There are multiple ways people can store bitcoins offline, using either a paper wallet or hardware options from companies like Trezor, Opendime, Ledger, and Keepkey. However, bitcoin users can also create a bitcoin wallet on a far cheaper USB thumb drive as well to store coins offline.
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Creating an Inexpensive Bitcoin Wallet USB Thumb Drive
Today we’re going to detail how to create a secure bitcoin wallet with an inexpensive USB drive. There are a few different wallets you can download for this particular operation, but for this walkthrough, we will use an Electrum wallet. Other lightweight bitcoin clients used should follow a similar installation process.
The first thing you want to do is download the Electrum wallet to your computer. The software can be used on Mac OS, Windows and Linux systems and takes only a few minutes to download. To maximize security users can opt to add an operating system (OS) to the flash drive. This means creating a bootable USB stick with an OS like Tails or Ubuntu. You will need at least a few more gigs of memory if you use a Mac OS or a system other than Linux on the USB, and it may cost more than a $2 drive. Without adding a bootable OS, wallet data may be stored elsewhere on the computer or be vulnerable to malware if your computer is infected. A bootable drive is a thousand times more secure than a simple offline installation. The next step after downloading the wallet software is to install it directly on the USB drive. It’s not the best idea to use the USB thumb drive for any other applications, and the drive should be utilized solely as a bitcoin wallet, but of course, that’s optional.
Installing the Wallet Into the USB Drive Offline
Following the USB drive installation, you can opt to shut off your internet services and local area connection to perform the installation offline. It’s a good idea to safely remove the USB and restart your computer as well before installation. After a system reboot and you are sure your operating system is offline you can then plug the USB device back into the computer for the next steps. If you chose to add a Linux OS to the flash drive, after the internet is shut down you can boot up the OS on the USB with confidence because you are using a fresh operating system offline. Following the reboot proceed to the next steps.
Next, navigate to the USB drive folder and open the installer program for the wallet. The client won’t be able to connect to the Bitcoin network, but you can still create a new wallet. The installation procedure is the same, and the new wallet app needs to be installed to the USB drive folder as well. Then, you’ll be directed through the security section where you should create a strong password and write down your seed phrase. Always remember if you lose the password or seed phrase you will not be able to recover your bitcoins on that wallet.
A Cheap Little Bank or Bearer Bond Instrument
After you secure your wallet with an encrypted passphrase and get your seed, you will then have a fresh new wallet that can send and receive bitcoins. Just like a hardware wallet, you will need the device to access your keys, and you will also be able to restore it with a seed if the USB stick was lost, damaged or stolen. This method can cost you less than $2 for a generic USB drive which is far cheaper than $60-150 hardware products. A simple installation without a bootable system is less secure than using a live cd with an OS like tails but that’s entirely your security choice. Further, with some directions, flash drives can also be used as a bearer bond instrument by just handing someone some bitcoin off-chain.
Have you tried installing a bitcoin wallet to a blank USB drive? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.
Images via Bitcoin.com and Jamie Redman.
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Creating a Bitcoin Bank in Less Than Thirty Minutes With a USB Drive