How to set up a Bitcoin cold storage wallet

In this guide we will walk you through setting up your very own cold storage wallet for Bitcoin. We'll be discussing the completely free and highly secure 'paper wallet' method.

Table of Contents

  1. Getting started
  2. Generating a private/public keypair
  3. Printing the page
  4. How does this work?
  5. Adding funds to your cold storage wallet
  6. Redeeming bitcoin from cold storage

Getting started

Before diving into the process, you may be wondering, "What is cold storage?" In simple terms, cold storage refers to keeping your bitcoin completely offline. Although 'hot' (online) wallets like the Bitcoin.com Wallet are perfectly safe - in addition to being highly convenient for everyday usage, including for trading - cold storage wallets, because they never touch the Internet, provide an even safer method for simple, long-term storage. They also make a unique way to give bitcoin as a gift.

Read more: Get an overview of the different Bitcoin wallet types, how to create them, and their respective pros & cons.

Generating a private/public keypair

The first step to getting your bitcoin into cold storage is creating an offline Bitcoin address. This address will have a “public/private key pair” that is created without ever touching the Internet. A public/private key pair can be thought of as an email address and its corresponding password. To ensure the maximum level of security, it’s important that this key pair never be exposed to the Internet.

Read more: Get clarity on key terms like public & private keys, transaction inputs & outputs, confirmation times, and more.

Setting up your cold storage paper wallet is fairly simple and requires very little technical knowledge. The one "hard" part is that, to ensure your paper wallet's private and public keys have never touched the Internet, you'll need to save the webpage that generates the keys, disconnect your device from the Internet, open the saved webpage on your desktop, then generate the keys.

For Bitcoin (BTC), we recommend this wallet-generating tool.

For Bitcoin Cash (BCH), we recommend this wallet-generating tool.

Printing the page

step is to make an offline copy. Later you'll use the public key (also known as the address) to load your wallet with bitcoin, and the private key (also known as the password) to sign transactions if you want to spend the wallet's contents.

To make an offline copy, you simply print out the public/private key pair. Actually, you could just write the key pair on a piece of paper. However, as long as you're sure your printer and computer are disconnected from the Internet, it's perfectly safe to hit the print button (thereby avoiding the potential for human error when writing out dozens of randomly generated numbers and letters).

Congratulations, the hard part is over! You have now created an offline Bitcoin address and made a hard copy of it locally for safekeeping. You can now safely reconnect to the Internet.

On the printed page should be the public Bitcoin address in both alphanumeric form and QR code form with the corresponding private key, also in alphanumeric and QR code form. If you plan on keeping a lot of value in this wallet, we strongly recommend that you store the paper wallet somewhere secure, such as a fireproof safe. If there isn't much on it, you can think of the paper wallet like, for example, a $20 bill (this is what makes it a fun way to give out some Bitcoin).

How does this work?

The above-recommended tools are client-side address generators. They create public and private Bitcoin key pairs locally through your browser. The benefit of this technique is that you can load the JavaScript locally and trust that the JavaScript did not change after being loaded. The tools are open source, meaning the code can be reviewed at any time.

Read more: Make sure your cryptoassets are safe with these simple tips.

Adding funds to your cold storage wallet

Since your new paper wallet has a public address just like any other Bitcoin wallet, loading it with Bitcoin is a simple matter of sending Bitcoin to the address which is shown in both alphanumeric form and QR code form on the printed wallet.

Read more: How do I send bitcoin?

Redeeming bitcoin from cold storage

When you are ready to spend from your cold storage wallet, you will need to import the wallet's private key to a Bitcoin wallet that connects to the Internet (a “hot” wallet). Any wallet that supports importing private keys will work. For example, with the Bitcoin.com Wallet, you simply tap ADD/IMPORT and follow the instructions.

Once you have successfully imported your paper wallet to your "hot" wallet, any funds previously sent to the paper wallet are now ready to spend.

Note: Never reuse cold storage wallets. Once you have redeemed them online, follow the process outlined above to create a new one when necessary.

Looking for ways to spend your Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies? Check out our interactive map, which lists places to spend Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Ether. You can also find a list of merchants, sorted by industry, who accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash here.

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