How to back up your Metamask Wallet. Please do this!
It gives me goosebumps every time I realize someone doesn’t know how to back up the Metamask wallet. In this article, I’m going to explain some basic terms and how you can back up your Metamask wallet. This article is meant for everyone, especially those who are participating in the Koinos main net snapshot.
Addresses, private keys and wallets
What is an address?
Did you ever ask yourself what this alphanumeric number is you see there?
An address can be used to receive and to transfer coins. An address is also linked to all the transactions it was involved in.
All transactions from a certain address summed up will result in the total balance of it. The balance is the amount you are able to spend. In a nutshell, this is the principle of an open distributed ledger.
How is an address secured?
You can’t just use any address you see in the network. Those addresses are secured by cryptography. The address you send and receive money with is in reality a public key (A hashed version of it).
In asymmetric cryptography systems like RSA, private and public keys are used to encrypt, decrypt (sign and verify) messages.
A public key is an alphanumeric string (contains only characters and numbers) that enables others to verify that you’ve signed a transaction. It means that you own the private key that was necessary to do this.
Not Your Keys, Not Your Coins
This quote is very important to understand. You don’t own the crypto if you don’t know the private key of your address.
What is a wallet?
A wallet is a software you use to manage your addresses. To be more precisely, the wallet is a tool that you use to store your private keys. If you import a private key into your wallet, the wallet is able to display the coin balance of your address. You can also execute transactions to other addresses.
The secrets of Metamask
Metamask for example, uses three types of secrets you should know about.
The seed phrase
The Bitcoin improvement proposal 39 (BIP 39) introduced the idea of a seed phrase, which are also known as mnemonic phrase.
A seed phrase is a list of words. Common lengths of such a phrase are 12, 15 or 24 words. Each word of this list represents a part of your private key + a checksum. This is why also the order of those words matter. If you change the order of the words contained in the list, you will receive a different private key from the one you’ve created your addresses with. Why is the seed phrase such a thing at all?
In deterministic wallets that create addresses in a reproducible way, all key pairs (addresses) derive from the seed key/seed phrase. So this is a very important key that is able to recreate the addresses again and again. This key is the access to your wallet and crypto.
Example 12 word seed phrase
parade steak wife proof sword catch return faint universe sauce rough stand
The seed behind it
If you want to see mnemonic phrases or play around with some, take a look at iancoleman.io/bip39.
Metamask requires you to set up a password to access the wallet. This is a security mechanism which works on a local level. Every instance of Metamask you are using is going to need a password.
The wallet is only accessible if you enter your password. If you need to reset your password, because you’ve forgotten it, you can reset everything by importing your seed phrase. I will explain how to back up your Metamask wallet later in this article.
The private keys
That addresses are just key pairs has been explained some sections above. Now we’ve learned that we can recreate the Metamask wallet and all the stored addresses that are derived from our seed phrase. If you have an imported address in your wallet, you will have to store the public and private key separately, because they won’t be recreated with your seed phrase. Metamask will show you which addresses in your wallet are imported with a specific label.
How to back up Metamask wallet
In the final part of this article, I want to show you how to back up your secret phrase. Metamask often refers to it also as recovery phrase, because it’s easier to understand the real purpose of it.
1) Login to your Metamask
Use your password to login.
2) Go to Settings
3) Go to Security & Privacy
4) Click on Reveal secret recovery Phrase and enter your password
You now see your secret recovery phrase and two possibilities to decide if you want to copy the phrase or if you want to download it as a CSV file.
5) Make sure you store it correctly
This can be done on a special hardware wallet, a cold wallet, or maybe you are a paper wallet kind of person.
Just make sure it is really safe. Ensure you won’t lose it and nobody can steal it. Never share this phrase with someone else (yes, no one).
People even use titanium plates to store a private key on them.
Storing a private key
If you have an imported address in your wallet, you want to back it up by storing the private key for it.
1) Open the Account details
Select the wallet which you want to back up and click on the three vertical dots on the right side and choose Account details.
2) Export the private key
Click on Export private key and enter your password.
Now you’ll see the private key.
Store the key and your address safely, like you did with your seed phrase.
Backing up your Metamask wallet is extremely easy. Loosing access to your wallet because you didn’t back up your seed phrase or imported key pairs cannot be an excuse anymore.
I wrote this article in advance of the snapshot that the Koinos blockchain will execute before they will launch their main net early in the next year. Every user who owns Koin right now as an erc20 token on the Ethereum chain needs to have access to the private key of their address. Since the Koinos address key pairs will be compatible with the erc20 ones, you can simply import your private key into the Koinos wallet of your choice. Et voilà, you will have access to your Koin coins on the Koinos blockchain.
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