System malfunction, hardware failures and data theft can occur anytime. If you are storing Bitcoins in your PC or Laptop then it is very important that you backup your wallets. Previously we’ve made a guide on core wallet backup. Also we’ve explained how to backup Monero wallet. Recently one of user asked us how do I make a backup of my Electrum wallet? Here in this beginners guide we’ll show you how to backup Bitcoin electrum wallet.
There are many types of wallets available for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as online, mobile, desktop, hardware and paper wallet. Among them desktop wallets are most widely used as it has many features and gives users full control over their funds. When it comes to desktop; again there are many wallet types available but most prefer using electrum wallet as it is free, light weight and easy to use. Moreover electrum wallet is available for Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dash and many other popular altcoins. Now before we see how to backup electrum wallet here is something that you need to know about this wallet type.
Electrum wallet software
So what is electrum wallet? Electrum is a Bitcoin wallet software that you use in your computer. It is one of the most popular option to send, receive and store Bitcoins. This application has several advanced features like two factor authentication, cold storage, multi sig wallet etc. Moreover unlike QT wallet this wallet does not require you to download the whole blockchain to your local machine which is both space and time consuming. Instead it fetches the data of your wallet such as balance, transaction history from several blockchain servers. So where are my Bitcoins stored actually and from where it is getting the data from?
In fact, your Bitcoins are not kept in your wallet. They are actually stored on the Bitcoin blockchain which is a distributed peer to peer ledger where all of the Bitcoins, their data and the contents are stored. Your wallet software just allows you to access your Bitcoin address on the blockchain. The Bitcoin electrum wallet software holds cryptographic key-pair and this key pair is what allows one to access a Bitcoin address on the blockchain. The key pair is a combination of public and private keys. Public key is the receiving address which you can share it with others to receive Bitcoins. Whereas Private key is confidential and this is what allows one to spend Bitcoins associated with the public address.
Electrum wallets are capable of maintaining multiple wallet addresses and each wallet address has a private key associated. If you lose the private key you lose access to your Bitcoins associated with that particular address. Also if you allow someone to access your private keys they will also have access to your Bitcoins. So it is very important that you password protect your electrum wallet which you should have set when you’ve created the wallet initially. So what happens if I forget my electrum wallet password? It can happen to every one of us and this is when you’ll need your wallet seed which will help you to restore all of your Bitcoins.
Apart from wallet seed word you can also export the private keys which you can later import and recover your coins. Additionally you can also backup the entire wallet data file.
Electrum wallet backup
There are three ways to backup your electrum wallet. 1.You can backup by writing down the seed word. 2 You can save the wallet data file and 3. Backup via private keys. Here we’ll explain all the three approaches.
Backup wallet mnemonic seed
In electrum when creating a new wallet you’ll be provided with a 12 random words which looks similar to this. It is called Mnemonic seed which generates the private keys of your wallet.
Now this is different from the password which you set in the next step. The 12 random seed word is computer generated and is the master key which contains all the information about your wallet. Whereas the password which you set is used to encrypt this computer generated seed word. The password is set so that anyone with access to your wallet cannot use your coins as they do not know the seed word.
Using this mnemonic seed one can entirely restore the wallet. So set a strong password and write down the seed phrase. Be aware that anyone who has access to your seed word can steal all of your coins. So make sure to save the copy in a safe and secure location. So how to backup this seed word?
Not a problem if you failed to write down the seed word during the initial setup process. You can even backup the seed word now. Open your wallet and navigate to wallet >> seed. You’ll be asked to enter the password. Now write down the backup seed and store it in different location. Make sure it is a secure backup
Note: If you forget your password you can completely recover your wallet using this seed word. However if you forget both the password and seed then there is no way you can recover your coins.
Now to recover your wallet all you have do is install the electrum again, choose option restore using seed and then set a strong password. To know more we recommend you to read this topic on electrum wallet seed. It should give you an understanding and the importance of your wallet seed word. Also the same page has a section which explains why the seed option is grayed out.
Wallet file backup
Now this is another approach to backup your electrum wallet which is saving the copy of your wallet file. While the seed word will help you to recover all of your coins it doesn’t recover some of the common data such as: your transaction, saved contacts, address labels and descriptions. To recover this you may need the wallet file.
There are two ways to backup your electrum wallet file. Before we see that do note that this wallet file should be password protected. If it is not protected then anyone with access to this file can easily spend your coins. So before you backup your wallet file make sure to first set a strong password for your wallet. If you have not set one then just open your wallet, go to Wallet >> password and set the password. Once the wallet file is encrypted you can now backup this file.
1. Open your wallet, go to File >> Save copy. Name your wallet to anything and store it in different location. You can save this file on a USB drive or an external hard disk and keep it offline.
2. The second method is directly copying the wallet file from the Electrum folder. You can find the wallet files in the following directory.
Open Finder, Go to folder (Shift+CMD+G) and type ~/.electrum
Go >> Location and type ~/.electrum
In the above directory you’ll find all the wallet files that you’ve created. You can either backup the one in which you are currently holding Bitcoins or you can backup all of those files.
Just having a copy of seed word is enough but anyways it is better to have two things in hand. So make sure to periodically backup your wallet file as well. Now restoring this backup is very simple. Start wallet, go to File >> Open and choose the wallet file. If you have set a password (you must) then you’ll be asked to enter the password to access the wallet.
Exporting private keys
This is the third approach and is optional which is exporting the private keys. Private key is enough to spend coins associated with a particular address. However do note that electrum wallet manages multiple wallet address and each address has a unique private keys. So if you are exporting private keys then make sure to export for all the address.
To export private keys go to wallet >> private keys and export. You’ll now be asked to enter your wallet password. Input your password and the wallet will generate all the private keys. You can export it in CSV or JSON format. But again do note that private keys should be kept secret. Exposing a single private key can compromise your entire wallet. So save it in a safe location and do not ever share it with anyone.
Now importing the private keys is very simple. To know more read this guide which explains both sweeping and importing private keys into electrum wallet. Hope this guide helps anyone looking to backup their electrum wallet.
You may also find the following guides helpful:
- What is watch only Bitcoin wallet
- All about Bitcoin core wallet
- How to import electrum wallet to QT wallet
- Verge electrum wallet offline – Fix
- How to download and install XVG electrum wallet
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