How does a seed phrase in Bitcoin or crypto wallet work?

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A seed phrase is a 12-24 word recovery phrase used in modern cryptocurrency wallets. A strong phrase reliably protects your private Bitcoin and crypto keys from brute-force hackers. In this article, we’ll discuss how they work.

Where does the seed phrase come from?

Basically, a seed phrase is a set of exactly 2,048 predefined words (found in BIP39 wordlist). These words allow you to recover your private key if you ever lose the private key. A phrase provide a simple and user-friendly feature. Most people find that remembering or write down words is easier than writing down the long digits of seemingly arbitrary letters and numbers. Most wallets (so called HD wallets) support BIP32 and BIP39 and contain the above dictionary of 2048 words, or to be more precise, in a range of up to 2048²⁴ possible combinations. The number of possible seed phrases you could generate is enormous.

If you accidentally change the word order or spelling in the secret phrase, you cannot recover the private key— so you will not be able to use your wallet. So, when writing down the phrase, you must be careful to write the words down as they are spelled and in the correct order. Despite this, many people still find this much easier than make a single error in string of letters and digits.

How safe is it?

You might think that you could just guess someone’s seed phrase. So, how secure is your secret phrase? Extremely secure. In fact, a hacker has virtually zero chance of ever randomly guessing any person’s secret phrase.

The number of possible phrases is about equal to all the number of particles in the entire universe. That is, all the atoms, in all the stars, in all the galaxies in the entire universe.

The fraction of possible phrases actually used are about equal to the number of particles in tiny fraction of a snowflake. So, hackers will never find your phrase. And still, the use of words makes it easy to use this security feature.

Keep your seed phrase safe

Keep your seed phrase in a safe and inaccessible place, and do not show it to anyone. Do not store your seed phrase on your phone, on your computer, or on the Internet. Whoever gets access to your secret phrase will get access to your funds in your crypto wallet.

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