Use this straightforward guide to learn what a cryptocurrency wallet is, how they work and discover which ones are the best on the market.
What is a Cryptocurrency Wallet?
A cryptocurrency wallet is a software program that stores private and public keys and interacts with various blockchain to enable users to send and receive digital currency and monitor their balance. If you want to use Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, you will need to have a digital wallet.
What are the different types of Cryptocurrencywallets?
There are several types of wallets that provide different ways to store and access your digital currency. Wallets can be broken down into three distinct categories – software, hardware, and paper. Software wallets can be a desktop, mobile or online.
- Desktop: wallets are downloaded and installed on a PC or laptop. They are only accessible from the single computer in which they are downloaded. Desktop wallets offer one of the highest levels of security however if your computer is hacked or gets a virus there is the possibility that you may lose all your funds.
- Online: wallets run on the cloud and are accessible from any computing device in any location. While they are more convenient to access, online wallets store your private keys online and are controlled by a third party which makes them more vulnerable to hacking attacks and theft.
- Mobile: wallets run on an app on your phone and are useful because they can be used anywhere including retail stores. Mobile wallets are usually much smaller and simpler than desktop wallets because of the limited space available on a mobile.
- Hardware: wallets differ from software wallets in that they store a user’s private keys on a hardware device like a USB. Although hardware wallets make transactions online, they are stored offline which delivers increased security. Hardware wallets can be compatible with several web interfaces and can support different currencies; it just depends on which one you decide to use. What’s more, making a transaction is easy. Users simply plug in their device to any internet-enabled computer or device, enter a pin, send currency and confirm. Hardware wallets make it possible to easily transact while also keeping your money offline and away from danger.
- Paper: wallets are easy to use and provide a very high level of security. While the term paper wallet can simply refer to a physical copy or printout of your public and private keys, it can also refer to a piece of software that is used to securely generate a pair of keys which are then printed. Using a paper wallet is relatively straightforward. Transferring Bitcoin or any other currency to your paper wallet is accomplished by the transfer of funds from your software wallet to the public address shown on your paper wallet. Alternatively, if you want to withdraw or spend currency, all you need to do is transfer funds from your paper wallet to your software wallet. This process, often referred to as ‘sweeping,’ can either be done manually by entering your private keys or by scanning the QR code on the paper wallet.
Are Cryptocurrency wallets secure?
Wallets are secure to varying degrees. The level of security depends on the type of wallet you use (desktop, mobile, online, paper, hardware) and the service provider. A web server is an intrinsically riskier environment to keep your currency compared to offline. Online wallets can expose users to possible vulnerabilities in the wallet platform which can be exploited by hackers to steal your funds. Offline wallets, on the other hand, cannot be hacked because they simply aren’t connected to an online network and don’t rely on a third party for security.
Although online wallets have proven the most vulnerable and prone to hacking attacks, diligent security precautions need to be implemented and followed when using any wallet. Remember that no matter which wallet you use, losing your private keys will lead you to lose your money. Similarly, if your wallet gets hacked, or you send money to a scammer, there is no way to reclaim lost currency or reverse the transaction. You must take precautions and be very careful!
Armory is an open source Bitcoin desktop wallet perfect for experienced users that place emphasis on security. Some of Armory’s features include cold storage, multi-signature transactions, one-time printable backups, multiple wallets interface, GPU-resistant wallet encryption, key importing, key sweeping and more. Although Armory takes a little while to understand and use to it’s full potential, it’s a great option for more tech-savvy bitcoiners looking to keep their funds safe and secure.
- Pros: Good privacy, great security features, multi-signature options, solid cold storage options, free.
- Cons: Only accessible via the desktop client, not for beginners.
Trezor is a hardware Bitcoin wallet that is ideal for storing large amounts of bitcoins. Trezor cannot be infected by malware and never exposes your private keys which make it as safe as holding traditional paper money. Trezor is open source and transparent, with all technical decisions benefiting from wider community consultation. It’s easy to use, has an intuitive interface and is Windows, OS X and Linux friendly. One of the few downsides of the Trezor wallet is that it must be with you to send bitcoins. This, therefore, makes Trezor best for inactive savers, investors or people who want to keep large amounts of Bitcoin highly secure.
- Pros: Good security & privacy, cold storage, easy to use a web interface, in-built screen, open source software, beginner friendly.
- Cons: Costs $99, must have device to send bitcoins
Exodus is a relatively new and unknown digital wallet that is currently only available on the desktop. It enables the storage and trading of Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoins, Dogecoins and Dash through an incredibly easy to use, intuitive and beautiful interface. Exodus also offers a very simple guide to backup your wallet. One of the great things about Exodus is that it has a built-in shapeshift exchange that allows users to trade altcoins for bitcoins and vice versa without leaving the wallet.
- Pros: Good privacy & security, beginner friendly, intuitive, easy to use, in-wallet trading, supports multiple currencies, open source software, free.
- Cons: Hot wallet, no web interface or mobile app
Created by Bitpay, Copay is one of the best digital wallets on the market. If you’re looking for convenience, Copay is easily accessed through a user-friendly interface on desktop, mobile or online. One of the best things about Copay is that it’s a multi-signature wallet so friends or business partners can share funds. Overall, Copay has something for everyone. It’s simple enough for entry-level users but has plenty of additional geeky features that will impress more experienced players as well.
- Pros: Good privacy & security, multisig transactions, multiple platforms & devices, multiple wallet storage, beginner friendly, open source software, free
- Cons: Can be slow & unresponsive, limited user support
Jaxx is a multi-currency Ether, Ether Classic, Dash, DAO, Litecoin, REP, Zcash, Rootstock, Bitcoin wallet and user interface. Jaxx has been designed to deliver a smooth Bitcoin and Ethereum experience. It is available on a variety of platforms and devices (Windows, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, OSX, Android mobile & tablet, iOS mobile & tablet) and connects with websites through Firefox and Chrome extensions. Jaxx allows in wallet conversion between Bitcoin, Ether and DAO tokens via Shapeshift and the import of Ethereum paper wallets. With an array of features and the continual integration of new currencies, Jaxx is an excellent choice for those who require a multi-currency wallet.
- Pros: Good privacy & security, Multi-currency, wallet linking across multiple platforms, great user support, feature rich, user-friendly, free.
- Cons: Code is not open source, can be slow to load.
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