Published on February 21, 2023 10 min read

Seed phrases and private keys: 2 ways to back up your crypto wallet

While there are other ways to create backup copies of your wallet file (depending on the type of wallet you're using), the easiest way to create secure backups for your crypto wallet is by using either the seed phrase (also known as recovery phrase or similar) or the private key.

The seed phrase and private keys, as we've learnt in previous lessons, are unique to your crypto wallet.

Think of them as recovery items that enable you to open your wallet on a new device or at a different location simply by restoring your wallet using the seed phrase or private keys. You can restore wallets on a new device and delete it on old devices, you can create multiple instances on different devices, you can even remove all wallets and restore them only when you need them.

This means never needing to carry around your phone, laptop, or even usb drive. This also means you don't even need to leave a shortcut or folder on your device that might notify someone you have a crypto wallet.

A seed phrase in Electrum
A private key on MetaMask

Seed phrase or recovery phrase

A seed phrase is similar to using a traditional password but it is much longer and consists of a random set of actual words in English. They commonly exist in sets between 12 and 24 words.

Each seed phrase is unique to each crypto wallet and is generated automatically every time a wallet is created. You will generally be asked to write this phrase down and keep it somewhere safe.

Some people even split up the phrase into several segments, storing them physically, away from prying eyes.

The seed phrase is used to restore the exact same crypto wallet on a new device. Restored wallets will have the same private keys and crypto addresses.

Be careful, however, because seed phrases cannot be changed as you do passwords. They are a permanent default back-up for crypto wallets.

Another way to restore a lost crypto wallet is simply to retrieve the private keys and keep them somewhere safe.

You’ll remember that the private key gives you access to your wallet and all the crypto inside it.

When you install a crypto wallet on your device, it typically allows you to either view your private key, or export it as a file.

Just as with seed phrases, you should write this down and store it somewhere safe, physically if possible. Exposing them online makes them vulnerable to online attacks.