Your bitcoin seed phrase (also known as recovery phrase, seed phrase, recovery seed, mnemonic seed, wallet backup, etc.) 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 bitcoin 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 bitcoin seed phrase on strong, durable steel. It has been third party tested and proven to be the fastest and simplest way to protect your seed phrase with long lasting metal.
Introduction To Your Bitcoin Seed 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 seed phrase. It can also goes by recovery phrase/seed, seed phrase, mnemonic phrase, wallet seed, etc. (some combination of the words: "wallet","recovery", "seed", "phrase")
Your wallet also might have informed you to write your seed phrase down somewhere secure. In the event the device your wallet gets lost, broken, destroyed, corrupted, stolen, etc. your seed 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 seed phrase into ANY wallet that uses the "same type" of seed 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 seed 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 seed 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 seed 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 seed phrase is pulled from.
Luckily, many wallets use BIP 39 to generate seed 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 seed phrase to re-generate your wallet on that new device/software.
And if you're wondering, no you cannot pick and choose your own seed phrase. The last word of a recovery phrase must be a very specific word. This word is called a "checksum". Without going into technical jargon, it is something your wallet software uses to check if the rest of the words are following the "rules". So let your wallet generate a seed for you.
Can Someone Guess My Seed Phrase?
Remember when we said that your seed 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 777,788,267,247,859,345,059,141,959,844,041,626,185 possible combinations for a 12 word seed 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 seed phrase hidden and secret.
Bitcoin Seed Phrase Security
You can use your seed 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 seed phrase as your wallet.
Thus, it is imperative that how ever you store or write your seed 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 seed phrase against other people, you're protecting your seed 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 seed 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 seed phrase 6 ft into the ground. You are storing your seed phrase for your future self. Don't make them mad.
Securing your seed 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 bitcoin seed in the future when you need it.
We've written a few topics on seed 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
Bitcoin Seed Phrases Stored On Metal
We recommend storing your seed 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 seed phrase (more so than paper). Metal protects your seed phrase from wear and tear, heat/fire, and water/corrosion damage.