This is a guide to making a completely secure Bitcoin Wallet wallet you keep on a thumb drive. The reason it is so secure is that we will be using Ubuntu to create a boot-able operating system to avoid any malware, spyware, or viruses. We are doing it this way because there are programs out there that try to steal your Bitcoin Wallet. There are online wallets that you can use but I highly suggest you only use those for day to day transactions and you keep a separate wallet for your savings account.

Before we get started you will need 1 or 2 Thumb Drives (will go into detail on why you may need 2 later). They don’t have to be big. I bought my 2 Gb drives for 5 dollars each. Once you have that, we can get started.

The Operating system for your Secure Bitcoin Wallet will be Ubuntu. Don’t be scared if you’ve only used Windows your whole life. I will be walking you through this step-by-step.

Go to the Ubuntu Download Page and click the download option on the right of the screen. Make sure you save it to a place you will remember because we will be needing it later. You can also download this from a torrent site if you know how. If you are unfamiliar with torrents just download it from the link above.

Now we need to make a boot-able thumb drive. Lucky for us, there is easy to use software that does this for us. Go to the USB Installer Page and download the usb installer program. This program will make is so you can boot from a usb drive. Once it’s downloaded, run the program and extract it to a folder you will remember. I would suggest using your download folder and then creating a new folder called “USBinstaller” so you remember where it is. Once it’s unzipped, go to that folder and run the software.

Select Ubuntu for step 1. It should be the top option on the drop down menu. Then you click the browse button and you select the Ubuntu download from earlier (remember when I told you to remember where you saved it to?). Then select your usb thumb drive. If you plug it in and it doesn’t show up, leave it plugged in and restart the program and it should be there. Then all you have to do is click create and let it run. It shouldn’t take too long but it will be a minute or two. Here is what mine looked like.

**Before you continue make sure that you remember our address startbitcoin.com so you can come back and finish the tutorial.  **

***Read the following couple paragraphs before booting from Ubuntu ***

Now that we have a Boot-able version of Ubuntu, we need use it. Keep the thumb drive plugged in and restart your computer. If it doesn’t automatically start Ubuntu, you may have to hit the Esc or Del key as your computer is booting up. The next part is very important. ** Do not install Ubuntu. Select “Run Ubuntu from USB Drive” from the screen that pops up. The security of this method comes from making sure you have a fresh Operating System every time you want to access your wallet so you aren’t keeping any information that might be malicious.

Once Ubuntu is running, go ahead and connect to the internet. If you use a hardwired Ethernet connection (actually have a cable running into your computer from your modem or router) this should be done for you already. If not click the wireless button on the top right of the screen, select your router and enter in your password.

Now we need to download the Bitcoin client and start a new wallet. Go to the official Bitcoin Homepage and remember that you are using Linux now. So don’t download the Windows edition. I always unzip the file to my downloads folder but it doesn’t matter, just remember where you extract it to. Once extracted go to your download folder and open Bin>32> and then open the Bitcoin icon. This will open the Bitcoin App. Now close it. The only reason that we opened it was to create a wallet.dat file.

The next step is to make is so we can see the hidden files on the computer. Open your file explorer (looks like a house on a folder at the top of the menu to the left), move your mouse to the top left of the monitor. You should see a familiar menu now including file, edit and more. Click edit and then preferences. See Below -

At the top of the window that just popped up an option to view hidden files. Select OK and the window should close. Now in file explorer click Ubuntu on the top left of the window and  you should be able to see a folder named “.bitcoin”.

Go ahead and open that and there is your wallet.dat file. Right click it and copy it.

Now while still in your file explorer you can select your other USB drive from the left side of that window. Right click and paste your wallet.dat file onto your USB drive. Now you have a secure wallet that is safe from malware and viruses.

When you want to access your wallet you will boot Ubuntu and install Bitcoin like you did before, but this you will want to copy the wallet.dat file from the usb drive and paste it into the .bitcoin folder and you are good to go.

Make sure that you do not overwrite your wallet.dat file and I would recommend making more then 1 thumb drive just in case something happens to your main. Some people recommend encrypting your thumb drive but I would recommend hiding it in a safe place… like a safe. If you have enough Bitcoins where you would suffer a serious loss, I would go with a safety deposit box.

If you have found this tutorial helpful – Donate to 1G1ehppEgjiFTUSHFz2xs9KLSQuWLPYF2o and if I get enough, I’ll move it to my secure wallet.

31 Responses to “How to Create a Secure Bitcoin Wallet”

  1. Alice June 24, 2011 at 2:44 am #

    Thanks for a great guide for a non-geek.
    Unfortunately, I am not able to run Ubuntu from USB drive. I hit Esc and Del keys restarting computer several times, but no screen poped up. The only option i have is installing Ubuntu from the ” computer” screen. I have windows 7.
    What could be happening?
    I followed your instructions very carefully.
    Thanks
    Alice

    • Thinkweis June 24, 2011 at 5:04 am #

      Thanks Alice for your question. Sometimes it isn’t the Esc or Del keys. When your computer is booting up look at the text at the bottom of the page for anything that says to press something to enter the boot menu and if you don’t see anything like that, try to figure out what key you have to press to enter bios. If it doesn’t say anything, start hitting the different F keys until you get lucky. Make sure you do it in sequence so you know how to get back when you need to. Start with F1 and keep hitting it until you get to the bios or boot screen and if Windows starts up, reboot and try F2 and so on.

      Just in case – Make sure you have your USB drive in your computer before you reboot.

      If you get the boot screen, select boot from USB and run Ubuntu from the thumb drive.

      If you get to the bios, you will have to look around for “Boot Priority”. It will be under one of the tabs and you will have to use your arrow keys to find it. ***If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t guess. Only change what I tell you to! *** Once you find the boot options it will probably show up something like below:

      1 Floppy
      2 Hard Drive
      3 CD
      4 USB

      You will want to scroll down to the USB option, once it’s highlighted look for what button will make it “move up”. Move USB to the top slot. Go to the exit tab by using your arrow keys (you might have to hit escape to back out of the boot options) Select “save and exit” and next time you reboot it should boot from the USB drive.

      Lastly, if you find the boot menu and there is no option for USB, you will have to burn Ubuntu onto a CD and boot from there. When you go to the Ubuntu download page, there is a button to put Ubuntu on to a bootable CD. Just follow those instructions and pick up back here when you’re done.

      Hope this helps. Whether it does or doesn’t, I would love to hear back from you to see how it went.

      Good Luck!

      • Alice June 29, 2011 at 1:08 am #

        Thank you Thinkweis.

        It worked. Right before booting, I had an option to click on F12 for boot menu, which I did not see before because I did not know what to look for.

        What do you mean by copying over the wallet?

        One scary thing is that Ubuntu does not give a warning for deleting.

        Thanks again

        • Thinkweis June 29, 2011 at 1:18 am #

          When you follow along and are looking at the .bitcoin folder and you see a file named “wallet.dat” – right click it and a menu appears. On the menu there is a “copy” option. Click that. You are making a copy of that file. Then you put in another USB stick, it should show up on your desktop. Double click that and it will open another file explorer window. Once that is open, right click anywhere inside and select “paste”. Now you have a copy of your wallet on a USB drive. You need to make a copy if you have any bitcoins in there because if you don’t and shut down the computer, the wallet.dat file on Ubuntu will be deleted.

          • Alice June 29, 2011 at 1:49 am #

            That’s great. Thanks.

            What did you mean by ” make sure that you do not overwrite your wallet.dat file”?

            A

  2. vetri June 24, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Do you know where the wallet.dat file is located in mac os x ?

    • Thinkweis June 24, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

      In mac the path is:
      /Volumes/Bitcoin ~/Library/Application Support/Bitcoin
      Keep in mind you will probably have to make it so you can view hidden files. I don’t have a lot of Mac experience but I would guess that you can find it in the preferences or tools menu in the file explorer.

  3. Dom June 24, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    hi, im not really sure how this wallet thing works ?! i’ve located my wallet.dat file on my pc and i have encrypted it via the file properties (its gone green) is this not enough ?!
    how to bitcoins get into my wallet ?! and how do i see whats in my wallet ?!
    cheers dom

    • Thinkweis June 24, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

      The wallet.dat file contains your addresses. Basically, the Bitcoin network is peer to peer so every time bitcoins move, it is tracked. It is still anonymous because there is no name or email involved in the tracking. Every time you have a Bitcoin transaction the information in your wallet.dat changes.

      So, if you encrypt your wallet and get a Trojan virus that wants to send the information from your wallet back to a server, you will be fine until you actually need to use your wallet. Then, you will need to un-encrypt it and that is when the Trojan will take your money.

      The reason I recommend using a USB to boot Ubuntu is that every time you boot, it is like a brand new operating system. Therefor, if you somehow managed to get a bug while using Ubuntu, the next time you reboot everything would be gone and it would be brand new again.

      One of the main security measures is to not go messing around on the internet while running Ubuntu while you are using your wallet. Before or after. The whole point is to keep that system clean as hell.

      • DOm June 25, 2011 at 11:02 am #

        ok, yep i totally get that. so to reiterate …

        boot into linx
        install bitcoin
        keep new wallet.dat (because its clean)
        then when i receive a payment boot into
        linx install bitcoin
        copy over my old wallet.dat to new install
        take payment and move wallet back to other
        mem card???
        and repeat every time

        so would you not have the bitcoin client installed on your windows mining rig at all??

        • Thinkweis June 25, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

          I’m a little confused by the order of your list. The one thing you really need to do once you get your wallet up and running is to make sure you never copy over that wallet. So once you receive your bitcoins on that wallet, make sure that you copy it to a thumb drive or 2. Then when you want to access your wallet again, run Ubuntu, install Bitcoin and take the wallet from your thumb drive and copy it into your .bitcoin folder, overwriting the new one.

          Not really unless you are solo mining. If you are mining in a pool then no.

          • dom June 29, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

            ok i’ve done this now all works ok! i understand that booting a new system every time is very safe but i have installed linux on the usb using the storage method, so it saves my con-fig and progs etc .
            if im only using this usb install for my bitcoin client then surely its still very safe ?!?
            if im not web browsing or using e-mail etc then i’d be very unlikely to get a trojan wallet.dat virus ?!! am i correct in thinking this?! cheers

          • Thinkweis June 29, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

            As long as you never stray, you should be fine.

  4. Steve June 24, 2011 at 10:38 pm #

    Thanks for the guide.

    Let’s say I made several copies of my secure, encrypted wallet. I email one to myself, store one on SugarSync or Dropbox, and keep a USB copy hidden.

    When I want to access my savings account, I simply take one of those encrypted files, unencrpyt it, and copy it into bitcoin.

    Not let’s say that I transfer 10 btc’s to my secure wallet on my USB. A week later, I lose the USB. Since I have copies of the wallet in my email, can I take that file in my email (which didn’t get the 10 btc’s sent to it), and paste it into bitcoin….will it then download all the current blocks, and therefore will also now contain my 10 btc’s?

    Thanks again.

    • Thinkweis June 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

      Only under the condition that you didn’t receive the coins. You don’t actually have to be running the bitcoin client to receive the Bitcoins. Once you download the block that contains your transaction, another hash will be added to your wallet.dat file. So really, the only time you really need to use your savings wallet is when you want to transfer out. But, I just like to log in to see the Bitcoins pile up.

      In conclusion, once you have any kind of transaction with your savings wallet, back it up every way shape and form.

      Also, be careful about hosting your wallet.dat on a file hosting service. They are also targets of hackers.

      • Steve June 25, 2011 at 3:39 am #

        Ok. I think I understand. So, once I do run the client using one of my backed up wallet files, and it downloads the new blocks and any coins I receive, then THAT wallet needs to be backed up and those new backups should then replace my old backups….is this correct?

        • Thinkweis June 25, 2011 at 4:19 am #

          Exactly!

          • Daryl July 30, 2011 at 11:39 pm #

            So, each time you boot up ubuntu you have to redownload bitcoin, install it, overwrite your wallet with your secured saved one from the original set up, and then wait for bitcoin to download the blockchain again before you can use your wallet?

            Also, is it ok if someone sent you bitcoin to your wallet address if you don’t have it installed and it is just sitting on a secure thumbdrive?

            Two more questions hopefully you can answer. What happens if I sent money out of my secured savings wallet, then forgot to back it up…and opened it up the next time using the old save from before I sent bitcoin? And conversely, what if I received money on my wallet, but forgot to back it up and then opened it up with the old save?

            Thank you

          • Thinkweis August 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

            Yes, the reason is that you want everything to be fresh and uncorrupted. If you don’t do a fresh install it is possible you may have downloaded some malware and you want to avoid that at all costs. Keep in mind this is a savings wallet and would be a hassle to use for day to day transactions.

            You do not have to be online to get the bitcoins that were sent to you. All of the transactions are stored in the block chain.

            You have the potential to lose your wallet but I’ve seen it go either way. Just make sure you back it up after any transaction.

  5. bitbutter July 8, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    Thanks for this write-up, it’s helped my understanding a lot.

    My questions at the moment (partly to check i’m understanding correctly):

    What’s the procedure for transferring BTC from a ‘day-to-day’ account to the secure wallet?

    Your article says:

    “Once extracted go to your download folder and open Bin>32> and then open the Bitcoin icon. This will open the Bitcoin App. Now close it. The only reason that we opened it was to create a wallet.dat file.

    The next step is to make is so we can see the hidden files on the computer.”

    Does this miss out a step in which the user should make a record of receive address(es) he can use to send funds to the secured wallet? Or have I misunderstood something.

    From the comments I get the impression that it’s important to occasionally re-boot the bootable ubuntu USB stick, reinstall the bitcoin client, link it to the previously created secure wallet.dat file, and download recent blacks/transactions. If I understood this correctly when and why does this need to be done? (and what could happen if it wasn’t done in a timely way?)

    Thanks again.

    • Thinkweis August 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

      Yes, you have to make a record of the receiving address of your savings account to send Bitcoins to it.

      Every time you want to use the savings account you will be using a fresh install of ubuntu so you don’t get any malware or viruses that could compromise the operating system. I understand it’s a hassle but it’s better then losing 25000 bitcoins like a few people did in the beginning.

  6. Fonz August 7, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    Weis, I just completed your process to protect my new wallet. I had a very small amount of BTC in my first wallet, on windows, and wanted to test sending it to my secure wallet (yes im a noob). So, I sent it and loaded the wallet.dat in unbuntu and I do not see the BTC i sent from my original wallet. Did I do something wrong here? Shouldn’t the transaction have occurred immediately?

    • Thinkweis August 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm #

      You have to let the bitcoin client download the block chain. It may take some time but it will happen.

  7. Daryl August 10, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    I just want to make sure that I don’t have to download the blockchain everytime just so that it updates the wallet.dat with bitcoin. The bitcoin are there whether I update the blockchain or not right? And the wallet.dat is just keeping track of the private keys that correspond to the public keys that I give out to transfer money too right? So I could just save the wallet.dat, and send transaction after transaction to that address and never have to go through this process again UNLESS I wanted to use the bitcoin I sent to it?

    • Thinkweis August 10, 2011 at 11:53 pm #

      You have the whole thing every time and that includes downloading the block chain. This takes a little time but it is a fresh install every time. The bitcoin app will show the previous transactions but you will need to download the blockchain to access or send any bitcoins.

  8. Matej April 1, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    In the beginners guide to mining you wrote that we need to create a bitcoin wallet that’s why we need to download bitcoin client and so I did, but it took very long time to sync with the internet. In the article how to create save wallet you need to download ubuntu (that’s okay), but do i have to download BITCOIN and wait it to sync again? And also you wrote that you need to boot ubuntu and download BITCOIN again? and wait for synchronisation again?
    And one last thing is wallet or save wallet place to store your coins no matter how you got them, beaceuse i am not going to mine bitcoins, i was thinking of buying them through tradehill or mt.gox.
    Thanks

    • Thinkweis April 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

      You can copy the blockchain.dat files from your Bitcoin folder on your hard drive over to your new install. It is a time consuming process. We also are selling the blockchain on DVD to make it easier.

  9. _Elmo November 20, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    Thank you for this article, very useful. one question I had is, how safe would it be to copy the blockchain from a sync’d version of Bitcoin from the host machines local Windows HDD. So boot into Ubuntu via USB (clean) and install Bitcoin, then copy the blockchain from c: where windows is installed and has a sync’d version of Bitcoin.

    Is this even possible if it is, is it safe?

    Thank you.

    • Thinkweis November 20, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

      It is possible, but you may want to consider having a wallet that is only used for saving that is only ever opened on a clean linux boot. You are much less likely to have anything stolen with malware that way.

  10. Marc November 21, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

    So I already downloaded the Windows version of Bitcoin Wallet installed it and from the DVDs you sent I downloaded and ran the thing to get all the blocks up to date… How do I make a backup of THAT wallet.. and NOT create this thumbnail boot version that seems to require I download Bitcoin Wallet all over again onto the Ubuntu formatted thumbdrive.

    • Thinkweis November 21, 2013 at 1:56 pm #

      Hi Marc,

      If you are trying to make that wallet into a savings wallet, I would not advise it. If you had that wallet open on a Windows machine that you use regularly, it is not secure enough to be considered a secure wallet. I would recommend that you create a new wallet as I advised, and send the contents of your wallet to that address.

      If you just want to make a backup of that wallet, you can find it at C:\Users\(Your User Name)\AppData\Roaming\Bitcoin and it is called wallet.dat. You may have to change your settings in windows explorer to be able to view hidden filed to find it.

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