The best crypto seed phrase storage – the ultimate guide
We will cover the topic of safe seed phrase storage and provide you with the best ways of storing a seed phrase and what mistakes to avoid. Seed phrase storage is basically a way of keeping your seed phrase safe from damage and thieves so you can restore your wallet if needed. We will explain this topic below, where you will find a lot of information on how to secure your bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.
The seed phrase is a recovery key for a hardware wallet. If you are not storing your coins on a secure hardware wallet, you should look into setting one up. Experts agree that hardware wallets paired with solid seed phrase backup are the safest way to store and use cryptocurrencies. Hardware wallets protect you from hackers and exchange/platform bankruptcy and other risks.
With a hardware wallet you chose to be your own bank, so act like it and protect your funds with the best possible solutions. We will show you how.
- What is a seed phrase and why it is so important?
- Wallets and seed phrase
- The seed phrase is an access key and recovery phrase of a wallet
- How seed phrases look like
- Why seed phrase storage is so important
- Wallets can break down and you need seed phrase for recovery
- What is seed phrase storage?
- What makes the best seed phrase storage?
- Seed phrases storage should be durable
- Off-line, physical and hackerproof seed phrase backup
- Easy to hide, not drawing attention solutions
- Make it tamper evident
- The best way to store the seed phrase
- DIY or getting a professionally made seed phrase backup?
- Additional tips on seed phrase safety
- Avoid these popular methods of seed phrase storage
- Avoid using paper for your seed phrase
- Computer/phone is not a good place
- Avoid taking and storing photos
- Cloud storage might not be the safest choice
- Password managers are not for seed phrase
- Wrap up
What is a seed phrase and why it is so important?
Wallets and seed phrase
When you set up a new wallet it will generate a set of addresses (“accounts”) where your coins can be stored. Each of the addresses is protected by an individual private key. Private keys are sort of a “password” that authorizes you as an owner of your blockchain address. A hardware wallet holds a set of individual private keys that grants access to all your blockchain addresses. To protect these valuable private keys from hackers, it stores them encrypted inside.
The seed phrase is an access key and recovery phrase of a wallet
A seed phrase is an access key to the whole wallet, which can hold multiple addresses protected by individual private keys. But the seed phrase is more than that. Seed phrases are used by hardware wallets not only as an access key but also as an instruction to set up all blockchain addresses. When you set up a new hardware wallet it will create a given set of addresses + private keys for them. And when you set up another hardware wallet with the same seed phrase it will create a 1:1 copy of your previous addresses and private keys. Wallets always create the same set of addresses and private keys from a given seed phrase. This is why they are often called recovery seed phrases but you will also find names like recovery phrase, seed phrase, recovery seed, mnemonic seed or wallet backup. Read more about seed phrases and private keys
How seed phrases look like
Seed phrases are a set of special words and usually look like this:
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Most seed phrases use a BIP39 standard and are randomly chosen from a carefully chosen list of 2048 words – BIP39 word list. Seed phrases are usually 12 to 24 words long. Seed phrases and private keys as well as the whole blockchain use the same state-of-the-art encryption methods so they are impossible to crack by hackers. Seed phrases are a human-readable form of long and complicated passwords used elsewhere and are much easier to read and write than i.e. private keys.
Why seed phrase storage is so important
The seed phrase is a backup of all contents of your wallet. When your wallet is corrupted, broken or lost you will need the seed phrase to recover it – set up a new one as a copy of the old one. If you lose your seed phrase then, you will not be able to ever access your funds stored in a wallet.
If you lose your seed phrase and the wallet is still operational you have to set up a new wallet and move all your coins there as soon as possible. Wallets will never show you their seed phrase after the initial setup is finished. There is no way to see the seed phrase after the wallet is set up, so you have to make sure your backup is error-free and kept as safe as possible.
You have to avoid at all costs a situation when your software or hardware wallet is broken and your seed phrase backup is lost or unreadable.
Wallets can break down and you need seed phrase for recovery
Both hardware and software wallets can break down, be misplaced or damaged. This happens more often than you will think. Hardware wallet manufacturers themselves always emphasize the importance of proper seed phrase backups because they know their products can become faulty.
Many people have lost their Bitcoins worth millions of dollars because their wallets stopped working and their seed phrase stored on a piece of paper burned in a house fire, was flooded or simply thrown away.
Also, it is important to know that hardware wallets will erase themselves completely after a few wrong PIN attempts. After it happens you have to use your seed phrase and it better be in a good condition.
What is seed phrase storage?
Seed phrase storage is basically keeping your copy of seed phrase secure for a long time. This means writing/marking a copy of a seed phrase on a solid medium, keeping it in a secure location, and protecting it from accidental damage or misplacing for at least 5 years but usually more. It is crucial that your recovery phrase backup will be able to survive at least 5-10 years of time. It is common for cryptocurrency owners to hold their coins for a long period of time to wait for an increase in value. During this time, however, it happens quite often that the owner forgets about their holdings or didn’t put a lot of effort into making solid backups because the value was not high. If or when the value increases significantly, you should be then able to find your backup, read it, and recover your coins.
As explained in detail above, the seed phrase is both an access key and recovery instruction set for your wallet. Because of that, it is crucial to keep your copy of the seed phrase as secure as possible.
The safest way of using and storing cryptocurrency is using a hardware wallet like Trezor or Ledger for everyday use to make transfers and sign smart contracts paired with a dependable seed phrase backup stored safely to restore your wallet in case it breaks or is lost. Your hardware wallet is protected from unauthorized access by a PIN code, and after a few wrong attempts, it will completely erase all data. This means you don’t have to keep your hardware wallet hidden. But it is necessary to keep your seed phrase storage safe from damage and unauthorized access to restore your wallet if it is erased, lost or broken.
What makes the best seed phrase storage?
Your seed phrase is the only thing that is able to create a copy of your wallet, where your coins are stored. It is the only thing that allows the recovery of all your coins in case a wallet breaks or is locked out. Also with the seed phrase anyone can gain access to your coins stored in a wallet. Often cryptocurrency holders store coins worth thousands of dollars in their wallets.
The seed phrase storage medium should survive situations and disasters that happen in our lives. You would not like to have your precious seed phrase burned in a house fire, destroyed by water from a leaking roof, or thrown out by a family member when doing a cleanup.
Below we will discuss the qualities of an ideal seed phrase storage solution, so you can think of one yourself.
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Seed phrases storage should be durable
The seed phrase, as probably one of the most valuables things you own, should be able to survive a lot and be still readable after a few years. This means that the most popular way of storing seed phrase – which is writing it on paper – is not the best idea. Paper can be made unreadable just by high humidity and mold. Also quite often ink from a pen will fade after a few years and you will probably not even know that if it’s hidden in a stack of other documents. It can be also eaten up by rodents or insects, that for some reason like to eat paper. The paper will not withstand house fires and flooding with water by firemen. Not to even mention more extreme things like house collapse. Keeping your paper in a safe box might make it a bit more durable, but still, the ink can fade and if the fire is big, the paper will burn even inside a safe box.
The seed phrase storage medium should be something that will not be destroyed by a house fire, water, humidity, mold, or pests. The viable option is to use metal plates, preferably from a metal that will not be affected by rust or water. The best medium would be stainless steel which can easily survive house fires, and flooding by water and will not be affected by mold or rodents. Stainless steel can withstand temperatures up to 2600°F while house fires do not exceed 1500°F. Thanks to the high content of Chromium and Nickel it is rust-resistant even in acidic conditions and will withstand years of storage. To make your seed phrase storage solution resistant also to the physical damage that could happen if your house is destroyed, it should be made from thick stainless plates, that will not bend or tear even under extreme load. The best steel crypto wallets are made from ultra-thick plates to protect your seed phrase.
Off-line, physical and hackerproof seed phrase backup
The main point of using hardware wallets is that your keys never leave the device and are unreachable by hackers. This is a great benefit and that’s why most people use them. However, you cannot make the job easier for hackers by putting your precious seed phrase on your computer or other electronic devices.
When data is stored on an electronic device it is susceptible to being accessed by malicious software and hackers. Even if using offline data storage like a USB drive or memory card, you will still have to use some kind of device to open it, decrypt and read it. You are most vulnerable to hackers when either writing your seed phrase on a computer or accessing it to read it. Malware, viruses or keyloggers can easily recognize seed phrase words and transfer them to a hacker very fast. Your coins can be stolen that way literally in minutes. Printing is also not a good idea. Now it is not uncommon to find software that listens to your voice from a laptop or phone microphone and looks for seed phrase words to expose them to a hacker.
This also applies to storing your seed phrase as a photo or image, special software can effortlessly recognize words from images and there are loads of malware around that is built just for that.
That’s why your seed phrase backup should be completely offline and non-electronic. It shouldn’t be necessary to use any kind of electronic device to either write, store or access it. It has to be entirely air-gapped and physical by nature. You are the only person and thing that can see your seed phrase. This means that you have to mark or write your seed phrase by hand. It can be marked in steel using punches or a hand engraver but it has to be done by hand without the help of electronic devices. If something is not stored digitally it cannot be accessed by hackers remotely.
Easy to hide, not drawing attention solutions
Finding a location to store your seed phrase backup can be challenging. You may want to store it in a place where no one will find it but not to draw attention to it by just a spot where it is.
This is why we usually do not recommend storing your seed phrase backup in a safe box at your apartment. This is probably the first place where an experienced thief will check and if something is in the safe box, it probably has a lot of value so they will for sure investigate it. You should also probably avoid some common hiding places where people put their jewellery or cash.
The best seed backup should be easy to hide and fix in some unusual places like inside drywall, cabinet or inside appliance enclosure. It would be best to have a way to attach it securely by using a screw or bolts so you don’t have to rely on glue or tape. Because the seed phrase is not used often you can hide it deeper and in places where it is truly out of reach. If you chose some stainless steel plates you can probably just bury them in your yard, inside a Tupperware just to be extra safe. Maybe you can put them in your fish tank? The imagination is the only thing holding you back.
Your seed phrase should also look as uninteresting as possible. This is why it is advisable to not use something with flashy branding on it that can easily tell the burglar what it is. They can google the name on it easily on the spot. Your seed phrase if looking just like a piece of metal can be easier to hide in plain sight.
Easy to use and read seed backup tools
Your seed phrase storage solution should not be difficult to use or read. You may think quite the opposite, that it should be super hard to read, so if anything finds it they will not be able to get your seed phrase. However, you should remember that the main thing that seed backup should allow is reading your seed phrase after a long time.
If you use some elaborate scheme to write your seed phrase or encrypt it. The chances are you will not be able to read it after 5 or 10 years in the future because you will simply forget how you did it. Not to even mention explaining it to a family member if something happens to you.
Your seed phrase backup should be easy to make so you will not make errors when creating it. It might not be possible to recover your seed if you made errors. Also, it should be probably as readable as possible so you or a family member can read it after a few years even if it has some damage.
If you are worried about an unauthorized person reading your seed phrase, you may be better off using an additional passphrase to your seed phrase so your seed phrase alone is not enough. You can also consider multi-part seed splitting. These are however advanced features and you should first educate yourself before using them as they have some drawbacks.
Make it tamper evident
The best seed phrase storage should enable you to see if someone accessed it. You should be able to take a look at your backup from time to time and see if it’s still there and was not tampered with. The best way to do it is to use some kind of tamper-evident seals, that can look like these warranty “void” stickers placed on appliances or something homemade.
Reputable manufacturers of ready-to-use seed phrase backups often include proper tamper-evident seals so you can secure them yourself. It is possible to also use paper and nail polish to create a simple seal. It can be achieved also by placing a lock on it or a container where it is stored.
The best way to store the seed phrase
The ideal seed phrase backup solution should be durable to withstand extreme situations, offline and hackerproof and easy to hide. It also should be tamper-evident and easy to use and read so you will be able to recover your wallet after a few years.
With this in mind, it is advisable to use stainless steel crypto wallet for your seed phrase storage or try to make it yourself. The best seed backup tools available on the market like Coinplate Alpha are super easy to use and read while offering extreme durability. Coinplate backups are made from ultra thick stainless steel plates, joined with sturdy bolts. The layout is deeply engraved using lasers and they feature mounting holes so you can place it in an obscure location. All Coinplate backups feature removable branding so they are easy to hide and come with a full set of accessories including tamper-evident stickers.
You don’t have to trust our own words though. Our backups were stress tested by 3rd party and performed great, see the stress test results and check how they survived being heated up with a blow torch, left in an acid bath and crushed with a hydraulic press.
DIY or getting a professionally made seed phrase backup?
If you are a person handy with tools and have a bit of a workshop you may want to try doing it yourself. Just have in mind that stainless steel is one of the hardest materials to work with and even stamping your letter with a hammer might prove difficult for many. You might be able to buy some stainless plates quite cheap but you will need some tools for that, and that will bring the cost to the same level as some proper backups available on the market.
Making a seed phrase storage by yourself might be a nice project but you will probably not be able to make it as durable as some of the best ready-to-use solutions. Stamping or engraving your seed on some thin stainless sheet will not grant you the same protection from extreme situations like Coinplate backups that are 3/8” (10mm) thick. Not to mention that working with a difficult material like stainless steel might make it quite a hassle with a risk of injury.
Best ready-made seed phrase storage solutions can be very easy to use so anyone can do it without risk of mistakes or injury. They do not require the use of specialized tools and everything you need comes in the box so you can start right away.
Additional tips on seed phrase safety
- The order of words in your seed phrase is important. Don’t ever change the order of the words in the seed phrase, it will make your seed phrase unusable.
- Don’t take photos of your backup and avoid even reading it aloud to avoid intercepting it by malware or hackers.
- Don’t input your seed phrase (or even parts of it) into a computer or other electronic devices apart from hardware wallets.
- You should only use seed phrases generated randomly, preferably by the wallet.
- Always double or triple-check if you marked your seed correctly. You may use a recovery check feature of your wallet to do that.
- Use tamper-evident stickers to protect your seed backup or hardware wallet and be sure no one used them when you weren’t watching.
- You should avoid encrypting or making your seed phrase hard to read if you are not sure you will be able to decipher it back in 5-10 years. It will be better to just use a passphrase (25th word) and make a solid backup of it separately from the seed.
- Use extra passphrase or seed phrase splitting if you are worried that someone might access your seed phrase or force you to show it. Please be aware that these are some advanced techniques that require prior research.
Avoid these popular methods of seed phrase storage
It is advisable to not use the methods of seed phrase storage mentioned below. These seed phrase backup solutions might seem like a good idea, but they are not and can expose your seed to hackers or make it unreadable in the future.
Avoid using paper for your seed phrase
Paper can be easily destroyed and misplaced by mistake. Fire, water, humidity, mold, rodents, and insects can damage your paper backup and make you lose all your funds in your wallet. It is also quite common for people to throw away their paper backups stashed with other documents by accident.
Use something more durable and substantial instead, like stainless steel crypto wallets. They will withstand almost anything and are much harder to misplace by accident.
The computer/phone is not a good place
Never put your seed phrase or even parts of it on an electronic device. Specialized software created by hackers sweep devices for traces of seed phrases which can be recognized easily. Not to even mention keyloggers that automatically send all seed phrases to hackers who can empty your accounts faster than you. This is applicable to all devices, including even “dumber” ones like printers or photocopiers.
Avoid taking and storing photos
Don’t take photos of your seed phrase as it is quite easy for malware to scan photos for words and read them. Your phone or camera is not a safe place for the seed phrase. This is also true for printing. It should not be used for seed phrase backups. On the other hand, your seed phrase might be out of reach from hackers when making an old-style analog photo. You will have to develop it yourself or use a Polaroid-style camera to avoid using a photo lab where it can be intercepted by someone else. They will be still susceptible to damage and fading after some time, though.
Cloud storage might not be the safest choice
As already mentioned, it is not the best idea to store your seed phrase using an electronic medium even if offline. Cloud storage is an always-connected storage medium that can be quite safe but sometimes the hackers get access to it. This goes for both photos and files stored online. Apart from the safety of cloud storage as a medium, you still need to write it and access using your electronic device which is susceptible to attack by hackers. To put it short, you shouldn’t use cloud storage for seed phrases.
Password managers are not for seed phrase
Password managers do a great job of keeping your regular passwords safe but it is important that with seed phrases you need to treat them differently. They have a rather high level of security but are not really meant to keep your seed phrase. If the password manager malfunctions, you can still restore your password on all of your online services, however with seed phrase this is not the case. It is important to know that with the rising popularity of 2-factor authentication, often getting login and password might not be enough to empty your bank account or even access your e-mail. This means that the incentive for hackers is not that high for stealing logins and passwords. The value of a seed phrase is much much higher as a single seed phrase can bring literally millions of dollars to the attacker if found. Therefore hackers are much more diligent in stealing seed phrases than regular passwords and can try performing targeted attacks on your main password manager account.
Your seed phrase will still be processed by your computer and possibly some cloud servers when adding or accessing it. Also, you still need to access the password manager with your computer or phone where your seed phrase can be intercepted by hackers quite easily.
A wrap up
To wrap up our post about seed phrase storage, we would want to emphasize once again the importance of solid seed phrase backup. If you chose to be your own bank with cryptocurrencies, act like one and protect your funds with the best possible hardware wallets paired with durable seed phrase storage solutions like metal crypto wallets.