BitcoinCryptocurrencyHow-ToPillar: WalletWallets

Bitcoin Cold Storage: How to Store Cryptocurrency in an Offline Wallet


If you’re looking to store your Bitcoin in a safe place, then you’ll want to use a cold storage wallet. As outlined in our best cryptocurrency wallets guide, Electrum is one of the oldest and most reputable wallets around.

Here’s how to use it to keep your Bitcoin safe.

Installing the Electrum Wallet

Get started by visiting the Electrum download page, and downloading an installer or executable suitable for your operating system. Windows, Mac, and Linux are all supported. I’m using a Mac but the steps outlined below apply regardless of your operating system.

Run the installer to begin the process, and you’ll see the Install Wizard:

Electrum Install Wizard wallet name

Enter a name for your wallet. The default of default_wallet will be suitable for most cases. Press Next:

Electrum wallet type

You’ll need to choose a Wallet Type. Your four options are:

  1. Standard wallet. The default option. This stores a single private key for every address.
  2. Wallet with two-factor authentication. This wallet enables two factor authentication by sharing a second private key with a third party authentication company.
  3. Multi-signature wallet. This stores several private keys, which are all required for transactions. These could be for different users, or different devices, for example.
  4. Import Bitcoin addresses or private keys. Use this to create a wallet with a pre-existing private key.

For now, the default option of Standard wallet is suitable. Press Next when you’re ready.

For the Keystore, choose Create a new seed. If you have a seed already, you can restore a wallet, but creating a new seed will generate you a new wallet.

Electrum Seed Type

For the Seed type, leave this at the default setting of Standard. You could change this to Segwit if you’d prefer to, but you may want to read up on hard forks vs soft forks first.

Electrum will now generate you 12 random words known as a wallet generation seed. This is like a secure password for your wallet, so don’t store it online, don’t share it, and don’t lose it!

Write it down somewhere safe, and then choose Next. You’ll need to confirm the seed, to ensure you won’t lose access to the wallet once it’s funded. You won’t be able to proceed until you do so, and you won’t be able to copy and paste it.

Finally, press Next to view a password screen. Enter a password, which sits alongside the seed, or leave this blank. Once entered, Electrum will create your wallet, and load it in the Electrum interface.

That’s all there is to the installation, so let’s move onto how to use Electrum.

The Electrum Wallet Interface

There are three key areas to Electrum. These are:

  1. History. All your transaction history is here.
  2. Send. Use this area to send Bitcoin from your wallet to any other address on the network.
  3. Receive. Request Bitcoin from another address, and access wallet receiver details.

Each of these areas is accessible through the three tabs at the top:

Electrum interface tabs

The bottom left shows your current Bitcoin balance in this wallet, and the bottom right shows network status, along with wallet security.

Electrum security settings and balance

How to Receive Bitcoin

To receive Bitcoin, head over to the Receive tab. If you’re in a rush, copy your receiving address, and enter this into one of these reputable crypto exchanges, or send it to anyone sending you Bitcoin.

Electrum receive tab

This address is a bit like a ZIP code or email address. It’s unique to you, and as I explain in my What is Blockchain? guide, you don’t need to keep it safe. You cannot use it to withdraw money.

If you’d like to send someone a “nicer” Bitcoin request, you can fill in the Description, Requested amount, and Request expires fields, and Electrum will generate you a QR code with all these details in. Clicking this QR code will bring up a Payment Request screen, containing the QR code and wallet address.

That’s all you need to know to receive Bitcoin, it’s that simple.

Wallet Transaction History

Once you’ve got funds in your wallet, you’ll see two changes. The bottom left Balance now shows your current balance. The History tab now displays a new transaction:

Electrum transaction history

This shows the date, amount, and new balance after every transaction to your wallet. Confirmed transactions show a green tick, and unconfirmed transactions show a small pie chart, which changes color from red to yellow, as more nodes confirm the transaction.

Double-click each transaction to see detailed information about confirmations, size, fees, and more.

Electrum Bitcoin confirmations

That’s all there is to know about the transaction history.

How to Send Bitcoin

Sending Bitcoin is as easy as receiving it. From the Send tab, enter the recipient’s address in the Pay to field. If they have sent you a QR code, press the small QR code button, to the right of this field. Electrum will populate the rest from the QR code.

A description is optional.

Electrum Bitcoin send page

Enter your amount, or press the Max button to send the whole contents of your wallet, minus the transaction fee.

Next to Fee is a slider. Moving this to the left will reduce the transaction fee, and to the right will increase it. Generally, the default setting in the middle provides the best balance between speed and cost.

Finally, press Preview to see your transaction before sending it, or Send to commit your transaction. You’ll need to confirm the amount and fee, so double check everything is correct before finishing.

Electrum Bitcoin confirmation

Once sent, you’ll see this transaction appear in the History tab.

Wallet Security and Network Settings

These final settings relate to your wallet security and network settings.

Electrum security settings and balance

The cluster of four buttons on the bottom right provides access to these settings. From left to right these are:

  • Password (gold padlock). Add or change your wallet password (used in addition to your wallet generation seed).
  • Preferences (hand tools). Manage Electrum preferences and defaults.
  • Wallet Generation Seed (plant growing out of a seed) view your wallet generation seed mnemonic. Don’t share this with anyone!
  • Network Settings (colored circle). View the connected network status, and change server and proxy settings. This changes from green to red depending on the network status.

Many elements in Electrum will show you a helpful tooltip if you hover your cursor over them.

That sums up everything you need to know. Now that you’re confident with Electrum, go and keep your Bitcoin safe, and let us know how you get on. For additional safety, make sure to check out the most important tips on stopping people stealing your crypto.

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