What is a Bitcoin Private Key, How to Use It, Keep it Safe!

Last updated on October 13th, 2017 at 07:08 pm

bitcoin private key safety

What is Bitcoin? Bitcoin is a digital currency and a payment system that was introduced as an open source software by Satoshi Nakamoto who developed it. It utilizes peer to peer technology since money can be transferred from one individual to another directly without the involvement of a central bank. All payments are usually recorded on a public ledger. Individuals using software such as wallet software can get to send and receive bitcoins electronically through a PC, smartphone or web app.

What is a Bitcoin Private Key?

What is a bitcoin private key? Bitcoin private key is a secret number generated to allow individuals to spend their bitcoins. When users are issued with a bitcoin address, they are also issued with a bitcoin private key. It is usually a 256 bit number and since it is the golden ticket that allows an individual to spend his or her bitcoins, it needs to be kept safe and securely. An example of a bitcoin private key is 16qT2iLQ7d5MiEkKWYau6mfRNHUFZ3NzHz. This is our bitcoin private key, by the way. A private key can be used to accept accept, sell and donate bitcoin. Many charities are now accepting bitcoins.

How to Keep Bitcoin Private Key Safe?

One of the ways one can keep a bitcoin private key safely is by storing it in their computers in a disk that it encrypted. Since the bitcoin private key is short, other can get to print it on a piece of paper. This can be accomplished by using pywallet. Pywallet is a utility developed using python that allows users to extract private keys from their wallet files. The extracted files can then be printed on to a small piece of paper using a printer.

RELATED: What is a Bitcoin Wallet and How to Get One

What a Bitcoin Private Key is Used for?

In order to make a transaction, the user should have availability to a tool or program that allows importing of the private key. Some wallets may make a transaction without the need of importing the private key. Others will require the private key to be swept. When private keys pass through the procedure of sweeping, a transaction will be broadcast to another address and which will include the balance.

How to Import a Bitcoin Private Key?

How does one import a bitcoin private key? One of the methods includes the use of blockchain.info. This online tool assists users to import private keys easily. This is achieved through their wallet service which is referred to as a hybrid ewallet. Since it is an online tool, it doesn’t store your wallet information. This is kept on your browser as an encrypted file. You are required to issue your password or alias so as to access your account.

BIPS also allows the importation of private keys easily by simply allowing the user to either type the key manually from the paper wallet or scan it using a QR reader app through a smartphone’s camera. Other bitcoin private key import providers include Mycelium which provides an android app that can be downloaded from Google play. The app allows one to either scan the code from the paper wallet or by use of cold storage.

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33 Comments on "What is a Bitcoin Private Key, How to Use It, Keep it Safe!"

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Heather Woodborne
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Heather Woodborne

Hi I have just opened a wallet on Luno. I am told I must wait a couple of days for confirmation. is that when I get given the key?

Steven Hay
Member
Member
Steven Hay
Hi Heather, Luno will never give you the private key to your Luno addresses. What they will do is let you withdraw coins from your Luno wallet to any other address, like your personal wallet’s address. You will be able to access the private key to your personal wallet, but in most cases there is no reason to do so as it’s best kept secret (even from yourself). For more on private keys and address (it’s a topic worthy of guide as it’s rather tricky at first), please see this guide: What is a Bitcoin Private Key, How to Use… Read more »
Nitish
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Nitish

Hi, i am unable to find my private key so please help me

Steven Hay
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Member
Steven Hay

Hi Nitish,

Sure, I can help but you’ll need to provide more info, like what wallet and operating system you’re using. Unless for backup or fork-claiming purposes, there is usually no reason for you to locate and “do things” with your private key however.

bipin kumar
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bipin kumar

i am not sent any bitcoin through blockchain.info
because i have no private key.

how to download free (private key generator)

Steven Hay
Member
Member
Steven Hay

Hi Bipin,

I don’t understand what you’re trying to do. If you create a wallet on Blockchain.info, your wallet will contain a private key. I would recommend using a personal wallet on your own computer however, and not a webwallet like Blockchain.info (which also gets access to your private key).

Mustafa
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Mustafa

Hi Steve,
Many web wallets assuring that most of the coins going to cold storage while keeping other amount online, in other way I searched a lot and didn’t find anyone recommends web wallet, cold wallet in 3rd party most of them advising hardware or paper wallet, for hardware wallet like nano it doesn’t support most of the cryptos, so whats the solution? can we buy from exchange the coins we prefer and keep it in paper wallets and keep it safe or how to solve this situation.
Thanks in advance Steve

Steven Hay
Member
Member
Steven Hay
Hi Mustafa, Webwallets aren’t recommended as none that I know of give you complete and exclusive control over the private key. This is a big problem if the webwallet gets hacked or disappears as it means you can’t get your coins back. While Ledger and Trezor hardware wallets support about 13 and 9 different coins respectively, this obviously leaves a lot of altcoins. The safest way to store other coins is to download the official software wallet from the coin’s official webpage. This wallet should run on your personal computer, not your cellphone. Provided you practice good computer security, create… Read more »
Mustafa
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Mustafa

Steven,

I am so grateful for your help :)

Steven Hay
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Member
Steven Hay

Hi Mustafa,

You’re very welcome.

simbu026
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simbu026

bitcoin website address are true are fake can u tell me

Zsofia Elek
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Zsofia Elek

Hi Simbu, you can check if an address is legit on blockchain.info for example.

simbu
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simbu

my deposit address is shown but how to payout from blockchain.info
for example blockchain.info shown red and green green colour box which represent my btc amount then how to payout from that

Steven Hay
Member
Member
Steven Hay

Hi Simbu,

We seem to be having some language difficulties. Could you please clarify your situation and question? We need more information to understand.

If you tell me your home language, I can also direct you to a place where you can ask your question in that language.

Subahan
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Subahan

I recently paid a bitcoin miner his fees for mining btc but till date the btc that he was suppose to credit into my account has not taken place. Can I trace back the person using his private key address that I made my payment to

Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Subahan, if you have his private key, you control his Bitcoins, but that does not mean you know the identity of that person. Also, if you are referring to the public address, you can check that for example on blockchain.info, but still won’t be able to trace back the person behind the account. You can read more about the anonymity feature of Bitcoin in this article: https://99bitcoins.com/know-more-using-bitcoin-anonymously/

Maria
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Maria

Hi Zsofia
I recently transferred in error my electrum litecoin balance to my coins.ph bitcoin address. I was told this cannot be reversed. But is there a way for me to be able to retrieve my litecoin balance? Here’s the link that shows my litecoin balance was transferred to my bitcoin wallet

https://live.blockcypher.com/ltc/address/3EbMJk5VZsxbaiJ4mjtjC275NrTmRdGJjG/
any advice is greatly appreciated. thank you

Zsofia Elek
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Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Maria, Litecoin and Bitcoin address have different formats, your Electrum wallet should have already give you a warning about this. Eventually, this transaction will be cancelled by the network and your coins will be returned.

Maria
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Maria
Hi Zsofia, Thanks for your reply. I’m at a loss here since this is the response I received fromcoins.ph: **** Hey Maria, My name is Andrew, and I’m a manager here at Coins. My colleague Dan let me know about your email, so thought I would step in to help clarify things. Coins only hosts wallets that can accept BTC (Bitcoin) or Pesos. We are not setup to receive or accept LTC (Litecoin) in any fashion. Given this, we are not in possession of the LTC that you had mistakenly sent to a BTC address. I understand the frustration that… Read more »
Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Maria, not sure when this has happened to you, it takes some time (days) until the transaction is cancelled, then you should see the Litecoins in your Electrum wallet. Here you can read more what happens when you send cryptocurrencies: https://99bitcoins.com/bitcoin-whiteboard-tuesday-the-path-from-send-to-receive/

Anup
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Anup

I lost my block chain wallet id and associated email to it.

But i have bitcoin address and private key.

Will it affect me to sell the bitcoins?

Zsofia Elek
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Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Anup, as long as you know the Bitcoin address and the associated private key, you control your coins.

Nitesh
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Nitesh

From where i get bitvoin address

Zsofia Elek
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Member
Zsofia Elek

When you setup a Bitcoin wallet, an address is generated for you. You can read more about wallets in this article: https://99bitcoins.com/what-is-bitcoin-wallet-bwbt-3/

Bharat
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Member
Bharat

Question:
I have bought half a bitcoin from coinbase.
How do I keep my own private key safe and secure
such that not even coinbase can use it?

What if coinbase employee steals my private key and my wallet address?

Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Bharat, Coinbase is a hosted wallet, which means you do not have access to your private key as they hold your Bitcoins for you in their own “cold storage” wallets. If you want to have full control over your coins you can use self-hosted wallets, you can take a look at the Bitcoin wallet comparison page in order to find the most appropriate wallet for you here: https://99bitcoins.com/best-bitcoin-wallet-2015-bitcoin-wallets-comparison-review/

Hunor
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Member
Hunor

In this chapter:
“What is a Bitcoin Private Key?”
are you presenting your private key?
If it is still in use, anyone can have access to your funds.
Isn’t it your public address that you wanted to make public here?

I checked it and it seems to be a public address, not a private key.

By the way, thank you for these informative posts here on the website.