How to download and use a Bitcoin wallet, in five minutes or less.
In order to use digital currencies like Bitcoin, you need a “wallet” where you can keep your coinage.
Previously, we’ve written about how you can create a web wallet, accessible in any browser. However, these wallets are prone to hacking, and not recommended for anything but small amounts of currency.
If you’re ready to take the step towards Bitcoin seriously, here’s our guide to setting up a client wallet, which will keep your newly-acquired cryptocoins safer:
This can be described as an “intermediate” step. The most secure type of wallet is the main Bitcoin client. However, users have to download the entire blockchain, which can take more than a day.
1. Download a wallet client
For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be using MultiBit, a lightweight wallet client designed for ease of use.
Go to the MultiBit website and click the installer link for your OS (this guide is for Windows but the process will be similar on Mac and Linux):
Choose “save file” and run it once it’s downloaded.
2. Install the client
This is basic installation procedure:
1. Click next until you get to the license agreement, then click “I agree”
2. Choose where you want to install it (C:\Program Files\ for most people)
3. Select whether you want desktop and Start menu shortcuts
After installation is complete, you can choose to download an automatic script for downloading the client on other computers.
This is mostly for advanced users; you can go ahead and click “Done.”
3. Synchronize the client and get your address
Open up MultiBit. The client will automatically start syncing with the Bitcoin network. This might take a few minutes.
Once you’re synchronized, click the Request tab and get your address:
With this address, you can now receive bitcoins! There’s no need to keep this secret; in fact, you’ll be giving it every time you receive or buy coins (more on that later).
You can also now send coins by going to the “Send” tab and entering the recipient’s address, then entering the amount either in BTC or dollars.
Right now, however, anyone using your computer can send coins from your wallet. The final step will be to secure it.
4. Encrypt and secure
This is a lot easier than it sounds.
Simply go to File, then choose Add Password:
Then enter a secure password, preferably at least 6-8 characters. As with any important password, t has to be memorable, otherwise you won’t be able to access your bitcoins if you forget it. Keep in mind that if anyone gets a hold of your password and computer they can access the coins.
If you made it this far, congratulations! You’re now set up with a Bitcoin wallet you can use to send and receive coins.
To actually get coins, there are a couple of alternatives:
Buy online. Probably the simplest way; sign at an exchange such as CoinBase, and sync it to your bank account. This will create a web wallet for you, which you can use to send to your secure MultiBit account using the address you got in step #3 (CoinBase will also give you $1 worth of BTC free, if you want to try it out).
Buy in person. Through sites like Local Bitcoin, you can find individuals willing to part with bitcoins for cold, hard cash.
Lotteries. You can sign up for a daily Bitcoin lottery here, for a chance to get a few satoshis (fractions of a coin) for free.