Unmatched security for multiple crypto currencies. Supports most Bitcoin forks. Protects access to servers, data, or website administration. SSH login with single or multiple sessions.
USB wire is short and may limit usage. Screen size is small.
Plug and play simplicity. Solid build and materials. Intuitive screen. Supports Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Namecoin, Dogecoin, Dash, and Testnet.
Requires the use of Google Chrome browser to work.
Easy to set up and use. Compact and versatile design.
Limited to using four crypto currency wallets at a time.
Two hardware wallets for the price of one, featuring state of the art security.
Occasionally has issues working with Mac computers. Easy to misplace.
The standard wallet comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but the basic function has always been the same: to store your various forms of money. Until the last decade or so, that money took the form of paper currency, coins, and plastic credit or debit cards. But when cryptocurrency arrived, no traditional wallet was able to hold it, because cryptocurrency isn’t a tangible thing.
Enter hardware wallets, which are physical, electronic, handheld storage devices that contain a user’s personal cryptocurrency private key. Also known as cold storage, hardware wallets resemble external hard drives or thumb drives. The information on the device is the private key that allows a user access to their funds, and that key is often protected by a pin or passcode.
When your cryptocurrency is in your hardware wallet, it’s no longer in the online realm, which means it’s safe from being stolen or tampered with. In fact, hardware wallets are the most secure way to store cryptocurrency. Hardware wallets do have some drawbacks and understanding precisely how they work and the differences among them can be complicated. Our buying guide can help you through the new and changing world of cryptocurrency storage.
Hardware wallets are removed from online storage and the interconnected web, meaning they are not susceptible to hackers or malware. They cannot be infiltrated, as they are not logged onto any network. Hardware wallets are offline storage; they have to be physically stolen to be compromised. And even in that case, a code would likely be needed to access the information stored within. In case of theft, most models have effective backup protocols to restore the personal data to another device.
While hardware wallets are relatively new and are the most secure devices to date for handling Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, they are not without their drawbacks and risks. It’s important to purchase hardware wallets from reputable, tested, and trusted companies. Any software or hardware bugs in the wallet can make it susceptible to hackers. Similarly, a flawed random number generator, which creates the private key, will allow hackers to spot patterns and break through the security. There is always a concern that a less-trustworthy company or individual could create a flaw in the security to give them access to your cryptocurrency. Still, there have been no major breaches of hardware wallets reported.
Hardware wallets work well for those who navigate many different cryptocurrencies. Most wallets can store the most popular currencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. However, not all wallets can interact with lesser-known or lesser-used currencies. Some use only a handful of the hundreds of cryptocurrencies active in the world, while others enable the use of dozens. Make sure the currencies you use are congruent with the wallet you want to store them in.
Hardware wallets are most often used by those who manage large sums. Those who use only a small amount may not need the security of a hardware wallet. If you don’t have a lot of cryptocurrency, you may also find that you don’t want or need to take the currencies offline.
In case of theft, many companies provide opportunities to send your cryptocurrency information and balances to a new device, where it can be safely restored and returned to its rightful owner. The old device is made useless while the new one takes its place. These contingency processes are usually set up when you acquire your device; it’s important to have a backup plan in case the wallet is lost or stolen.
We all often cover up when entering a pin on a machine while using a debit or credit card. There may be a similar fear that people are watching or recording you when unlocking your hardware wallet, as that is the only way to gain access. However, some higher-end models come with a sophisticated input system that obscures prying eyes, scrambles signals, and alters how the code is input.
Even if you're primarily using cryptocurrencies online, hardware wallets can still be useful. Some of them provide two-factor authentication, in which a secondary device, such as a cellphone, is used to verify authenticity when logging into online accounts. Hardware wallets may provide this extra level of security to ensure that the person interacting with coins online is also the one who has access offline.
While most hardware wallets will connect to your computer via a USB outlet, some are Bluetooth enabled, so as to pair them with your smartphone or tablet. This connection feature will come with an app that has to be downloaded, and the interface will enable secure and convenient transactions.
While some wallets are simple USB drives, others feature displays that give the user necessary information. The displays may be used to input your PIN or passphrase, and they may allow confirmation of any transactions taking place. Others may have a touchscreen with a keyboard for greater interaction options. A display screen may offer more convenience for transactions. There will be added security measures with a display as well, such as a fingerprint scanner or a separate confirmation process.
Hardware wallets vary widely in price, depending in part on brand names. Spending more money doesn’t necessarily mean you’re buying a more secure, superior wallet, but you may have greater peace of mind when investing in a company with a proven track record.
Inexpensive: For under $50, you can find a selection of hardware wallets from less popular companies. They may interact with a wide variety of currencies and have Bluetooth compatibility.
Mid-range: You’ll find a great many options between $50 and $100. These will come from trusted companies as well as up-and-coming hardware wallet manufacturers. The devices in this range should be compatible with most of the commonly used cryptocurrencies.
Expensive: Above $100, you will find the top devices from the most popular companies. These will have all the features you need and will regularly be updated to include any new currencies. At this price level, however, you may also find lesser-regarded companies hoping that a higher price implies better quality to an unaware consumer.
Q. How do I know my new hardware wallet hasn’t been tampered with?
A. Make sure you’re buying directly from the company or a verified seller. You can always check where the company ships from against where the seller will ship from to make sure it’s the same. Always buy brand new hardware wallets. Upon arrival, make sure your device is completely sealed.
Q. Which devices and programs is the hardware wallet compatible with?
A. Most wallets work with both Apple and Android phone systems, as well as Mac and Windows computers. Still, it’s important to make sure the wallet you’re buying is compatible with the devices you regularly use.
Q. Is Bluetooth safe on a hardware wallet?
A. There are some users who may be nervous using Bluetooth to make transactions on their hardware wallet when it’s meant to store coins offline and not interact with anything digitally. Reputable companies have worked to protect against any Bluetooth tampering and provide several layers of security.
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