bitcoin (smallest current unit), and you own the surplus of it. Are you telling I get my own private part of a public/private ECDH key pair that is different from yours? I’m still confused.

Sudhir Khatwani says

It will be different keys for everyone hold different parts/fractions of BTC.

And it not divisible to any limit, smallest unit is Satoshi- Pls read this-

Thank you, Sudhir. So even just to buy 1/100,000,000th of a bitcoin you get your own set of ECDH keys. Voorwaarde be a nightmare for the network. Is this where “dust” (denial of service) attacks originate? If I buy 1,000,000 Satoshi all from different sellers, do I then need to keep track of a million keys, or can I combine them into 1/100th of a bitcoin under a single key pair?

hello brother its truly nice to meet you

i wander if mayby its possible i ask you help for you make a movie on how to recover my BTC from bitcoin QT wallet bicouse i only have my passphrase and my bitcoin address and i indeed dont see any movie available anywere

can you please help mij out brother ? i dont mind to pay you if i manage to recover my BTC

if you can make a movie on youtube please send mij the verbinding on my email and also send your BTC address bicouse i indeed want to pay you for your services

thanks brother take care

Sudhir Khatwani says

Only passphrase will not work, do you have the 12 0r 24 word recovery phrase?

i have a address. how can i found the private key of that address ?

Sudhir Khatwani says

No way to do that…if it wasgoed possible, wij would not have seen any crypto market.

Actually, it is possible. Like all asymmetric encryption, the ECDH problem can be solved. Given current hardware, it’s still hard. But there are weaker kinks. And there are mathematical approaches. One could also get (very) fortunate. Also, quantum computing is expected to render elliptic curve encryption obsolete. I also wonder how long until the big bitcoin miners switch from attempting to solve the dual SHA256 hash to attacking known public keys.

Sudhir Khatwani says

Yeah, I know that but so far not, so love and live the day.

Why don’t people make numerous backups of their wallet.dat verkeersopstopping?

Sudhir Khatwani says

They might be panicked of getting hacked or losing their opstopping

Not if they do what I do. I have eliminated the verkeersopstopping from my laptop and have numerous copies on SD cards and burnt to DVD’s. About Ten copies te total.

Chris Miller says

If I were to everzwijn “invest” ter bitcoin, I’d encrypt my wallet.dat verkeersopstopping (most likely under rijndael) and store it te numerous locations, including a public cloud like gmail’s.

You can encrypt ter the wallet and a public store can be hacked.

Chris Miller says

No way to decrypt an encrypted wallet.dat verkeersopstopping. Not with the strength of modern symmetric methods: e.g. blowfish, rijndael, slang, etc. Unless you know the key. Look at the lockee virus. I’d most likely waterput all my wallets te one big encrypted verkeersopstopping/archive. It’d be ideally safe te anyone’s forearms. You could store it anywhere.

If i buy bitcoin on Coinbase or Zebpay, do I not have a private key until i transfer it to my hardware wallet. Ter other words i bought and set up a Nano S, did the Nano create my private key for mij and before that I did not have one? Or does the Nano just protecy my private key. How wasgoed I able to send BTC before setting up my nano?

Sudhir Khatwani says

Coinbase & Zebpay means you don’t have your keys elementary.

And when you use Ledger nano s like wallets you will get 12-24 word seed words/keys that are actually your private keys and you need to keep them secure, Ledger doesn’t hold your keys. Also observe thesis movie tutorials-

thanks this is a very good article, can i request coinbase to share my private key?

Sudhir Khatwani says

They don’t share private keys.

Hello Sudhir, thx for the article. Under the heading “Desktop Wallets” what do you mean when you say: “But once you lose the verkeersopstopping of the private key, you will lose the bitcoins.”? I mean how is it possible to lose a verkeersopstopping? Thx Roger

Sudhir Khatwani says

Sometimes such files contain your private keys te raw form and if you tamper with them or if somehow you don’t have the back-up of the verkeersopstopping and it gets deleted ter such case you are taking a chance your holdings which can be lost

Hi Sudhir, i just had a question. So if im using a hardware wallet like neon for example to store neo. and i lose my laptop. but the software is password protected etc. Or i spill water and ruin my hardrive. How do i have access to my crypto commodities again? If i have backed up my private key, which softwares give options to uitvoer private keys, on another laptop i can download NEON wallet and set it up using an existing private key, then my funds will display up there right? so a wallet is just a place to come in your pvt key and see your funds. your real source of funds is still your private key right? Please just clear this confusion

Sudhir Khatwani says

Yes, private keys are the only thing that matters.

Sometimes you also get seed words or keys that are also used to generate private keys only.

Spil, long spil you have the keys, no matter what happens to your device, you can always recover your cryptos via a compatible software by re-installing everything.

if i have the private key but leave behind the corresponding public key , i can just regenerate the public key and access to the coin right?

Sudhir Khatwani says

Yes, you can do that.

Hope your doing well.

My question is, if wij invoer the private keys can i then transfer that particular bitcoin’s to other person or sell it.

Two. The bitcoins which i transferred to Bittrex or Poloniex can i get/samenvatting the private keys of that too.

Sudhir Khatwani says

I’m confused…i have approx$3000 total invested te harshly 65-70 different altstem coins, across the exchanges Binance, Kucoin, hitbtc, Ctyptopia, Poloniex &, yobits. I have bot doing this for approx Five mos now&, it is fairly a learning process… I’m shocked to read that If i don’t have the private Keys to my coins, that i don’t own them at all!! I have bot leaving My money on the exchanges and watching my amounts go up-and-down spil the market does and have known that a will it wasgoed something I needed to think about but the more I looked into it the more confusing it seemed to be and the fact that I might seem to have numerous wallets with 65 to 70 different Coins potentially it just seemed like an terrific thing to do that wasn’t necessarily critical this point my confusion is ter this at what point do use take your money or stock at AV off the exchange and waterput it into a wallet if it’s ter a wallet doesn’t that mean it can’t grow it such leaps off the exchange is that onberispelijk I understand would be protected them against loss but so one would only usually probly do that if you couldn’t afford to lose money or if you add a substantial amount of a specific coin that you desired to protect is that juist ter my situation the most I have of any 1 coin is about a $100 of those 65 to 70 so witnessing that On average they are each only valued inbetween 20- $50 max, Ter a case would it be necessary or recommended for mij to waterput them into wallets or wouldn’t you lead them on the exchange so that they can hopefully grow because it’s such a puny amount? And also with thesis private keys for is that what’s choose do S API keys you can have the option of creating on the exchanges are those the same things? And also with regards to thesis keys is it vanaf coin on each exchange or is it Vanaf wallet across the Houtvezelplaat or is it vanaf exchange I’m not understanding where thesis are generated specific xactly or if there if it’s possible to generate them on the exchange or only ter A wallet itself. And I’ve given my situation with the fact that the most is a $100 of value if you would agree that it is OK to leave them on the exchange until they grow and further te value or I invest more money te one or more Of them Which while it then would you recommend given my situation because I don’t want to have a bunch of wallets like a bunch of keys to the house on a enormous key chain that’s too much to reminisce and be too difficult and the store what would you te my situation recommend spil far spil wallets goes which one and I M an agreement upon the fact that whatever which everzwijn when I do it should be offline I want one that’s offline not when it’s available online that hackers can get to an te any respect it on any chance of that any possibility so given that which while it would you recommend for mij? I’m not opposed to paying for something that is worthwhile but if possible are there any you would recommend that are free service wise? or is it necessary to pay for something because It is well worth it, Because te that case I don’t have a problem I understand If it’s a necessity and an experienced recommends it. I have a question also I have a few different currencies that have bot te maintenance status For several months and I’m not permitted to withdraw or access them or do anything with them and this is a few different exchanges it Bit coin diamond on by Binance for example, Rep on Cryptopia, etc.. Have attempted city messages to customer service with there seems to be a ease off of quality service agents and responses or anything of value spil far spil help on the exchanges which is disappointing but I can understand that I’ve due to the vector te many are ter different countries however I cannot seem to find an reaction spil to how to to overeenkomst with this problem or to see any end ter glance I can’t foresee any end te view I feel like I just my money’s bot stolen Practically, Because I can’t access Funds, sell, transfer, or do anything With it. Can you recommend anything to do to brunt resolve to those situations? Re: certain Exchanges: Are there any exchanges you’d advise against doing business with? Because I’m just beginning to see trends with ones, that seem to be manipulated. I’ve observed, and have come to latest conclusion that it’s probs by wise to stay away from cryptopia, specifically, spil it seems to be motionless to some extent I’ve noticed, spil well spil many of the coins on yobits, too. Can you recommended an exchange that’s reputable, but offers a broad range of altstem coins, similar to the large number suggested on Cryptopia, that has high volume of trading and no suspicious manipulating of coins that’s noticeable even to a beginner like mij!? Im looking for one to substitute cryptopia, but have struggled to find one with the broad selection, which has bot frustrating. One final question if you don’t mind: with regards to transferring from one exchange to another, when u generate a wallet address to transfer the coins, why are some 100%different from each other, and then others, will generate the very same address that came up when i did the last transfer a few minutes prior? Literally, if im transferring 6 altstem coins from one exchange to one other one, the very first Trio will be the same address generated, then the 4th will be something totally different and fresh, then the 5th i have had terugwedstrijd to issuing the same address spil the very first Trio generated, then the 6th come up with entirely different one again. Why Does it seem spil if there’s no rhyme or reason to any of this I thought each and every coin murmurs to have a separate wallet address that wasgoed not like any other. Even on the same exchange can somebody clarify that and also once it is used for that coin isn’t it always supposed to stay the same that same address every time? And just for clarification this address would be public or considered private that I’m generate when I want to deposit money ter do certain wallets or transfer across weeks 1 from 1 exchange to another is that the same spil a public or private address I’m just attempting to discern the differences inbetween all of them still.. If I didn’t make clear already how do I go about generating thesis private addresses and specifically when and where and at what point should I or J recommended Are necessary that I do so ?? I know is not a questions but I so preciate any help or clarification time bot attempting to do this on my own And for all that I learned I feel like there’s just spil much if not more they don’t understand and I deftly just need some clarification on thesis points especially because I may not own any mine coins at this point by your definition can I don’t have the keys to any kinds of wallets so help help help so I can make a switch now and protect myself!! thank you!!

Sudhir Khatwani says

Thanks, looks like you are now enlightened. If you don’t trade frequently keep your coins te your wallet and have 70 altcoins is not a good idea at all.

And te wallets also you will keep gaining/losing just like on exchanges but ter wallets, you are further protected against exchange hacks. For further questions pls visit and ask here one by one-

i see that te the above you mentioned : The user can confidently use the same private key again and again.

i thought every private key has exactly one corresponding public key, and every public key has one address. How can you use that again and again?

say if i bought btc te coinbase and i transfer the bitcoin into another wallet ( 1 transaction), ter this transaction

( from coinbase to my wallet), there will be a pair of public and private key generated , i will get the private key form the wallet to unlock the bitcoin?

say after that i project to transfer another quantity of bitcoin to another user, i know the user’s public address (key) , with the public key i generate another private key for the another user to unlock the bitcoin?

i also see that you use public address and public key interchangeably, however they are different spil a bitcoin wallet address is a hashed version of your public key, is it juist?

thanks for the excellent articles – i have Four questions, hope you can response mij

1) only the receiver of btc creates public address, then it will generate a pair of keys ( public and private ) , the sender of btc will use the private key to access the btc given ter previous transaction and send to the address of the receivers , is it juist?

Two) if i buy bitcoin ter lump te numerous times ( for example each time i buy 0.Two btc for Five times, i end up having 1 bitcoin), do i have Five private keys? if i were to send out 1 bitcoin to another address , do i have to send Five times?

Trio) if a donation account ( a static account) has only one public address asking for numerous senders to send to that address, and people donate to that, the person can access all the BTC sent to that static public address with one private keys?

Sudhir Khatwani says

1) Not able to understand what you are asking? BTC address can be generated by receiver and sender both. And they hold their respective keys related to their addresses. BTC just moves from one public address to another.

Two) If you send 0.Two again and again to the same address then you have one single key and if you send it to Five different address you will have numerous keys.

Three) Yes, you are right.

I heard that obtaining the private key means taking ownership of the bitcoins. How to do this practically? If you write down the private key on a paper and palm it to mij, how should I do with this? and if more than 1 person get this paper at the same time who would be the proprietor?

Sudhir Khatwani says

Waterput thesis keys ter a wallet to voorkoop your btc. Also, the one who claims very first is the possessor and can stir it to another wallet.

Thank you for quick answering. Seems I couldn’t find a way to “put thesis keys ter a wallet”. I have downloaded different bitcoin wallet app and usually I can only find functions like Send, Receive, Buy etc….and for “Receive” it is only about sending the public key to someone else.

Did I miss anything?

Chris Miller says

your explanation of the asymmetric encryption method that permits users to verify ownership actually isn’t at all technical, but purely metaphorical. One would have to investigate and understand elliptic curve theory and math to appreciate the difficulty of the problem someone wanting to steal your bitcoin would need to solve. Other cryptocurrencies use elliptic curve, too, which has bot around about 30 years now.(The curve most bitcoins use is exceedingly elementary, designed for prompt verification.) Also, cryptocurrencies have zero intrinsic value spil an investment, and so rely rigorously and totally on what’s called a “greater fool” strategy.

Related movie: How To Mine Bytecoin From Huis Using Your Gpu. Genesis Mining Bitcoin Review

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