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What Is a Crypto Wallet and How to Choose the Right One?

What Is a Crypto Wallet and How to Choose the Right One?

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Avaldatud Jun 18, 2019VĂ€rskendatud Jun 22, 2023
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TL;DR

  • A crypto wallet is a digital tool that keeps your private key safe and lets you manage your cryptocurrency. It's like a virtual wallet for your digital money that allows you to send and receive cryptocurrency securely.

  • Crypto wallets can be divided into three groups: software, hardware, and paper wallets. Depending on how they work, they can also be categorized as hot or cold wallets.

  • Software-based crypto wallets are more convenient to use than hardware wallets, but hardware wallets are generally the most secure option. Paper wallets, which are pieces of paper with a written or printed code, are considered outdated and unreliable.

What Is a Crypto Wallet?

A crypto wallet is a digital tool that allows you to interact with blockchain networks to store and manage cryptocurrencies. Think of it as a virtual wallet that can be used on computers, smartphones, or tablets to access digital currencies.

Just like keeping fiat money in a wallet, you’ll need a tool to store your bitcoin, ether, and other coins and tokens. The crypto wallet keeps track of how much cryptocurrency you have and lets you send and receive digital assets.

In addition to storing and managing your cryptocurrency, crypto wallets also allow users to connect to decentralized applications (DApps), such as decentralized exchanges (DEXs) and Play-to-Earn games. Crypto users also need a crypto wallet to store non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

Contrary to popular belief, crypto wallets don't actually store digital assets. Instead, they provide the tools necessary to access and spend your crypto holdings. In other words, these wallets can generate the necessary information to send and receive cryptocurrency via blockchain transactions. This information includes one or more pairs of public and private keys.

The wallet also contains an address, which is an alphanumeric identifier generated based on the public and private keys. Such an address is essentially a specific "location" on the blockchain to which coins can be sent. This means that you can share your address with others to receive funds.

The private key provides access to your cryptocurrency regardless of which wallet you use. So even if your computer or smartphone is compromised, you can still access your funds on another device — as long as you have the appropriate private key or seed phrase. Private keys and seed phrases should be kept secret at all times.

When you want to send cryptocurrency to someone else or perform an action on a decentralized application (DApp), the crypto wallet creates a special digital signature. This signature is like a digital fingerprint that proves the transaction is legitimate and that you're the one sending the money.

Why Are Crypto Wallets Important?

Crypto wallets are essential tools for the secure storage and management of digital assets. They provide individuals with ownership, control, and access to their funds, promoting financial independence and eliminating the need for intermediaries. Let's take a closer look at why crypto wallets are important:

Ownership and control

A crypto wallet gives you full ownership and control of your crypto assets. Unlike traditional financial systems where banks or intermediaries store your funds for you, crypto wallets give you full control to store and manage your own money. You hold the private keys that serve as proof of ownership and allow you to authorize transactions.

Users can perform direct peer-to-peer transactions, which can be advantageous in terms of speed, cost efficiency, and privacy. It also allows individuals in underbanked or unbanked regions to access financial services and participate in the global economy.

Accessibility

Crypto wallets allow you to access your funds anytime, anywhere, as long as you have an Internet connection. You can send and receive cryptocurrency, check your balance, and interact with decentralized applications at all times. This accessibility is especially useful for individuals who are unbanked, want to take control of their finances, or participate in the decentralized economy.

Interoperability

Crypto wallets are often compatible with multiple cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks. This interoperability allows you to manage various digital assets within a single interface. You can trade a wide range of cryptocurrencies, participate in community activities, and explore DApps across different blockchain ecosystems.

Adoption

Crypto wallets play an important role in driving the adoption and use of cryptocurrencies by providing a no-code tool for individuals to engage with the crypto space. They aim to simplify the complex aspects of cryptocurrencies, making it easier for individuals, including non-technical users, to understand and manage their digital assets. User-friendly wallets attract newcomers to the crypto space, facilitating their entry into the ecosystem.

Which Type of Crypto Wallet Is the Best?

Choosing the best crypto wallet depends on several factors, including the user's specific needs and preferences. The best crypto wallet may also depend on the specific cryptocurrency you want to hold and use. For example, the best Bitcoin wallet may be different from the one needed to store Ethereum-based assets. In addition, the crypto wallet may not be designed for the blockchain network you’re interested in so you may not even be able to use it. 

There are various types of wallets available, each offering different features, security levels, and user experiences. Here are general crypto wallet categories:

1. Hardware wallets

Hardware wallets are electronic devices that use a random number generator (RNG) to generate public and private keys. The keys are then stored on the device itself, which isn't connected to the Internet. Hardware storage is a type of cold wallet, meaning that it operates offline and isn’t connected to the Internet when storing and signing cryptocurrency transactions.

This isolation from online networks enhances the security of the private keys and protects them from potential online threats, such as hacking or malware attacks. By keeping private keys offline, hardware wallets provide an additional layer of protection, making them the preferred choice for individuals seeking increased security for their digital assets.

While these wallets provide a higher level of security against online attacks, even the best crypto hardware wallet can present risks if the firmware implementation isn’t done properly. Hardware wallets also tend to be less user-friendly, and funds are more difficult to access in hardware wallets than in hot wallets.

Consider using a hardware wallet if you plan to hold your crypto for a long time or if you're holding large amounts of cryptocurrency. Currently, most hardware wallets allow you to set up a PIN code to protect your device and a recovery phrase as a backup in case you lose your wallet.

2. Software wallets

Software wallets come in a variety of forms, including web, desktop, and mobile wallets. They offer convenience and accessibility, but most are connected to the Internet in some way (hot wallets).

Web wallets

You can use web wallets to access blockchains through a browser interface without downloading or installing software to your device. This includes both exchange wallets and other browser-based wallet providers. In most cases, you can create a new wallet and set a personal password to access it. However, some providers will hold and manage the private keys for you. While this may be more convenient for inexperienced users, it's a risky practice.

If you don't own your private keys, you're entrusting a third party with your assets. To address this problem, many web wallets now allow you to manage your keys completely or through shared control as multi-signature wallets. So it's important to check the technical approach of each wallet before choosing the one that's best for you.

When using cryptocurrency exchanges, it's essential to use its protection tools, such as multi-factor authentication, anti-phishing code, and withdrawal address management.

Desktop wallets

As the name implies, desktop wallets are software applications that users download and run locally on their computers. Unlike some web-based versions, desktop wallets provide complete control over keys and funds. When a new desktop wallet is created, a file called "wallet.dat" is stored locally on a computer. This file contains the private key information used to access the cryptocurrency addresses, encrypted with a personal password.

If you encrypt your desktop wallet, you will need to enter your password each time you run the software to read the wallet.dat file. If you lose this file or forget your password, you will most likely lose access to your funds.

Therefore, it's important to back up your wallet.dat file and keep it in a safe place. Alternatively, you can export the corresponding private key or seed phrase. This will allow you to access your funds on other devices if your computer stops working or becomes inaccessible.

In general, desktop wallets can be considered more secure than most web versions. However, it is important to ensure that your computer is free of viruses and malware before setting up and using a cryptocurrency wallet.

Mobile wallets

Mobile wallets work much like their desktop counterparts but are specifically designed as smartphone applications. These are quite convenient as they allow you to send and receive cryptocurrencies using QR codes.

As such, mobile wallets are particularly well-suited for performing day-to-day transactions and payments, making them a viable option for spending bitcoins, BNB, and other cryptocurrencies in the real world. Trust Wallet is a prominent example of a mobile crypto wallet.

However, just like computers, mobile devices are vulnerable to malicious applications and malware infections. So it's a good idea to encrypt a mobile wallet with a password and back up private keys (or seed phrase) in case you lose your phone or it stops working.

3. Paper wallets

A paper wallet is a piece of paper on which a crypto address and its private key are physically printed out. These wallets are highly resistant to online hacking attacks and may be considered an alternative to cold storage. They offer an offline storage solution but require careful handling and secure storage to prevent loss or damage.

How to Obtain and Set Up a Crypto Wallet

To get a crypto wallet, follow this step-by-step guide:

1. Research and choose a wallet

Research different types of wallets and consider factors such as wallet security, compatibility, user experience, and community trust. Look for reputable wallet providers and read reviews to make an informed decision. 

Once you've chosen a wallet, visit the wallet provider's official website. Make sure you’re on a legitimate website by verifying the URL. This is important because there are fraudulent websites that look almost identical to the legitimate ones. If you decide to go with a crypto hardware wallet, you should also ensure that the wallet is sealed when it arrives and the packaging hasn’t been tampered with.

2. Install the wallet

If it's a software wallet, find the download section on the website and select the appropriate version for your operating system. After downloading the wallet software, follow the installation instructions provided by the wallet provider.

If you purchased a hardware wallet, you will need to follow the manufacturer's instructions to set it up. This usually involves connecting the device to your computer or smartphone using the included cable or Bluetooth and installing any necessary software.

3. Set up the wallet and its security measures

When you first launch the wallet software, you'll usually have the option to create a new wallet or import an existing one. If setting up a new wallet, follow the on-screen instructions to generate a new wallet address and private key. If you already have a wallet, select the import option and provide the necessary details, like the recovery phrase or private key.

Remember to back up your wallet at this stage to protect it from loss or damage. Follow the wallet provider's instructions to back up your wallet's recovery phrase or create a wallet backup file. Store this backup securely in a separate location.

It's important to prioritize the security of your crypto wallet. Set a strong password for the wallet software and enable any additional security features offered by the wallet provider, such as two-factor authentication (2FA) or biometric authentication.

4. Familiarize yourself with the wallet interface

Take some time to play around and explore the wallet interface and its features. Familiarize yourself with functions such as sending and receiving funds, viewing transaction history, and accessing additional settings.

5. Fund the wallet

To start using your wallet, you'll need to transfer cryptocurrency to it. Get your wallet's public address (often displayed as a QR code) and give it to the sender, such as your personal crypto exchange account, to receive funds.

How Do I Choose a Crypto Wallet?

There is no definitive answer as to which crypto wallet you should use. If you‘re a frequent trader, using a web wallet will allow you to access your funds quickly and trade conveniently. Assuming you have taken extra steps to secure your account with two-factor authentication (2FA) methods, your crypto is generally safe.

However, if you’re HODLing a large amount of crypto that you don’t plan to sell for a long time. In this case, cold wallets are a better alternative, as they aren’t connected to the Internet and are therefore more secure and resistant to online phishing attacks or scams.

Closing Thoughts

A crypto wallet keeps your digital coins safe and allows you to send and receive funds easily. Just as you have a wallet for your physical money, a crypto wallet is your virtual wallet for digital money. Choosing a wallet that meets your needs and has robust security features is important. 

Just remember to keep your private keys safe and never share them with anyone. With a crypto wallet, you can enter the exciting world of blockchain technology and begin exploring various decentralized applications.

Further Reading

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