Getting a way to store your Bitcoins is the first step to enter the world of Bitcoin and
Here, I’m going to guide you by making a list of different wallets you can use and get you started.
The original wallet (Bitcoin-qt or Bitcoin core).
This is the first ever made wallet for using Bitcoin in the early times and is still in use nowadays. This wallet has a good reputation of being secure and relatively easy to use, but the downside is that it needs to store the entire blockchain on your computer which takes time to download and takes place on your hard drive. You can move the blockchain storing location though, explained here. This is one of the few wallets to be able to become a “node“. It is also imperative to “lock” your wallet with a password to avoid a hacker stealing your coins by controlling your wallet (you’ll always need the password to send coins). Beginners can be a bit disappointed by the original wallet and I think they are right, for people not really easy with computers it can be hard to understand. The Bitcoin core wallet is the official wallet delivered directly on bitcoin.org (click to download the wallet). It is also notably available on all major operating systems (Windows, Linux and Mac OSX).
Recently we have seen very serious business providing online wallets often featuring a “buy bitcoin” option included directly (by bank wire or credit card). They’re also using insurances that protects you from hackers but only if it was a hack that was not your fault. Like if the hackers could find a way to infiltrate the servers, YES you’re insured. If the hackers knew your password and steal your coins, you’re not. It needs to be really clear !
You will also need a 2 factors authentication. That means that you will need a password and a device (often your mobile phone) to receive another code by SMS or directly on an application. Providers often use Google Auth or Authy. It is not mandatory on every providers but highly advised. Online wallets are now my wallets of choice, which could make any Bitcoin hardcore user have a heart attack. Well, before online wallets were not recommended but as I said, now they are insured against hacks, you can buy directly from them and they are really really easy to use. That’s personnally what I’m waiting in the Bitcoin wallet space : easy to use and secure. Of course, you need to trust a third party but the providers I’m going to recommend to you are well recognized and I’ve never had problem with them.
The first wallet I have been using is the well-known Coinbase. They have all the features including a “vault” to store your Bitcoins more securely. You can buy bitcoin with a US bank account or in many of the supported European countries at a very good price and even register a credit card for instant buying. Clear interface, easy-to-use and secure, It’s a wallet of choice of many bitcoiners, especially in the US.
Note : Coinbase can sometimes be a bit strict regarding use of the wallet for making payments to online casinos or for selling Bitcoins directly to another user. We saw cases of accounts not able to buy bitcoins anymore for example (but can still withdraw). Be careful and use Coinbase for making legal payments, and you shouldn’t have any problem. Coinbase is subject to heavy financial laws compliance in the United-States, that’s why. If you want to play on online casinos for example (assuming it’s legal in your country/jurisdiction), send the bitcoins to another wallet before.
Circle is a very nice wallet with a beautiful interface and features that makes the use of Bitcoin very easy. Note : Circle has been reported as having same “problems” as Coinbase. Both are subjected to heavy financial laws compliance, that’s why there are cases of account freezing or limitation of withdrawals amount per week etc.
Blockchain.info (website mainly used for checking the blockchain, the “public ledger” of Bitcoin), is used by many “bitcoiners” (people who use Bitcoin often) because It’s not subject to account freezing, like Coinbase. (you can’t buy bitcoins but just store them).
The “light” wallets.
These wallets will be installed on your computer, but the blockchain does not have to be downloaded (they use their servers instead). It seems that it is recommended to use light wallets that are using the “Simplified Method Verification” (SPV). I don’t really technically how is this working but the SPV is a technology that does not rely entirely on a third party. Users reports are globally good though and it sometimes provide features that are not in the Bitcoin core. But usually people warn that you need to trust a third party for your payments that could be spied. Most reputable light wallets are Electrum and Multibit but you can find others. They are not recommended though to store a very big stash of coins. Beginners will find it easy to use I think.
The security enhanced wallets.
These wallets aim to provide a high level of security for those who are afraid of being hacked. I’ve never used those types of wallets, but it might be worth a try if you don’t want to trust anyone and use the new security levels for Bitcoin users. The problem is that they can be a bit difficult to understand with new features like multi-signatures transaction or creating transactions while offline and just connect your computer to send the coins (just a few seconds). The most well-known wallet is Armory, another one is mSigna.
I don’t recommend it for beginners though, or maybe people that wants to buy thousands of $ worth of Bitcoins.
Mobile wallets are very useful to spend your Bitcoins to a brick-and-mortar shop. Usually they have a QR-code scanner but they can sometimes be used with the NFC of your phone. Remember that a mobile wallet needs to have an Internet connexion to be used, if you don’t have a data plan with your mobile, Bitcoin accepting stores often have free wifi.
Mobile wallets are not recommended to store a big stash of coins since your device could be stolen. If you have no other options always think about putting a password or a pin code to access your smartphone/tablet and do a backup somewhere else.
Android is actually the mobile OS with the widest choice, from “Bitcoin Wallet” to Mycellium there are plenty of other choices as well.
iOS was, until recently, blocking all kinds of applications providing a bitcoin wallet. It is not the case anymore and the most used wallet is probably the “bread wallet“.
BlackBerry OS has only one wallet featured on bitcoin.org. You can go there to download it.
Windows phone is not even listed on bitcoin.org but I’ve found what it seems to be a nice wallet from Bitpay named “Copay“.
All these wallets are free ! If you want to see a wider range of choices, bitcoin.org is listing most of the wallets available.
Know that you can use web-based online wallets as well on mobile. But you won’t have the same features for payments (such as NFC etc.).
Hardware and paper wallets.
For some people, using the good old paper is the best way to protect your coins if you want to store them for a long time. It’s actually quite simple : you need your public key (the one you show to everyone) and the private key (the one very secret that you need to hide from everyone). You can see your private key by doing these steps in the Bitcoin-core wallet :
launch your bitcoin client as usual and wait for it to load the blockchain and start up click on 'help' in the menu bar (top right) click on 'debug window' select the 'console' tab type: walletpassphrase "your walletpassphrase here" 600 type: dumpprivkey [your public key here] this will return the private key, you can copy it now; ensure you clear your clipboard/history afterwards type: walletlock
Copy your two keys into a document to print and you’ll have your own paper wallet.
Be careful about paper wallets maker online services, they could see your private key. Some people even say that the printer could have your private key stored etc. You need to know that it’s not 100% safe. So I would recommend to dig further before making a paper wallet. You can also simply write it by hand. Most people store their paper wallets in a fire proof safe which seems to be a good way to not be afraid to loose it all.
Hardware wallets are a new and a secure way to store your bitcoins with the Trezor being the most well-known wallet of this type used by bitcoiners. A complete review is available on CoinDesk. It seems to be well trusted now by users and I would recommend it even though I haven’t been using it.
Trezor seems to be the best choice in the very new business of hardware wallets, but there are other products available like the Ledger Wallet.