Please note: this article refers only to Bitcoin Cash (BCH), and not Bitcoin (BTC) or any other derivative of the original Bitcoin.
Warning: you must be very careful with private keys and seed phrases.
Get the seed phrase from your wallet
Most modern wallets use a seed phrase as the mechanism for keeping your Bitcoin safe. Wallets often call it a backup phrase or mnemonic phrase and you can usually get it in the setup or options section of your app.
A seed phrase is usually 12 or 24 words and looks like this:
legal winner thank year wave sausage worth useful legal winner thank yellow_do_not_put_money_in_this_seed
Warning: this example has been public for a long time. You must keepyourseed phrase private.
It is just a human-friendly way of representing a very large number. You can read more about how they work here.
Get the derivation path for your wallet (good luck)
You must have the derivation path in addition to the seed phrase. Basically, it tells your wallet how to use the seed phrase. The wallet maker chooses it but unfortunately most wallet makers do not share the derivation path when they give you the backup seed phrase.
Most wallets use one the common derivation paths below. If you cannot find your wallet’s derivation path, please try one of these. If that does not work, please contact the wallet maker (and leave a comment for me too).
- m/44'/145'/0' (often used with Bitcoin Cash) (specifically used by BadgerWallet, Bitpay wallet, Blockchain wallet, BTC.com wallet, Electron Cash, mttr.app) - m/44'/0'/0' (many derivatives of original Bitcoin use this path) (specifically used by bitcoin.com, Coinbase Commerce, exodus wallet, honest.cash, yours.org) - m/0' (specifically used by BRD/breadwallet, Handcash)
Note on honest.cash: the site lists m/44'/0'/0'/0/0 but that is just the first address based on the main derivation path of m/44'/0'/0' which is the one you should put into Electron Cash)
If you are using a wallet that allows more than one "account", you can probably access each account by changing the last number of the derivation path. For example:
- Account 1: m/44'/145'/0' - Account 2: m/44'/145'/1' - Account 3: m/44'/145'/2' - …
Please comment with any other derivation paths for specific wallets.
You can read about how they work in great detail here.
Start Electron Cash
File → New/Restore
Note: This happens automatically if you have not created a wallet yet.
- Name your wallet so you know what original wallet it is controlling. - Next
Name your wallet
Type of wallet
- Standard wallet - Next
Standard wallet will let us use our seed phrase
Source of wallet
- I already have a seed - Next
- Enter your 12 or 24 word seed phrase from above - In most cases, wallets are using an older style of seed phrase called BIP39. If the status of your seed does not say Ok already, you probably need to try BIP39: Options →BIP39 Seed →Ok - Next
Keep your seed phrase safe!!!
- Enter the derivation path from above. - Next
Good luck finding it!
- Enter a strong password. - Encrypt wallet file ←Make sure this is checked - Next
I recommend that you put a strong password and use the encrypt option. Then even if someone gets a copy of your wallet file from your computer, they cannot use it without the password.
Managing unique and strong passwords is a skill of its own. I recommend investing time to setup a password manager and I recommend using it consistently for all accounts.
You think I memorized that? Get yourself a password manager for great good.
Check for transactions
If you used your real seed phrase you should start to see transactions appear. Now you are ready to use your Bitcoin even if you lose access to the original wallet.
As of this article, the public seed phrase above does not have any transactions. If you find a publicly shared seed phrase that has transactions in the past, please let me know and I will replace the example seed phrase.
If you do not see transactions, something has gone wrong. With Electron Cash, you currently need to start this procedure over from the beginning. Especially double check the seed phrase or maybe try a different derivation path.
Where’s my money?!