How to Store Your Bitcoin Recovery Words Securely

Don't fall in to the trap of storing your password on the internet.

Monday 9th July 2018


Your cryptocurrency wallet may be valuable, but the recovery words for your wallet are what really holds the key to your money.

Recovery words are generated when you first set up your wallet, either online or on a hardware device.

If you lose your recovery words, you could be locked out of your wallet forever. So you have to store them somewhere; few of us can memorise 12 or 24 random words off the bat.

How do you store these valuable recovery words without giving someone else access to your wallet?

Cryptocurrency wallets differ in terms of the passphrases and keys they use, but we’ll stick with recovery words to make it simple.

Basic Recovery Phrase Storage

The first thing most people do when they set up a wallet is to write, or type, their recovery words somewhere.

Here’s the first tip: don’t type this in a cloud document, or in an email. If you’re really paranoid, don’t type it on any computer that’s connected to the internet.

If you’re going to write it down, write them on a your piece of paper in a fireproof safe or a bank deposit box.

Some bitcoin users opt for fireproof bags and waterproof paper.

Making a few copies is a good idea, but don’t hand them to people you don’t trust (and be careful about handing them to those you do).

Weird and Wonderful Recovery Word Storage

If you don’t trust paper, safes, ink, or banks, there are some alternative options, like:

  • Stamping your phrase, or key, onto metal

  • Generating an image, video, file, or short sentence to encode it

  • Splitting the phrase up into two or more sections, and storing the parts in different locations.

You may be tempted to snap a picture of the words and store them “safely” in an iCloud photo, in your Gmail account, or in Dropbox. This is a really bad idea, because anyone who gains access will find it.

Email, in particular, is a bad option for anything valuable. Your email provider may use a secure connection between you and its computers. But once your message leaves its systems, your message will no longer be secure.

And one final tip: don’t leave your coins on an exchange. Until your coins are in your wallet, think of them as being loaned to someone else.

Hard to Find, Hard to Guess

The more convenient your chosen storage is, the easier it is to access your wallet.

But if you lose your recovery words, PIN, or private key, your bitcoins will be lost forever.

The lesson here is simple: find an inconvenient storage method that you can live with.

Once your wallet is set up, you probably won’t need your recovery phrase again. So assuming you’ve tested it, and you’ve written the words down correctly, you could safely file away those words for months, or even years. That provides plenty of options.
 

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