What Is a Seed Phrase in Crypto?

Written by

Tamara T.

Senior Writer

Published Sep 7, 2023 at 9:00 AM
Last updated Feb 21, 2024 at 3:53 PM
Key Takeaways
  • The seed phrase for your cryptocurrency wallet is an essential backup in case your wallet is lost, stolen, or damaged and you need to regain access to your cash.
  • Keep your seed word in a safe, offline location, such as a paper or metal copy. Keep it secure and out of the hands of anyone who could steal it.
  • You can either memorize the seed phrase or save it securely in a safe place. Memorizing is convenient, but only if you have a good memory, so writing things down is a good backup plan.
  • Each seed phrase is one-of-a-kind for your wallet and cannot be recreated..

Seed phrases or recovery phrases rank as one of the hottest topics amongst the crypto community. A seed phrase is another term for a string of 12 to 24 words providing access to your cryptocurrency. Recovery phases ensure the safety of your crypto assets, one of the main postulates of the blockchain world.

In this article, you’ll learn everything about crypto seed phrases, their meaning, and storage. You’ll also discover the difference between a private key and seed phrase, and much more.
 
 

Private Key Vs. Seed Phrase 

As you dig deeper into crypto, you should realize the difference between private keys and seed phrases. While both are important elements to safeguard your cryptocurrencies, they are not the same.

Private keys are a user's secret code to access and manage their cryptocurrency holdings; they are produced randomly and consist of a long string of alphanumeric characters. It is a fundamental part of cryptographic systems and is employed in the signing of deals, the verification of ownership, and the protection of financial resources. 

If the private key falls into the wrong hands, the holder could lose access to all linked cryptocurrencies. In order to prevent theft or other forms of financial loss, the private key must be kept secret at all times.

A seed phrase is a mnemonic or recovery phrase. This is a set of 12-24 words generated by a cryptocurrency wallet, allowing backup and recovery of your account. In the event of wallet loss, theft, or hardware failure, the seed phrase can be used to reconstruct the wallet.

Users can restore access to their crypto funds and private keys by typing the seed phrase into a wallet software or hardware device that supports it. The seed word is the only way to access the connected wallet and its funds; hence, it is essential to keep it safe and secret.

Seed phrases serve as a backup and recovery method, while private keys allow for direct access to financial resources. To provide redundancy and recovery options, private keys should be kept secret and safe from unauthorized access, and seed phrases should be maintained safely and independently of the wallet. It is crucial to comprehend and properly handle both private keys and seed phrases for secure and dependable fund management in crypto wallets.
 
 

How Does A Seed Phrase Work?  

A seed phrase, sometimes called a recovery phrase or mnemonic phrase, is a string of text used to produce a crypto wallet's private keys. BIP39 (Bitcoin Improvement Proposal 39) is the underlying algorithm that makes this possible. BIP39 is a standard that defines the generation of seed phrases used for backup and recovery of cryptocurrency wallets.

The procedure is as follows:
 

Generation

A seed phrase is a string of characters that is generated during the creation of a crypto wallet. The seed phrase consists of a predetermined set of words (often 12, 18, or 24 syllables) chosen at random from a wordlist with millions of possibilities. Each letter stands for a unique binary digit.
 

Entropy

The private keys are generated from a random number, or "entropy," which is generated by converting the seed phrase. Cryptographic algorithms are used to generate the entropy, making it both secure and unpredictable.

How Seed Phrase Works
 

Seed Generation

To create a master seed, one needs to feed the entropy into a key derivation function called PBKDF2 (Password-Based Key Derivation Function 2) and use the password supplied by the user (albeit this step is optional).
 

Hierarchical Deterministic (HD) Wallet

The master seed serves as the starting point for an HD wallet. Using a single seed phrase, HD wallets may generate an infinite number of private and public key pairs.

Mathematical calculations are used to derive a sequence of private and public keys from the master seed.
 

Private Key Derivation

Using a method known as hierarchical deterministic key derivation, private keys can be calculated backwards from the master seed. Private keys are produced deterministically in a predetermined order, guaranteeing their repeatability.
 

Address Generation 

The addresses are generated by deriving public keys from private keys using elliptic curve cryptography. These are the contact details that can accept payments from the general public.
 

Backup And Recovery

The seed phrase is an additional layer of protection for the master seed. A user can restore access to their cash by entering the seed phrase into a wallet application or hardware device that supports it. This will cause the wallet to regenerate the master seed and deduce the private keys.

The seed phrase is a simple and standardized method for backing up and restoring a wallet without requiring the storage or management of private keys. As long as the seed phrase is kept safe and only the wallet owner has access to it, it streamlines the backup procedure and assures the private keys can be reliably regenerated.
 
 

How To Store Seed Phrases Safely

If you already have some cryptocurrencies in your wallet, you may want to know the best way to store seed phrases. Below you can find more about safe seed phrase storage:

  • Utilize a hardware wallet: If you have large amounts of cryptocurrency, you may want to know where to store seed phrases. Hardware wallets such as Ledger or Trezor could be the best choices for you. These wallets create a seed phrase for you, so you can write it down and store it. Hardware wallets stand out with high security, which reduces the possibility of thefts and losses. 
  • Write down your recovery phrase: One of the standard ways of seed phrase storage is to write it down. If you choose this method, you should write it on titanium or steel, as it is easy to lose or destroy a piece of paper. You should also take note of the phrase and leave it in a place that’s inaccessible to others. 

Storage of seed phrases

  • Utilize a password manager: Many people consider password managers as the best seed phrase storage. You can use options such as LastPass or 1Password. Such programs allow you to store your recovery phrase in an encrypted environment. Once again, you should ensure that the password manager cannot be accessed by unwanted parties.
  • Create a mnemonic phrase: It is also possible to create a mnemonic seed phrase, a unique and specific series of words. You can think of anything that works well for you and that you can easily remember. 
  • Split the recovery phrase: Crypto owners could easily lose their seed phrase, so splitting it is a rather good idea. By dividing it into several parts and keeping a seed phrase in different locations, you take advantage of higher security. 

 

Is It Possible To Hack Recovery Phrases?

Recovery phrases, which can also be called seed phrases or mnemonic phrases, are built for maximum security. The recovery phrase's security, however, relies on the care with which it is created, stored, and safeguarded.

Recovery phrases can be easily hacked or accessed by unauthorized parties if sufficient security precautions are not taken. Possible risks include the following:

  • Generation or compromised systems: It is possible for hostile actors to intercept or alter the seed phrase used to construct a recovery phrase if the phrase is generated on a compromised or unsecured device. Therefore, it is critical to generate the recovery phrase using reliable and secure wallet software or hardware.
  • Physical access: If the recovery phrase is written down or printed out, it could be stolen and used to get access to the connected wallet and assets. It is essential to take appropriate physical security measures, such as keeping the recovery phrase in a safe place.
  • Online storage: Cloud services and personal email accounts are not the safest places to keep your recovery phrases. Hacking, phishing, and data breaches are all threats that can affect online storage. The safest and most discreet way to save your recovery phrases is offline.

 

What To Do After Losing Seed Phrase?

Losing your seed phrase is one of the common problems for cryptocurrency holders. If you manage to lose your recovery phrase, there are several things you can do:

  • Check all possible places where you could store it. You may want to check locations such as emails, USB drives, notes, and papers. 
  • Ask for help from a reliable person. If a trustworthy person knows your seed phrase, you can reach them for further guidance. Perhaps they can provide you with a copy of the seed phrase if they’ve kept it.
  • Check with your crypto exchange. Some exchanges maintain seed phrases for their users. You can reach out and check whether they have a seed phrase backup.
  • Try to restore your recovery phrase via regeneration. Crypto holders can use a seed phrase generator if they remember some parts of it. This is another method worth trying to recover wallet seed phrases, but it takes time.
  • Use a seed phrase recovery service. You should know that seed phrase recovery services help users recover access to seed phrase words. This can be costly, but it’s worth your attention if you have large amounts of crypto. 

 

Alternatives: Seedless And Hosted Wallets

There are several varieties of wallets to choose from, including seed-based wallets, seedless wallets, and hosted wallets.

To simplify the wallet setup process, a newer notion known as "seedless wallets" has emerged. Seedless wallets do not require the user to generate and manage a seed phrase, instead relying on additional forms of authentication like biometrics, PIN numbers, or hardware-based security tokens. 

These wallets eliminate the need for users to manually handle or store a seed phrase by encrypting the private keys and other sensitive information within the wallet application or device. While seedless wallets are more convenient, it's vital to weigh the benefits against the disadvantages of not having a backup seed phrase.

However, a third-party service rather than the user is in charge of managing private keys for hosted wallets. Typically, a user can access their wallet via a web interface or mobile app, and the provider will keep the user's funds and private keys.

Hosted wallets are helpful because they remove the need for users to maintain local backups or concern themselves with local security. Nonetheless, they require consumers to place faith in the security measures and track record of the wallet service provider.

Seedless or hosted wallets require careful consideration of the trade-offs between convenience and security, as well as the selection of a trustworthy service that places a premium on keeping user dollars and data safe.
 
 

Wrap Up 

In the volatile world of cryptocurrency, seed words are an essential tool for keeping your money secure. Your ability to control and access your cryptocurrency in the long term depends on how safely you store your seed phrase. Before diving into the realm of crypto investing, it's crucial to get a handle on the significance of seed words.

The secret to a problem-free and stress-free experience is properly managing and maintaining your recuperation period. Spending some time learning about seed words can equip you to make educated selections and improve your experience with cryptocurrencies in general. Get yourself prepared with a thorough understanding of seed words before you buy cryptocurrency, and you can start your crypto journey with confidence and serenity.
 
 

FAQs: 

What is a seed phrase?

A seed phrase is a set of 12-24 words generated by a crypto wallet that enables access to your funds.
 

Where can you store a seed phrase?

The best method for storing seed phrases is on a piece of paper to avoid possible thefts and losses.
 

How to keep your seed phrase secure?

You can keep your seed phrase secure by using hardware wallets, setting a mnemonic phrase, utilizing a password manager, or writing down a phrase.
 

How to recover a private key without the seed phrase?

You can use a seed phrase generator if you remember some parts of the phrase and try to restore it.
 

What if I lose the seed phrase?

You can try different things, including checking all possible locations, asking trustworthy persons for their help, reaching out to crypto exchanges, and similar steps.