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

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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.

Jonas Chokun

I fell in love with bitcoin about 2 years ago and have never looked back. Over a 2 year period, I learned as much as I can about this hot/new virtual currency and have bought, sold and traded a few bitcoins myself. Now, I want to share with you what I know! Enjoy.

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

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Subahan
Guest
Member
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
Guest
Member
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
Admin
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
Guest
Member
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
Guest
Member
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
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

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

Nitesh
Guest
Member
Nitesh

From where i get bitvoin address

Zsofia Elek
Admin
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
Guest
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.

kshama gupta
Guest
Member
kshama gupta

private key doesn’t match the selected address my address is (14U11Yu3CXqWUgTtZVoN4PbzBNECxNqcPg ) please help me.

Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

I suggest to reach out to your wallet provider in case you have issues, as you can only use your Bitcoin address if you have your private key.

kshama gupta
Guest
Member
kshama gupta

How to get private key of old receiving address. many times request support.but not receive my private key this address-14U11Yu3CXqWUgTtZVoN4PbzBNECxNqcPg

Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Kshama, you can only receive the private key from the wallet who provided the public Bitcoin address for you. It is possible that your wallet is a hosted wallet so they hold your Bitcoins for you in their own “cold storage” wallets. These means that they can not supply you with the private key to your wallet. I suggest you to read this article about the different wallet types, hopefully it helps you. https://99bitcoins.com/what-is-bitcoin-wallet-bwbt-3/

kshama gupta
Guest
Member
kshama gupta

I am 100% sure my password is correct, I wrote it down on a paper plus it was saved in the keychain of my browser during the registration/creation of my wallet. The bitcoins are also still sitting in my account. my wallet id-fc40ae34-f32e-40b0-bdda-4e2c6a344701

Zsofia Elek
Admin
Member
Zsofia Elek

Hi Kshama, there is not much we can do about this issue here, the wallet’s support team should have a solution for password recovery.

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