Compare Bitcoin Desktop Wallets

Find the best bitcoin desktop wallet.

Looking to store your bitcoins on your laptop or computer? We'll help you get the best desktop wallet available.

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What should I look for in a desktop wallet download?

First and foremost you'll want to find a cryptocurrency desktop wallet that's easy to use, with good security features. On top of this, if you want to store more than just bitcoin, there are desktop wallets available that can hold multiple cryptocurrencies.

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Finding the right bitcoin desktop wallet in 2018.


What is a bitcoin desktop wallet?

A bitcoin desktop wallet is a programme that you download and store on your computer. Once you have installed a desktop wallet, you’ll be able to access and transfer your coins using the app’s user-friendly interface.

How do bitcoin desktop wallets work?

Desktop wallets usually have intuitive interfaces that make it easy for you to send and receive bitcoin. Once you download and install the software, you can receive bitcoins by giving the sender your wallet address (which will be displayed in the desktop wallet), and you can pay them from the desktop app by entering theirs on the provided fields. Your balance will be displayed in the wallet, as will your transaction history and wallet details.

What other types of wallets are there?

When it comes to bitcoin wallets there are a number of options from which to choose:

  • Online wallets. Wallets that are hosted online. Also known as web wallets, these require you to sign up to an online service and access your wallet with an account name and password.
  • Mobile wallets. These are wallets stored on your mobile phone in the form of an app. They make it easy to spend and transfer your bitcoin on the move.
  • Hardware wallets. Regarded as the most secure wallets around, hardware wallets are electronic devices specifically designed for storing cryptocurrency. They allow you to store your coins completely offline.
  • Paper wallets. Like hardware wallets, paper wallets allow you to store your coins offline. These DIY wallets are literally printed on paper after you have generated a wallet address and private key through an online service.

How are desktop wallets different to online wallets?

Online wallets are hosted on the internet, whereas desktop wallets are pieces of software installed on your computer. Think of it like this: a web wallet is like an online account protected by a password, whereas a desktop wallet is a programme saved and stored on a computer that uses the internet only when the owner wants it to.

On the technical side, the private key (necessary to access the wallet and transfer bitcoin from it) of a bitcoin desktop wallet is stored on your computer. This gives you control of your wallet information and makes desktop wallets more secure than online wallets, which store your wallet details on remote servers. However, your desktop wallet can be at risk if your computer is hacked or gets a virus.

What are the best desktop wallet providers?

There are many providers of desktop wallets from which to choose. Here’s a short list of some of the best known desktop wallets:

Electrum

One of the most reputable desktop wallets around, Electrum has many fans. It is also known for its advanced features, such as allowing you to adjust the transaction fee after you have sent a payment in order to get it prioritised by miners. Electrum’s interface is not very intuitive, but once you have got used to it, it’s one of the best wallets around.

Exodus

Exodus launched in 2016 and is already a very well-known hardware wallet. In your Exodus wallet you can hold a variety of different coins (litecoin, dash, ethereum etc.). Unlike Electrum, Exodus has a very easy to use interface and is great for people new to bitcoin.

Jaxx

Launched in 2014 by one of the co-founders of Ethereum, you can get Jaxx as both a desktop and a mobile wallet. You can not only hold many different coins in Jaxx, but also take advantage of easy access to new projects and tokens – which you can hold in the wallet.

Bitcoin Armory

Armory is half way between a desktop and a hardware wallet. Only really suitable for people very proficient with wallet technology, Bitcoin Armory stores your private key on an offline computer to make it impenetrable to hackers. It’s one of the most secure ways to store bitcoin that exists, but it a little complicated.

Bitcoin Core

In order to use Bitcoin Core you will have to download the entire Bitcoin blockchain. This is a very secure desktop wallet, but probably best to be avoided unless you are already experienced with bitcoin.

Copay

Copay, like Jaxx, is available as both a desktop and a mobile wallet. It was created by BitPay and is a multisig wallet, meaning it is controlled by two or more people who all need to approve transactions, so it is very secure.

Do I need to download any extra software to use a desktop wallet?

Usually the only software you’ll need is the wallet itself, which you can download from the provider’s website. However, for some hardware wallets you will also be required to download the blockchain data (the history of all transactions) for the coin(s) you’re holding in the wallet. This is done as a security feature so the wallet has less reliance on connecting to the internet to track the movement of coins.

Wallets such as Exodus and Electrum are lite/SPV (Simplified Payment Verification) wallets meaning that they don’t download the entire blockchain data to use them. However, others such as Bitcoin Core and Armory do rely on downloading the blockchain. Currently the size of the bitcoin blockchain is about 150GB, so this can take several hours to days, depending on the speed of your internet and computer.

Are desktop wallets free?

Yes, desktop wallets are absolutely free to download. All you need to do is choose your preferred provider, download the software, and install it on your computer.

Are there any additional fees for desktop wallets?

There are no additional fees (such as subscription fees or add-ons) for having a desktop wallet. However, when sending bitcoins from your wallet you will have to pay small transaction fees. This is not to do with the wallet, it’s a fee that goes to the miners that verify transactions on the bitcoin blockchain. It is typically around 0.2mBTC (an mBTC is a thousandth of a bitcoin, so this amount translates to under £2).

Most Bitcoin wallets will also allow you to set your limits to pay higher or lower transactions fees. This is because the miner that verifies your transaction gets the fee, so a higher payment incentivises them to process your payment sooner. The fees are paid by the person sending the coins, if you’re receiving bitcoin it costs nothing.

Can desktop wallets hold multiple cryptocurrencies?

Yes, desktop wallets such as Exodus hold multiple cryptocurrencies. However, storage by such wallets is still largely limited to the biggest cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum. Many desktop wallets still only support one cryptocurrency.

Can I back up a desktop wallet?

Yes, you can back up your desktop wallet by noting down your ‘recovery seed’. Simply put, a recovery seed is a mnemonic phrase that allows you to restore a wallet when you’ve lost it or forgotten the keys. If your machine happens to get damaged or lost, you can use the 12, 18 or 24 phrases issued to restore your wallet. It is important to do this as the wallet is stored on your computer, so if it gets lost/stolen or the file becomes corrupted you could lose your coins.

How to set up a bitcoin desktop wallet

The process of setting up a bitcoin desktop wallet is simple, but each individual wallet will have slightly different steps. Generally this is what to expect:

  1. Choose the right bitcoin desktop wallet for you.
  2. Go to the provider’s site and click ‘download’ (make sure you’re downloading the right version for your operating system).
  3. Once the download is complete, open the file, choose where you would like to install the file and start the installation process.
  4. Open your wallet when it has finished installing.
  5. If not automatic, encrypt your wallet with a password.
  6. Set up and note down the recovery seed (see below).
  7. Transfer your bitcoins into the wallet.


What are the risks of using a bitcoin desktop wallet?

Desktop wallets are very secure since the private key is stored on your machine rather than by the provider. However, there are a few risks attached to this kind of wallet. Considering your computer will have an internet connection, there’s always a level of risk of hacks and viruses that could expose your private key, so make sure to take security measures such as installing an antivirus software to prevent such occurrences. You should also make sure your wallet is password-protected; otherwise, anyone with access to your computer could access it and transfer your bitcoins.

And what are the advantages?

Desktop wallets offer a very good middle ground between an online wallet and a hardware wallet. Although they are considered as ‘hot wallets’, because of the machine’s connection to the internet, they usually store your bitcoins offline. They also tend to be very user-friendly, making them perfect for beginners and intermediate users. If you want to store a large collection of coins, it’s recommended that you consider other options such as hardware and paper wallets, but desktop wallets are a solid choice in most situations.

Should I get a desktop wallet?

Probably yes. If you have a fair bit of money invested in bitcoin and not looking to access it more often, then it’s advisable to have a desktop wallet instead of an online wallet. Hardware wallets are usually the most secure, but desktop wallets are very convenient and are free. Just make sure that you protect your computer from viruses and malware and choose the right wallet for you.

Where can I get a bitcoin desktop wallet?

Many places. We’ve reviewed all of the providers for bitcoin desktop wallets to help you pick the right one for your needs. Have a read through our reviews to find the right option.

 

Should I store my bitcoin in a desktop wallet?


Advantages

  • Desktop wallets can often be used in tandem with hard wallets for extra security
  • They offer a good balance between ease of use and security
  • Desktop wallets make accessing your bitcoins on your computer easy
  • It's free to download and use bitcoin desktop wallets.

Drawbacks

  • Desktop wallets aren't as secure as hardware or paper wallets
  • They can't be connected to exchanges for fast trading

The leading bitcoin desktop wallet providers out there.


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BTC
ETH
LTC
DASH
BCH
  • Multi-asset wallet
  • Beautiful design
  • Full control of your keys

Frequent questions.


What operating systems are desktop wallets compatible with?

You can get desktop wallets for all major operating systems such as Mac OS, Windows and Linux. Some wallets such as Armory, which is designed for advanced users, are compatible on other operating systems such as RaspberryPi and Ubuntu in addition to all major operating systems. Systems that rely on constant internet connection, such as ChromeOS, would be inadvisable though, as desktop wallets are designed to be offline most of the time.

Can I connect a desktop wallet to an exchange?

No, and you wouldn't really want to. A desktop wallet is best used as secure storage for your coins, having less interaction with the internet to increase security. The best option is to set up an account on an exchange, buy the coins there, and then transfer the coins from your exchange account to your desktop wallet.

Will my computer’s speed affect my desktop wallet?

Not usually, bitcoin desktop wallets aren’t very It may make the wallet slow to use, but the speed of your computer won’t stop it functioning. A standard computer with decent RAM and processor will work fine with a desktop wallet.

What is a ‘cold wallet’?

Also known as an offline wallet, a ‘cold wallet’ is a wallet that is not connected to the internet. This is the most secure type of wallet because it protects your funds from cyber hacks, unauthorized access, and other types of vulnerabilities that systems connected to the internet are susceptible to. These wallets are useful if you’re storing a large number of coins for a long period of time, but if you want to be regularly trading your coins you’ll want to be using and online wallet.

Are desktop wallets ‘cold wallets’?

They are considered ‘hot wallets’ because they are hosted by a computer with internet connection, but in the essence, they are ‘cold wallets’ considering they store your bitcoins offline. If you download a desktop wallet and disconnect your computer completely for the internet, then the wallet will be completely offline and therefore ‘cold’. To transfer bitcoin at a later date you’ll need to connect to the internet, but you can receive bitcoin without going online. Bitcoin Armory offers a way around this to keep you key always offline if security is your absolute number one concern, but it’s quite complicated. If you have a desktop wallet on a computer connected to the internet, then it’s not technically a cold wallet.

What is a bitcoin wallet?

Also referred to as a bitcoin digital wallet, a bitcoin wallet is a program or software where bitcoins are stored. The wallets come in many forms, each providing unique features. There are web based wallets, mobile wallets, and offline based wallets such as paper and hardware wallets.

Why are they called wallets?

Because, just like regular wallets, the purpose of a bitcoin wallet is to store your money. However, a bitcoin wallet does this by recording the movement of bitcoin in and out of itself on a publicly displayed ledger (the blockchain). The wallet facilitates receiving and sending of bitcoins and gives you ownership of bitcoin balance. Although they function similar to a banking app, wallets are not only online; there are options such as hardware and paper wallets that store your bitcoins offline.

How fast are transactions between Bitcoin wallets?

Transactions between wallets are technically instant, but it could take a little bit longer for payments to be verified on the blockchain, especially if there are a lot of transactions currently being verified. If there’s a delay at all it’s usually only a couple of hours at most. Generally, fast and secure peer-to-peer transactions are one of bitcoin’s biggest advantages.

What are private and public keys?

A public key is also referred to as a wallet address and is essentially your account number (to use a banking simile). It’s simply a unique identifier for your wallet that’s known to the public. A private key, on the other hand, is like a PIN number: it is the password required to transfer bitcoins out of a wallet. Typically, it consists of a 64-character long code and can be referred to as the ‘ticket’ that allows you to spend bitcoins.

If bitcoin is a digital currency, how can it be stored offline?

Good question. It gets a little technical, but because bitcoins don’t physically exist, they can be stored virtually anywhere (whether online or offline). Ownership of bitcoins is determined by the records on the blockchain, which show exactly where they have been transferred. If, for instance, you have transferred your bitcoins to a wallet and it then goes offline, the location of those coins will still be stored on the blockchain. All you need to know is the wallet address and private key and you will be able to access them at any time.

Can I have more than one wallet at a time?

Yes, you can have as many wallets as you want to, of all types. Having multiple wallets helps make you even more anonymous and it can be a good idea to spread your bitcoin across multiple wallets. It also helps if you have different investment goals: for instance, holding your coins for long-term on a hardware and paper wallet, and trading bitcoin using an online wallet connected to an exchange.

Can I transfer from my bitcoin wallet to my bank account?

No, you can’t. Bank accounts hold fiat currency, whereas a bitcoin wallet holds bitcoins, so you cannot transfer directly between them. To transfer from your wallet into your bank account you’ll have to sell your bitcoins on an exchange and then transfer the resulting money over to your account. Services like Wirex, who are now offering bitcoin debit cards, are making this a much easier process because they allow users to have a debit card that’s linked to a bitcoin and a fiat currency account. You can easily convert your bitcoins to fiat currency before you spend them.

What are desktop wallets’ relation to the blockchain?

In terms of how they interact with the blockchain, desktop wallets either rely on having the whole of a coin’s blockchain downloaded to your computer to use locally, or (more commonly) with what’s called Simplified Payment Verification (SPV). This means you don’t have to download the entire blockchain, and instead your wallet synchronises directly to the blockchain online every time you access it.

What is a ‘recovery seed’?

A recovery seed is a mnemonic phrase that usually consisting of 12, 18, or 24 words, that allows you to recover your wallet if you lose access to it (for instance if it gets lost/stolen or corrupted, or if you forget your password).

Wallet software typically generates this mnemonic phrase and instructs the owner to record it somewhere for future reference. It is advisable to write it down on paper and keep it locked away. If you forget your wallet’s details, or - in the case of paper and hardware wallets - your wallet gets damaged, lost, or stolen, you can use the recovery seed to restore your bitcoins to a new wallet/device that uses the same software.

On a technical level, how do wallet transactions work?

Each wallet has a private and a public key. These work like your PIN and account number in regular banking. If you want to send coins to another wallet, you enter that wallet’s public key (commonly called a wallet address) in the field provided, and then enter the amount of bitcoins you wish to send, and hit ‘send’. The wallet creates a transaction output, which is registered on the blockchain network (with your public address as the transaction input).

The blockchain verifies that transaction and it will display as a transfer of X bitcoins from your wallet address to theirs. Your wallet will then have X fewer bitcoins and your friend’s will have X more. Think of it like wiring money from a banking app; once you send money, the amount is deducted from your balance, which is then credited to the user’s balance.

Do I need a wallet to mine bitcoin?

If you’re mining bitcoin you’ll need a wallet address to receive the transaction fees and block rewards generated by mining. Generally it’s not advisable to have these payments going directly to a hardware wallet as payments are generally small and frequent, which can put strain on the hardware. For mining purposes, it makes sense to use web-based wallets or mobile wallets.

If you are using cloud mining to mine bitcoins, however, you might not need a wallet as all bitcoins are credited in your account hosted by the cloud mining provider. But when you want to move them, you’ll definitely need a wallet.

What is a deterministic wallet?

A deterministic wallet is a wallet that can generate many different keys from a single ‘seed’, allowing you to backup and restore your wallet easily in future without needing to provide any other information. These types of wallets have very solid security features. So long as you have the passphrase, you can generate the key pair from it, making bitcoin storage less of a security concern.

Can I connect my wallet to a bitcoin debit card?

No, not yet. Bitcoin debit cards work by connecting to an account which you load with bitcoin. The cards are accepted on any card-accepting merchants as well as ATMs. We have guides to bitcoin debit and prepaid cards to help you learn about how they work, so be sure to check it out.

Are transactions between wallets irreversible?

Yes, they are irreversible. Once you transfer bitcoin’s ownership to another address, it is recorded within the blockchain ledger, and you lose the permission for moving or retrieving the coins again. Unless the new owner agrees to return your coins, there’s no way to undo the transaction. This means that chargebacks are not possible between bitcoin wallets. If you’re sending money somewhere, make 100% sure you’re sending it to the right address, otherwise you’ll lose your coins.

Can wallets be hacked?

Bitcoin wallets cannot ‘hacked’ in the sense of someone forcing entry into the wallet. Private keys are impossible to guess because they contain random long tail code of 64 characters, unlike regular passwords (if your wallet is on an online platform and only protected by a password it is less secure). What hackers try and do is acquire your private key/password through malware and malicious phishing attacks. They tend to target exchanges to try and get everyone’s details so that they can access multiple wallets. If you are using an exchange, make sure it has with good security features such as 2-factor verification.

What if I lose my computer?

Unless you have recorded your recovery seed somewhere to help you restore your wallet, this can mean you will have lost access to your coins completely. Some companies offer additional options, sometimes requesting you to back up your desktop wallet file, but always make sure you have an ability to get your wallet back should anything happen to your computer.

Do I have to pay tax on the bitcoins in my wallet?

In the UK, if you make enough profit then yes. If you buy bitcoin and it rises in value it is subject to capital gains tax: you are required to pay tax of between 10% and 28% (depending on your income) on any profits above £11,700. If you made the coins through mining then technically it is classed as a trade and subject to income tax. In other countries, bitcoin’s tax status varies, and governments are still in the early days of figuring out exactly how to collect taxes on bitcoin.

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