Isn’t it annoying when you forget where you put your most important belongings? Your phone, wallet, glasses, and even things like your birth certificate—the list goes on. Besides tangible items, there’s one thing we hope you’ll never misplace: the password to your Bitcoin wallet.
“What’s the worst thing that could happen anyway?” Well, we hate to say this, but there may be a chance that you won’t be able to see your old Bitcoin wallet—and the funds inside it—ever again. According to Cane Island Digital Research, about 4% of available Bitcoins are lost each year.
Some crypto experts say that these lost coins only increase the value of the remaining BTC, as they contribute to Bitcoin’s scarcity. This only means that your Bitcoin wallet and the funds in it are inaccessible and practically unusable without your password or private keys.
However, if you happen to be a member of the Help Me Find My Old Bitcoin Wallet Club (don’t look it up, we just made it up), we’ll try our best to help you get out of that hopeless group and be reunited with your lost coins.
How to recover your lost BTC the right way
Let’s get down to business. Here are some practical tips to help you recover your lost Bitcoin wallet.
1. Retrace your steps
You might need to make some quick visits to the past to recall the information you need. This includes the type of Bitcoin wallet you’ve used, email addresses and other contact details tied to your BTC account, answers to security questions, a list of potential passwords, and PINs you think you’ve created.
There are different types of crypto wallets out there and the way of retrieving your lost coins or private keys will depend on it.
- Web wallets – Since this type of Bitcoin wallet requires Internet access, you can check your browsing history and look for traces of your web wallet provider’s website.
- Mobile wallets – If you’ve accidentally deleted it from your phone, you can try searching for the wallet on the App Store or Play Store and redownload it.
- Hardware wallets – Since these are physical devices, you can start by searching in the rooms of your house, your closets and bags, secret stashes, and other spaces where you typically keep your essential documents and belongings.
- Desktop wallets – Try going over all the folders on your computer. You might also need to check hidden folders or the folders you rarely visit.
- Paper wallets – We’re not going to lie—this one’s the trickiest to locate among all. You may have jotted down your private keys in a notebook or tucked away your paper wallet in a folder or book. Try searching in your storage bins, old folders, purses, drawers, and bookshelves.
Now, if you still find yourself asking, “Where else can I find my old Bitcoin Wallet?” we made a handy list to help you further in locating your missing or old crypto wallet. Here are the most common places where your lost Bitcoin wallet is probably hiding:
- Old hard drives – Upgrading hard drives or replacing old computers are necessary for us, especially for those whose jobs require updated software and hardware, as well as massive storage space. If you’ve replaced your hard drive or computer, you might want to look for the old ones where some of your important files and documents are still sitting.
- Old tape drives – This type of cold storage are among the best device options to store important and confidential documents. If you happen to have some before, you might want to pull those old tape drives out and look for your lost Bitcoin wallet.
- Portable Universal Serial Bus (USB) Drives – USBs or flash drives are handy storage devices for keeping your important digital documents. This makes it one of the possible locations where you can recover your Bitcoin wallet that has been missing. But be warned: since flash drives are easy to misplace due to their small size, you’ll have your work cut out for you if you have to locate the device on top of recovering the BTC inside it.
- Writable CD or DVD-ROMs – These discs were very useful for file storage, especially before portable flash drives became prevalent in the market. If you had laptops with disc drives before, you might want to explore your old CDs and check if you can recover your Bitcoin wallet there.
- Bitcoin or cryptocurrency exchanges – If you bought fractions of BTC from a crypto marketplace, there is a chance to find your missing Bitcoin wallet there. If you happen to have forgotten your account password from that Bitcoin exchange, try reaching out to their customer support team and ask for the steps you can take to recover your funds.
2. Check available recovery tools
If you’ve lost access or can’t recover your Bitcoin wallet because of hardware or software failure, there’s a very slight chance that your crypto wallet isn’t gone for good. Let’s say your computer suddenly acted up, crashed, and you ended up losing data because of this. Some tools can restore corrupted data or failed software and hardware, which have already been around for decades.
FinderOuter is one of many programs designed to recover lost private key data. You might want to look into this option if your BTC wallet or private key is still nowhere to be found.
While we won’t recommend that you do it, if you ever hire a professional to recover your data, just make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate and reliable recovery firm. Remember, we’re talking about potentially significant sums of money here. Allowing an untrusted third party to access the password to your crypto account exposes you to risks. Take your time and do your research before deciding to hire a recovery firm.
3. Ask for help
This might not be the best option available, but if you aren’t a tech geek and don’t know much about how complex the crypto world is, you can probably get some help from your trusted friends in the fintech space. If you happen to be exploring the crypto world with some friends when you first started out, you can probably ask them if they can help you remember your forgotten private key or lost BTC wallet.
It might make you seem like you’re forgetful, but at least you’re trying your best to remember the things that matter, right?
4. Access your old wallet once it’s found
Once you’ve been reunited with your lost wallet, make several copies of it right away for backup. You can use Bitcoin Core to check how much BTC you have left. If you found fractions of Bitcoin, you can either download the entire blockchain—which is worth over 300 gigabytes of data—or use some helpful tools like Bitcoin Core to get them. Of course, we prefer the latter.
All you need to do is create an account, log in, go to settings, and click the addresses where an option to import BTC addresses will appear. After entering your private keys, you should be able to access your wallet once again.
Now that we’ve talked about the proper way to go about recovering your lost BTC, let’s talk about how not to recover lost Bitcoin wallets.
Silly things people did to recover their lost BTC
There are many reasons why people happen to misplace their Bitcoin wallets or private keys—stolen devices, technical problems with the hardware, or the owner’s forgetfulness, carelessness, or clumsiness. Whatever the reason, we just hope you won’t find yourself doing these things only to recover your lost Bitcoin wallet.
- Dive into a toxic landfill
Okay, maybe we’re exaggerating the “diving” part, but we’re serious about the toxic site. In 2013, UK-based IT worker James Howell had mistakenly thrown his hard drive into a waste bin at a local landfill site in Newport, South Wales. And how much did he accidentally throw away? 7,500 BTC—and at BTC’s price at the time of writing, we’re talking 291 million USD here.
Of course, Howell desperately wanted to search for that hard drive amidst 350,000 tons of waste. Frustratingly, the Newport City Council didn’t allow it since the landfill isn’t open to the public and trespassing is considered a criminal offense. Sad news, really.
- Let a coding whiz hack the BTC vault
In 2017, former Wired editor Mark Frauenfelder had to hire a 15-year old “coding whiz” to hack his Bitcoin vault after the orange piece of paper where his password was written suddenly disappeared. The teenager was paid with BTC worth 3,700 USD after sending Frauenfelder a video containing instructions on how to hack his computer and showing him the password.
Magically, it worked! Frauenfelder mentioned that he followed the young man’s instructions and copied a string of text. “The PIN appeared instantly. Months of soul-crushing anxiety fell away like big clods of mud that had been clinging to my shoulders.” What a savior!
- Resort to hypnotherapy
We know how frustrating it is to not remember the password you created, especially if it’s access to your hard-earned money. That’s why in the early years of Bitcoin, some investors who forgot their passwords have decided to undergo hypnotherapy. South Carolina-based hypnotist James Miller came up with this idea to help people recall their passwords and find their misplaced storage devices.
The help to “access older memories or see the things you’ve put away in a stashed pot” will cost you 1 BTC plus “5% of the amount recovered for his services.” An article from 2017 stated that his rates are “flexible,” but we’re unsure if that still applies to his services today.
You’re probably surprised about how creative and persistent people can get when it comes to retrieving the things they desperately want and need. As the saying goes, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” But at present, you don’t need to go into a trance-like state to recover your password.
The secret to avoiding the stress of finding your lost Bitcoin wallet
It’s not rocket science—just avoid losing it in the first place. “Is that even possible?” Of course, it is! Having proper crypto storage can save you from stress, hopelessness, and unnecessary worries. It will also help if you make it a habit to backup your wallet. That way, your world won’t suddenly stop if something unexpected happens to your BTC wallet.
You can find lots of secure and reliable digital storage around the web. It’ll solely depend on how much space you need, how you plan to use your coins, and how you take good care of your Bitcoin wallet and private keys. If you’re among the lucky ones who still have their wallets with them, here’s a friendly reminder to apply the best practices in securing your account now.
Remember, always keep your wallet and private keys in a safe place—just be sure it’s somewhere you can easily remember!