One of the most important things you should know about this chapter is that you are not obligated to use any specific program or application. Your bitcoins will always be associated with your address, never with any program. It is possible to use several different programs on different computers or platforms (eg computer and mobile phone).
All that matters to be able to use Bitcoin is your private key.
In fact, you could take that private key written or printed on a piece of paper as you travel around the world and your bitcoins would travel with you.
One of the most important aspects when using a Bitcoin application is its security, because remember that you must import your private key to that application so that you can perform the necessary operations. We will see below what we should look at and how optimal security is achieved in practice.
There are three fundamental characteristics that each Bitcoin application or program should have:
- Be open source or free: Only a program that reveals its internal functioning will be reliable, because it is possible to verify that it is programmed to make correct use of our addresses and passwords.
- Be backed by other users: Sometimes it is impossible for us to check the code by ourselves. If a program has broad support for a lot of users, it is a good sign of reliability.
- Incorporate measures to protect the private key: A good Bitcoin application should always offer the possibility of protecting private keys by means of a password or passphrase (a long password).
That said, I'll quickly mention something we'll see in the next chapter: the Bitcoin system is inviolable thanks to its strong cryptographic system. The only weak point is that someone gets our private key and therefore it is just as important to use a reliable application that is responsible for protecting it.
My Blockchain purse
The "My wallet" service on the Blockchain.info website is an online application that allows us to manage our bitcoins quickly, easily and without having to download any program to our computer. By having an orderly and intuitive interface, in addition to being in Spanish, it is recommended to use this page for people who have their first contact with the Bitcoin system.
The page is known for incorporating strict security systems and encrypting all private keys so that nobody, except the owner of the wallet, has access to the bitcoins.
"My wallet" also has a demo account. By clicking on this link we will access the test wallet and we will be able to navigate and make use of the different options. We recommend visiting and browsing especially the home page and the sections "Send money" and "Receive money" to get a better idea of how it works.
An important fact is that Blockchain does not have any method to recover a lost password. Being an online wallet, this was a necessary decision to increase security to the maximum. For this and other reasons, it may be advisable to use a Bitcoin application installed on our computer that incorporates simple recovery mechanisms. Even so, "My wallet" is an excellent service to start getting familiar with Bitcoin.
- Website of "My purse"
- Blockchain official website
Blockchain.org also has an application for Android and iPhone available in the corresponding "markets".
Update November 2013: It is always safer to save your bitcoins in an offline wallet installed on your computer than in a wallet hosted on the network. For this reason, please, do not use an online wallet such as Blockchain to accommodate large amounts of Bitcoin. CurrentlyElectrum is considered one of the safest and easiest to use "standalone" purses.
Electrum is an offline Bitcoin application (installed on our computer) that stands out for its lightness, speed, security measures and recovery. It is a program that has absolutely everything we need to use Bitcoin on a daily basis in a safe and reliable way.
One of the main characteristics of Electrum, and that no other customer still has, is the possibility of recovering a wallet if, for example, we forget the password, using 12 simple security words. By entering these 12 words that Electrum will give us the first time we use it, it will be able to re-generate all our private keys and we will have access to all our bitcoins.
Note: The first time you use electrum it will ask you if you want to encrypt the wallet with a password. It is advisable to always use this function, otherwise our private keys will not be protected if someone sniffs on our computer.
- Electrum official website
For advanced users: Bitcoin Core and Armory
Bitcoin-qt was the first Bitcoin application and the one that has been, until today, tested and tested more thoroughly. It is also the purse recommended by the website bitcoin.org and weusecoins.com. Like Electrum, it is an installable program on our computer and saves a local copy of our wallet. The great advantage of Bitcoin-qt is at the same time its biggest disadvantage.
In order to use Bitcoin-qt it is necessary to download the transaction log known as "The block chain". This file can weigh several Gigabytes and the synchronization can last several hours. The chain of blocks is a fundamental part of the Bitcoin system and when downloading it, we are directly forming part of the "peer to peer" network that ensures the stability and propagation of Bitcoin and therefore actively contributing.
While other applications such as Electrum are connected to a server to read the blockchain, Bitcoin-qt downloads it to our computer. In exchange for helping and contributing to the Bitcoin network, we must wait several hours before we can use the program. It is for this reason that it is not recommended for new users who may want to try everything immediately. In addition, Bitcoin-qt's import and export functions and interface are not so friendly.
Armory is the most complete Bitcoin application that offers more functions.
This is a VERY complete installable program that manages our Bitcoin addresses securely, allows us to import and export them, as well as using a recovery system similar to Electrum. Armory has an interesting offline mode that allows signing transactions on a computer that is totally disconnected from the internet. Then we can transport the signed transaction to a computer connected to the internet to publish it to the network and so it is done. The computer from which the transaction is published can be a public computer, unreliable or even compromised, but will never have access to our private key since the transaction was signed in a secure medium.
To use Armory in online mode it is necessary to have installed and running the Bitcoin-qt client with which it communicates to receive and send information to the Bitcoin network.
- Official website at Bitcoin.org
- Official Armory Website