This guide will show you how to create and set up your first Bitcoin wallet (an “account”). But first:
A “wallet” is basically the Bitcoin equivalent of a bank account. It allows you to receive bitcoins, store them, and then send them to others. There are two main types of wallets. A software wallet is one that you install on your own computer or mobile device. You are in complete control over the security of your coins, but they can sometimes be tricky to install and maintain. A web wallet or hosted wallet is one that is hosted by a third party. They are often much easier to use, but you have to trust the provider to maintain high levels of security to protect your coins. There are four main wallets that we recommend for beginners.
Coinbase is a web wallet with a simple design and a number of very useful features that make it excellent for beginners. You can send and receive bitcoins via email and buy and sell bitcoins directly from Coinbase. A full-featured Android app enables access to all account functions on the go. Coinbase’s founders have a proven startup track record and have raised money from very prominent venture capitalists. This gives Coinbase a level of legitimacy unparalleled in the Bitcoin space. They are also one of the only large Bitcoin companies to never suffer a major hack. Click here to sign up.
Electrum is a software wallet that enables you to set up a strong level of security very quickly. During the simple installation process, you are given a twelve word phrase that will allow you to recover all of your bitcoins in the event that your computer fails. Your wallet is also encrypted by default which helps protect your coins against hackers. Electrum is available for Windows, OSX, and Linux and is our recommended software wallet for beginners. Click here to download the right version for your operating system.
For those looking for mobility and security, we recommend the simply-titled Bitcoin Wallet mobile app. There is a version for both Android and BlackBerry OS. It is a software wallet, so you retain complete control over your bitcoins. It also works well with QR codes and NFC, making transferring coins to someone else’s phone easier than writing a check. Be sure to backup your wallet (with the included “Backup Wallet” feature) or you risk losing all your coins the next time you get too close to a pool.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to get a Bitcoin wallet is to simply go to Blockchain.info and fill out their brief requirements. Blockchain.info is another web wallet like Coinbase and provides a simple setup and mobile access to your account via their Android app. They also provide a number of other useful services to the Bitcoin community.
We also recommend a few other wallets, but not for the beginning Bitcoin user. If you are up for more of a challenge, Armory is a good choice for those requiring the highest possible security, and the original Bitcoin-Qt client is also trusted and worth learning how to use.
Now that you have a wallet set up, it’s time to learn how to get some bitcoins.