Accessing an old wallet...
December 3, 2017 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Seems I'm in a predicament not dissimilar to Frauenfelder's (though with way less potential loss involved): the two records I kept from a (very) minor Bitcoin purchase several years ago are a copy of the QR code image, and the wallet.aes.json file that was emailed to me. Only recently did I even remember having got that far - and thought to reaccess that wallet. Which is when things started looking more complicated.

Using the wallet access link provided in the original email from, I received a further "attempted access" email asking me to authorise this attempt - and was then welcomed back, with the wallet ID confirmed, and with a prompt for my password. As I have no memory or record of having ever entered a password (and indeed it seems it was optional back then) this had me stumped.

Going back to the one other email I'd received, which contains an aes encrypted json file (wallet.aes.json), and the comforting message that it contains all I need to access my wallet, I tried to use that file, via's Import Wallet page - which also resulted in a password prompt. Digging a little further, having read that the json file actually contains all the relevant keys, and that there is relatively a simple html method to decrypt the json file, I attempted that - again: password prompt. Having also read that the QR code contains all the info, too, I tried accessing the wallet by having the Blockchain app scan the QR code, which is one of the access options - and it actually seems to stop and "see" the code, but then doesn't actually grant me access.

The access page that has recognised my wallet ID and wants my password also has an option (Recover Funds) where I enter a 12-word backup phrase - but it's unclear to me (the translation into Italian ain't great...) whether it means a phrase I would already have set, or whether it's asking me for a new one; it also says that this would create a new wallet ID, which I'm not sure is what I want it to do, in this situation.

Does all this boil down to: though I don't remember doing so, I did actually set a password, and unless I remember that, there's no way for me to access the bitcents I once (thought I) owned? Or is the back-up phrase the thing to try next?

The relevant googling makes me think I'm not alone in being stuck like this... so: thanks for any/all pointers!
posted by progosk to Technology (2 answers total)
The backup phrase it's asking you for is something they would have provided you when you first set up the wallet and probably said in big bold letters to "write this down!!". It should have been listed along with the address and QR code. It's a text representation of the private key to your wallet, so with that and nothing else you can create a new wallet that is a direct replacement of the old one.

If it's the same sort of phrase Electrum and a few other Bitcoin clients use, you could try the Electrum recovery process (download Electrum and tell it you want to recover an existing wallet using the phrase). If they use the same algorithm, it should work.

Personally, I'd then create a brand new Electrum wallet and send all my old coin to that so I'd be absolutely sure the old stuff couldn't be used to steal my coin. I barely trust Electrum nodes. I don't at all trust any exchanges or wallets where third parties hold my keys.
posted by wierdo at 9:43 AM on December 3, 2017

Response by poster: Just as an update, having solved the conundrum:
- it was down to rediscovering the password, no other way about it, as far as I can tell;
- the relatively simple html method to decrypt the json wallet file mentioned above does work to recover the shared and private keys - but only provided you have the password.
(Once I'd accessed the wallet, blockchain offers to generate a backup phrase, recommending to keep it offline, as you imagined, wierdo.)

posted by progosk at 3:35 PM on December 3, 2017

« Older How do I get out of this roommate situation?   |   Do we need a handyman? A plumber? Who can fix this... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.