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July 31, 2023 · 7 min

What are BIP-39 seed phrases?

What are BIP-39 seed phrases?

BIP-39 is a standard used by many cryptocurrency wallets to generate a series of 12 to 24 words that can be used to recover your private key. These words are generated using a mathematical formula that ensures they are unique and can only be used to recover your private key. When you create a cryptocurrency wallet, you are given a private key that is used to access your funds. However, private keys can be difficult to remember and can be lost or stolen. That's where BIP-39 seed phrases come in.

A seed phrase is crucial in securing and recovering cryptocurrency assets. It is essentially a string of words, typically consisting of 12 or 24 randomly generated words from the official, open-source, and industry-standard BIP-39 wordlist, that acts as a backup for the private key associated with a cryptocurrency wallet.

The primary purpose of a seed phrase is to enable users to recover their wallets if they ever lose access to their devices or experience data loss. It acts as a mnemonic or memory aid, allowing users to restore their wallets and access their funds by simply inputting the seed phrase into a compatible wallet application.

By using a seed phrase, users can regain control over their cryptocurrency holdings, even if their original device is lost, damaged, or stolen. This is especially important as cryptocurrencies are decentralized and do not rely on central authorities to restore access. You could, for instance, insert the seed phrase your Trezor gave you, into a MetaMask or Trust Wallet application. And of course, vice versa. Your Ledger seed phrase can also be inserted into an Ellipal wallet to recover your funds - All major cryptocurrency wallets support BIP-39 and therefore, are using the same protocols, enabling you to use the same seed phrase on devices from different manufacturers.

Paper with seed phrase

Best practices for storing BIP-39 seed phrases

Because BIP-39 seed phrases can be used to recover your private key, it is important that you store them somewhere safe. Here are some best practices for storing your seed phrase:

  • Write it down on paper: While it may be tempting to store your seed phrase digitally, this can be risky. If your computer is hacked or your digital storage is compromised, your seed phrase could be stolen. Instead, write it down on a piece of paper and store it in a safe place.
  • Unlike the above image, number your seed phrase words so you have them stored in the correct order.
  • Store it in a secure location: Your seed phrase is essentially the key to your funds, so it is important that you store it in a secure location. Consider storing it in a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box.
  • Don't share it with anyone: Your seed phrase should be kept private and not shared with anyone. If someone else has your seed phrase, they can access your funds.
  • Consider creating multiple copies: While it is important to keep your seed phrase private, it is also important to have a backup in case your original copy is lost or damaged. Consider creating multiple copies and storing them in different locations.

How to use BIP-39 seed phrases

When you create a cryptocurrency wallet, you will be shown the BIP-39 seed phrase. It is important that you write down this phrase and store it somewhere safe, such as a fireproof safe or a safety deposit box, or imprint it directly onto your Cryptotag. This doesn't have to happen immediately, but you should wait to transfer funds to the wallet until the seed phrase is backed up on titanium. If you lose access to your wallet, you can use this seed phrase to recover your private key and regain access to your funds.

In conclusion, BIP-39 seed phrases are an important tool for cryptocurrency wallet users. By understanding what they are, how to use them, and how to store them safely, you can ensure that your funds are always secure and accessible.

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