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How to import a paper wallet

PK Banks - Posted: July 16, 2018

What is a paper wallet

A paper wallet is a way to store private keys in physical form, such as on a printed sheet of paper.  It is a method of cold storage.

While a paper wallets may be secure from online attacks, they remain at risk of physical theft, loss, or destruction.  Thus, it is important to keep them in a place that is secure and free from harm.  It is common wisdom to keep our paper wallet in a safe or safe deposit box, out of sight, and away from physical elements that could deteriorate or erode the wallet itself.

A paper wallet can be generated online for Bitcoin.  Not all cryptocurrencies and wallets are compatible, so if you choose one of these online resources be sure to check that the currency and wallet generator match.  Lastly, when using a paper wallet generator, be sure to do so while your computer is in offline mode, to prevent an online threat to capture the data and take your private key.

What is importing

When we want to use a new wallet software then we can simply import an existing private key, rather than create a brand new one.  This method is different from sweeping or transferring funds between different keys and addresses.

Importing is effective because it does not broadcast a transaction to the network.  Rather than asking nodes to move funds from one address to another, we simply copy the private key and import it to the new wallet.  The network is never made aware of the import, which saves us transaction costs and confirmation time.

There are some possible drawbacks to importing our private key to a new wallet.  Directly handling private keys is a risky business for even the most seasoned experts.  A malicious attacker can potentially capture our private key by reading our screen or paper wallet.  We may make an error when importing our private key.  The mere act of having additional copies of our private keys increases the risk that one of them will fall into the wrong hands.

Importing a private key from one wallet to another is easy to understand and comes with the responsibility of doing it with care.  It is wise to be best tested first with wallets that contain small amounts, to mitigate loss in case something goes wrong and gain experience with the process.

Security considerations

Anyone with access to your private key has access to your funds.  There is no protection afforded to you in the event of loss.  There is no way to cancel or reverse a transaction.  Thus, it is very important to treat your private keys with the utmost of care.

Here are some tips and reminders to keep your private key secure:
  • If you are using a paper wallet generator, be sure that you are offline when you use the generator.  It is better to write your private key or recovery phrase by hand with pen and paper, rather than sending it to a digital printer.
  • If you are importing your key from an existing wallet, remember to disconnect from the Internet, and to clear or overwrite your clipboard before reconnecting to the Internet. You can do this be selecting some text and copying it.
  • Only import to a new wallet.  If you have existing wallets and you want to merge them, do not import the keys because doing so will override the keys already assigned to that wallet.  To consolidate funds to a single wallet, it's best to pick which wallet you want to keep, and then sweep funds from the other wallets.
  • Once you have finished importing to a new wallet, destroy all lingering copies of your private keys.
  • Whenever you handle your keys or addresses, double check to ensure that they match.  If you send a transaction to the network, or erroneously copy your keys, you may forever lose access to your funds.
  • Anyone who has your private key will also have access to the funds attached to that key.

Never share your private key with anyone.

How to import

Wallets are plentiful and they range in design and purpose.  Some are great for newcomers, while others offer customizable features.  Not all wallets support an import feature, opting instead to ask users to sweep their funds to a new wallet via transaction broadcast to the network.

At a high level, importing is simply entering the private key from an existing wallet into a new wallet software.  While this may seem like a strange use case, it occurs when a user would like to change the wallet you are using or you want to move funds off of a paper wallet.  Ultimately, the wallets we choose should be based on how well they suit our needs.  As our needs evolve, so too should the wallets we prefer.

PK Banks
I thought crypto was a scam, until I learned that it's not. You can follow me on twitter here: twitter.com/pkbanks99

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