Your recovery phrase (also known as mnemonic seed, wallet backup) is an ordered set of 12-24 words that is randomly generated by your wallet. It stores the information that can be used to recover your wallet and coins when your wallet fails unexpectedly (such as damage, unable to access, misplaced, theft, etc). Ensure it is hidden in a secure location and stored/written on something that will last your lifetime.
Blockplate uses an innovative, single-tool method to store your recovery phrase on strong, durable steel. It has been third party tested and proven to be the fastest and simplest way to protect your recovery phrase with long lasting metal.
Introduction To Your Recovery Phrase
You've chosen a wallet to store your Bitcoin. It is either a hardware wallet (like a Trezor or Ledger) or software wallet on your mobile phone or desktop computer.
When starting your wallet, it gave you a 12 or 24 word phrase of seemingly random words in a specific order.
This phrase is known as your wallet's recovery phrase. It can also goes by recovery seed, seed phrase, mnemonic phrase, wallet seed, etc. (some combination of the words: "wallet","recovery", "seed", "phrase" but we're going to use recovery phrase)
Your wallet also might have informed you to write your recovery phrase down somewhere secure. In the event the device your wallet gets lost, broken, destroyed, corrupted, stolen, etc. your recovery phrase is the one thing that can restore and recover your wallet and coins on another device. (Think of it like a map to your coins)
And remember, not only the words themselves are important but the order of the words are equally as important.
Recovering Your Wallet
You're able to input your recovery phrase into ANY wallet that uses the "same type" of recovery phrase to recover your coins on that device.
What does it mean by "same type"? It doesn't mean same number of words.
It means the method and format that wallet used to create your recovery phrase.
The method and format is described in a Bitcoin Improvement Proposal (BIP). BIP's are various "features" and "rules" of Bitcoin. They are designated by a specific number. Topics of these BIP's can vary widely.
The topic of recovery phrases fall under Bitcoin Improvement Proposal: 39 (BIP 39). It describes the method your wallet creates a mnemonic phrase -- a group of easy to remember words -- that is the link to your coins.
If the wallet knows the method your recovery phrase was created (in this case BIP 39), it can be used to recover your coins in the event your wallet becomes compromised.
This format also includes a specific list of 2048 words (known as the BIP 39 wordlist) that the words in your recovery phrase is pulled from.
Luckily, many wallets use BIP 39 to generate recovery phrases. Any of these wallets can be used to recover your wallet. (If you're wondering if your wallet uses BIP 39, search your wallet name and the term "BIP39" in the search engine of your choice to find its documentation.)
Different wallets have different instructions for recovering a wallet but in general, you're going to be typing/choosing words in the specific order of your recovery phrase to re-generate your wallet on that new device/software.
Can Someone Guess My Recovery Phrase?
Remember when we said that your recovery phrase comes from a specific list of 2048 words. Someone would have to guess all the words AND put them in the correct order. There are 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 possible combinations for a 12 word recovery phrase. Even more combinations for a 24 word recovery phrase.
In other words, it ain't going to happen anytime soon.
But the number of combinations decreases the more words someone one else knows. Thus, it is important that you keep your recovery phrase hidden and secret.
Recovery Phrase Security
You can use your recovery phrase to generate and re-generate your wallet as many times as you want and in as many devices as you want (Yes, your wallet can be on more than one device at one time)
Pretty nifty huh? Those 12-24 words are the link to your coins that you can take literally anywhere and can last forever. You should think of your recovery phrase as your wallet.
Thus, it is imperative that how ever you store or write your recovery phrase, it is not only hidden but will last.
There have been many instances of people making headlines by losing bitcoin:
Bitcoin Investor Loses $50,000 as His Wallet, Backups Get Damaged by Fire
- I Forgot My PIN: An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000 in Bitcoin
- 51 BTC locked up, can’t remember seed/passphrase
- Drug dealer loses $58M in bitcoin after landlord accidentally throws codes out
- 533 Bitcoin Hard Drive Lost
Don't be one of them. Seriously.
Over 4 million bitcoin (20% of total circulation) have been lost forever. Don't add yours to that.
Not only are you protecting your recovery phrase against other people, you're protecting your recovery phrase from your own stupidity (yes, we're all just a little stupid sometimes), natural occurrences (like pests, flooding, fires, and storms), and the test of time.
Time includes physical deterioration such as corrosion and fading; and mental deterioration such as forgetfulness.
So again, make sure your recovery phrase is written down or stored on something that you'll be able to access for a long time.
That means it has to be durable and at the same time accessible. (That doesn't mean to bury your recovery phrase 6 ft into the ground. You are storing your recovery phrase for your future self. Don't make them mad.
Securing your recovery phrase is a job that requires common sense and thoughtfulness. It is important that you do as much as you need to in order to not only feel safe but confident in accessing your recovery phrase in the future when you need it.
We've written a few topics on recovery phrase preservation and security:
- Guide to Securing Your Bitcoin Wallet Recovery Phrase
- Hiding Your Bitcoin Wallet Recovery Seed Phrase
- Long-Term Preservation of Your Cryptocurrency Wallet Recovery Seed Phrase
Recovery Phrases Stored On Metal
We recommend storing your recovery phrase on something physical like paper or metal. Why? Because it is not connected to something than can be hacked and can last a really long time.
When we say "stored on metal" we really mean "written on metal". Metal such as stainless steel or titanium are great materials for longevity and durability of your recovery phrase (more so than paper). Metal protects your recovery phrase from wear and tear, heat/fire, and water/corrosion damage.