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Before we get started, let’s go over the different types of Bitcoin wallets. There some new terms coming up but don’t freak out! We’ve made this guide simple and easy so that even the cryptocurrency newbies will walk away experts.
There are three types of Bitcoin wallets: hardware, software, and paper. Hardware wallets are physical wallets with your private keys encrypted in them, software wallets are programs that live either on your computer or on the Internet, and paper wallets are physical documents with private keys.
For hard wallets, you’ll need a digital signature. Your digital signature is your ID. It’s how you prove that you own a specific private key without flashing your key around in public. Digital signatures verify ownership, keeping your private key safe and away from prying hands.
The advantage of hardware wallets is that your private keys are isolated from your computer, keeping your risk of theft near zero. Software wallets, on the other hand, are still connected to the Internet and expose you to some risk.
The only potential downside of a hardware wallet is that it costs money. Most software wallets are free. While both wallets protect your bitcoins more securely, some users would rather pass on the extra cost.
By all means, you do you. But I’d personally rather spend $100 or so to guarantee security than take risks with the free software wallet route.
Bitcoin Hardware Wallets
Without a doubt, Bitcoin hardware wallets are the most secure type of Bitcoin wallet. What differentiates hardware wallets from software wallets is that when they are plugged out—in “cold storage.”
This means your hardware wallet is disconnected from the Internet and impossible to touch. Hackers, Trojans, and other malware can’t get to anything in cold storage. Personally, I like hardware wallets because I’m a worrier. I enjoy the peace of mind knowing that someone much better at the Internet than me isn’t running off with my hard-earned bitcoins.
Ledger and TREZOR are names that always come up when reviewing Bitcoin wallets.
The Ledger Nano S functions like any other hard wallet, with a few minor differences. For any Bitcoin fashionistas out there, the Ledger definitely wins in the style category.
Setting up the Ledger wallet is pretty simple. All you need is Chrome and a secure computer. Ledger comes with a PIN for added security. If the PIN is entered incorrectly three times, Ledger wipes itself clean.
Terrifying but not the end of the world. Ledger allows you to set up a recovery seed to retrieve your private keys if your device is lost or broken. This recovery seed is a set of words that must be put together in a certain order. Ledger allows you to recover all your lost bitcoins with your recovery seed so no need to break a sweat.
This Reddit user summed it up nicely: “I just got a Ledger Nano S and I love it. The biggest advantage is that your private key is stored completely offline and never exposed to your computer, so your chances of getting your wallet hacked are as close to zero as they come. If you lose it, you can restore your wallet to another device or another wallet entirely with the seed. It truly is an investment that could save you thousands down the line.”
Ledger rating: Overall, the Ledger wallet functions exactly as you’d want it to. It keeps your bitcoins safe, it’s easy to access—but only for you, and is forgiving if your house burns down.
Trezor Reviewtrezor wallet review
TREZOR is a hardware wallet that holds your private keys offline and allows you to sign transactions with your digital signature without having to connect to the Internet.
TREZOR is often hailed for simultaneously serving as an offline cold storage device and allowing you to spend your coins. It’s a pretty small, nifty device that you can carry around on a keychain. If you thought your Tamagotchi was cool, imagine a device that can potentially hold millions of dollars of Bitcoin in the palm of your hand.
Whenever you want to spend your bitcoins, you can do so through TREZOR’s limited USB connection. A limited USB connection acts like a computer mouse: the mouse communicates its location to the computer, but the computer can’t move the mouse. It’s a one-way connection. TREZOR can safely interact with computers that may be compromised or infected with malware. This is amazing for safely managing your bitcoins.
There are also no usernames or passwords for TREZOR accounts, so it’s very difficult to hack. Your TREZOR device is all you need. Unless someone has physical access to your device, there’s no way your account can be accessed.
In case you want to further nullify the risk of someone physically hacking into your device, TREZOR offers passphrase protection for Bitcoin access. This passphrase should be purely memorized and not written down anywhere.
Now, if you’ve got a group of telepathic ninjas after your bitcoins, you can use a blockchain-powered artificially intelligent android to protect you. (Just kidding, we’re not there yet.)
TREZOR Rating: Overall, I like the TREZOR a lot. It’s extremely secure and intuitive. The price is a bit higher than most wallets but the features, TREZOR team, and accessibility of the product justify it.
KeepKey is another hardware wallet. While some might prefer its sleek design and screen size, it’s nearly twice as big as the TREZOR or Ledger Nano S. I personally just need a solid hardware wallet to keep hidden in my top secret Batcave. It’s not Tamagotchi-sized like the TREZOR, so definitely something to consider.
KeepKey also isn’t as reputable as Ledger and TREZOR. And in the wild Wild West of the crypto world, reputation matters a lot. That being said, it has phenomenal credentials. KeepKey comes with a pin code and number randomization to guard your coins. You can also use it on compromised or malware-infected computers, although I wouldn’t recommend doing so.
KeepKey supports Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, Namecoin, Testnet, Ethereum, and Dash. This is a big deal for users that want to keep their altcoins off the grid.
KeepKey rating: KeepKey’s ability to store such a wide variety of altcoins is super appealing. It’s a bit larger than other hardware wallets, but isn’t much of an issue. The security is top notch, and that’s what matters.