What Is a Seed Phrase?

Your seed phrase is essentially your crypto wallet recovery password if you lose access to the device where it’s initially stored on.
Updated May 11, 2023 at 6:04 p.m. UTC

Crypto can be full of perplexing and complicated jargon. So much of the terminology leaves you scratching your head, especially if you have never researched the topic before or are new to the space.

One of the terms you might’ve come across already is “seed phrase.” A seed phrase is a group of random words generated by your crypto wallet when you first set it up, and it's incredibly important to keep a record of these words.

It’s important to note, private keys and seed phrases are not the same, although both would allow an intruder to spend your coins within that wallet.

Let’s dig deeper to find out precisely why your seed phrase is so important.

A seed phrase acts as your crypto wallet’s master key

A seed phrase can help you regain access to your crypto wallet and everything inside of it. If you had a mobile wallet and lost your phone, had a hardware wallet that broke or you used a web browser and your computer died, your seed phrase would allow you to set up a new wallet on a phone, browser or hardware device and regain complete access to your crypto.

Keep it safe, keep it private

Investing in cryptocurrency can be empowering; however, with great power comes great responsibility. A seed phrase needs to be kept a secret at all costs, as anyone who knows your seed phrase can import a copy of your wallet onto their own device and empty it. They can do so because knowing your seed phrase gives them access to your private keys.

A private key is used in transactions to verify ownership of a blockchain address.

Anyone can send transactions to a public key, however, a private key is required to “unlock” them and prove that you’re the owner of the cryptocurrency that was received in the transaction.

This is why private keys are important, and why someone with your seed phrase could do a lot of damage.

A common scam technique involves someone pretending to be from a wallet company asking you to verify ownership of a wallet by asking for your seed phrase. No credible company will ask you for this information. Ever. So be vigilant for this type of fraud.

Since you will be the sole person with that seed phrase, you must keep track of it.

What does a seed phrase look like?

Each seed phrase is pulled from a list of 2,048 words. Rather than a numeric password with long strings of numbers, a seed phrase is a series of between 12-24 simple randomized words, such as “eager,” “rich,” “one,” “river” or “iron.”

The idea of using a series of words instead of a jumble of random numbers and letters is to make it easier to note down correctly and leaves less room for human error. Not to mention, the vast number of seed word combinations makes it infeasible to try and crack it.

Why your seed phrase is important: The bottom line

If you lose access to your wallet or delete it without ensuring that your seed phrase is saved somewhere secure, you will lose access to your crypto assets. It is impossible to change your seed phrase, and there’s no one to reach out to to help you recover your seed phrase if the worst happens.

It’s highly recommended you don’t make a digital copy of your seed phrase. This means not sending it to yourself in an email or texting it to a friend. Some people use password managers to store their seed phrase, but that’s not foolproof, as hackers have successfully cracked weak passwords and gained access to all the passwords in a person’s vault, including seed phrases.

It’s best to take steps to ensure that your seed phrase is truly safe from harm’s way. Some like to transcribe their seed phrases onto pieces of metal, to prevent it from environmental factors that would destroy paper. If the seed phrase must be on paper, it would be ideal to store it somewhere especially secure, such as a bank deposit box or a fire-proof safe.

This article was originally published on Apr 21, 2022 at 3:51 p.m. UTC


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Marcel Deer is a freelance writer who has written for Cointelegraph and others.

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