Want to check which wallets support the BIP39 mnemonic recovery seed phrase? Read the article below to find out.
- What is BIP39
- BIP39 seed phrase security
- Is BIP39 enough to recover a wallet?
- Are all wallets compatible with BIP39?
- Other standards of seed phrases
- List of BIP39 compatible Hardware Wallets (A-Z)
- List of BIP39 compatible Software and Mobile Wallets (A-Z)
- Article update notice
What is BIP39
In the past, bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets were created and accessed using private keys. The private key has many characters and consists of letters and numbers, which is difficult to use.
The example of old type bitcoin private key would look like this:
With the introduction of BIP39, the whole process of creating and accessing bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets has been simplified. This is to simplify the process of producing renewal seeds for your supplies and their return. BIP39 name comes from Bitcoin Improvement Proposal No. 39.
Using the BIP39 recovery phrase (also called a mnemonic), a user can back up and restore bitcoin and other cryptocurrency wallets without using complex private keys. However, a wallet can be obtained using a sentence consisting of words in natural language. BIP39 allows users to use a sentence to access their wallet with cryptocurrencies instead of a complex private key. This sentence is translated by the wallet software to generate deterministic wallet addresses. Wallet software uses algorithms to generate the private key content of your BIP39 words.
Example of BIP39 mnemonic phrase with 12 words:
glory remain shrug expand feed they notice similar diagram acquire hour razor
The BIP39 protocol uses a list of 2048 carefully chosen English words. Although the lists in different languages exist, it is not recommended to use them because most wallets do not support other than English words.
Check out official BIP39 Wordlist or BIP39 Seed Phrase Generator.
The seed phrase not only grants you full access to your addresses (accounts) and funds. It also is a way for a wallet to know what addresses (accounts) on the blockchain you had. Wallets are deterministic which means that they will always create the same set of addresses and private keys from a given recovery phrase.
Read more about seed phrases and private keys.
Wallets use from 12 to 24 word long recovery phrases. It depends on the wallet manufacturer. For example Trezor T uses 12 words seed phrase while Ledger Nano S uses 24 words seed.
The last word of any BIP39 seed phrase is a checksum word. This means it is a word generated by taking into account all previous words. This is not a ‘random’ word as the others.
Fragment of BIP39 wordlist
BIP39 seed phrase security
In theory, longer recovery phrase = more secure wallet. But even the 12 words mnemonic phrase gives more than enough security for this moment (January 2022). For the foreseeable future, the 24 word long recovery phrase would be the gold standard.
Your mnemonic phrase written on a piece of paper, even if stored in a locked safe or buried down in a pile of other documents is still a piece of paper. Different kinds of situations can put your backup phrase in danger and make it unreadable in the future. Paper can be destroyed easily.
This is why you should make a backup of your seed phrase using metal crypto wallet like Coinplate, which are 100%stainless steel and BIP39 compatible. For example with Coinplate Alpha you can easily backup 1 Ledger Nano S/X wallet or two Trezor T wallets. This kind of backup can survive fire, flood or even a house collapse.
Is BIP39 enough to recover a wallet?
The system that hardware and software wallets use for recovery is based on multiple industry standards. One of them is BIP39, we discussed earlier and it describes how the seed phrase is built using the set of 2048 words.
The wallet uses a seed phrase not only as a key but also as an instruction to set up all the addresses and private keys for everything stored on a wallet. This means it also needs a way to construct this data from the seed phrase.
This is very important when using seed phrases in a completely different wallet. You would be fine if recovering using a wallet from the same provider. But a different vendor can use another set of instructions and it can generate different addresses and keys, which means you will not have access to your funds.
There are other standards like BIP44, BIP49 and BIP84 that describe how the addresses and key should be generated from a given seed. If you want to recover your wallet in a different wallet you need to make sure that they both use the same set of instructions. For example, if you initially set up your wallet and generated seed using Ledger Nano S and want to recover your wallet on a new Trezor T. This set of instructions is called “derivation path” and it instructs a wallet how to derive a path to the addresses from a seed phrase.
You can check in the documentation provided by the wallet manufacturer/provider which derivation standard it uses so you can be sure if you can move your wallet safely. The most important standard when it comes to derivation paths is BIP44.
The other important thing is to check if wallets support the same coins. If the other wallet does not support a given coin, it will not create a derivation path to a valid address and keys.
I imported the correct seed phrase but see no balance
Because of how the BIP39 standard works it is not enough sometimes to write down just a seed phrase. It is also important what derivation path you were using. Sometimes when importing a seed phrase to a different wallet by a different vendor, your seed will not create the same set of addresses. This will show you empty balances. This is why it’s important to make sure your wallet uses all the industry standards. But to be on the safer side you should know what type or model of wallet you used to create a seed phrase. This way you can find which method of derivation path creation was used.
Are all wallets compatible with BIP39?
Unfortunately not all wallets available are compatible with BIP39 recovery phrase standard and other industry standards. Some are using similar but dedicated standard of seed phrase, which means that if your hardware or software wallet is broken or lost you have to use another one bought from the same manufacturer. This means that you may have a trouble restoring your wallet in case of manufacturer going out of business . This is why we don’t recommend using wallets that are not using industry standard like BIP39 and BIP44 and others that give you much better chances of recovery if the manufacturer no longer supports your device.
Always check if hardware wallet manufacturer explicitly mention the ability to restore wallet from any other compatible wallet (BIP39/BIP44) in the documentation.
Other standards of seed phrases
The BIP39 and others mentioned earlier are not the only way wallets create and recover seed phrases. For example, Electrum wallet uses its own system, which some experts find superior to the common “BIP” system we discussed. Electrum system uses a single method of path derivation and it allows its users to be sure it will be recovered in the same manner. Some wallets can import various seed phrases and some only have one standard. Be aware that not every seed phrase is the same and check what is your standard. If using wallet with a prioprietary recovery method you may not be able to use different wallet to restore your coins in the future.
List of BIP39 compatible Hardware Wallets (A-Z):
- CoolWallet S/Pro
- D’Cent Card / D’Cent Biometric
- Ellipal Titan
- Jubiter Blade Wallet
- Keystone / Keystone tablet
- Ledger Nano S/S plus / X | official site: ledger.com
- Ngrave Zero
- Prokey Optimum
- Safepal S1
- SecuX V20 / W10 / W20
- Trezor One/ Model T | official site: trezor.io
List of BIP39 compatible Software and Mobile Wallets (A-Z):
- AirGap Wallet
- Bitcoin Core
- Bither | official site: bither.net
- Cobo Wallet
- Coinomi | official site: coinomi.com
- Electrum | official site: electrum.org
- Enjin Wallet
- MyEtherWallet | official site: myetherwallet.com
- Samourai (in-built CoinJoin) | official site: samouraiwallet.com
- Trust Wallet
- Wasabi (in-built CoinJoin) | official site: wasabiwallet.io
Article update notice
This article is being updated regularly.
The list of wallets supporting BIP39 recovery seed phrase was last updated on October 2022.