Let’s talk about Bitcoins Wallets. To make it simple we’ll compare it to email.
If you want to receive Bitcoins you’ll need a unique personal address, just like an email. Let’s call this address your Bitcoin address, and just like your email address anyone can see it and anyone can send Bitcoins to it.
Now you decide that you want to access your Bitcoin address to see how many Bitcoins you own. Well, if this were your email you’d first go to your email program – like Gmail or Outlook. The same program exists for Bitcoin and it’s called a “Bitcoin Client”.
So you’ve opened up your Bitcoin Client, and now you need to log in. For email you’d enter your email address and password. When accessing your Bitcoin program you will need to enter your Bitcoin Address and “private key”.
It’s important to know that every Bitcoin address has only 1 matching private key. But each private key can be used for multiple addresses. Just think about it this way, each email address has only 1 password that opens it. But you can use the same password for multiple email addresses.
It’s crucial that you keep the combination of your Bitcoin address and private key safe. Exactly like you’d guard your combination of email address and password. Some people write it down on a piece of paper and hide it away, others store it in an encrypted file on their computer, there are also dedicated websites that hold your private and public keys for you. Any place that these 2 pieces of information are stored at is called a Bitcoin Wallet. Even if you decide to memorize your Bitcoin address and private key by heart, it will mean that your brain is your Bitcoin wallet.
Today most programs act as a Bitcoin client and a Bitcoin wallet together. For example, Blockchain.info will store you public and private keys and also allow you to send out Bitcoins. That’s it! You now know what a Bitcoin wallet is.