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As I understand it, using dumpwallet for a non-descriptor wallet in Core will give you the wallet seed in WIF format. This seed can then be used with sethdseed in a new wallet, thereby recovering the original wallet. So in effect, one can make a paper backup of a Core wallet.

But with descriptor wallets, dumpwallet does not work.

Is there a way to make a paper backup of a Bitcoin Core descriptor wallet?

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3 Answers 3

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This is working now, with version 23 of the bitcoin-core:

How to create the descriptors wallet?
  1. createwallet("my_wallet", False, False, "", False, True, False)
  2. getnewaddress("my_label", "bech32")
How to save the wallet?
  1. backup = listdescriptors(True)['descriptors']
  2. Dump backup into a json file

This file can be printed or saved for later reuse.

How to restore the wallet?
  1. createwallet("my_wallet_2", False, True, "", False, True, False)
  2. Load the json file into backup
  3. importdescriptors(backup)
  4. getnewaddress("my_label", "bech32")

This should give the same BTC address as before.

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There is currently no way to make such a backup of a Bitcoin Core descriptor wallet. There are open PRs that will allow you to export the descriptors stored in the wallet, however these have not been merged yet.

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  • thanks. Am I right in thinking that backing up just the descriptors is not sufficient to recover a wallet? Or will the PRs you mentioned allow Core users to make paper backups?
    – jimmy
    Feb 16, 2021 at 2:01
  • Descriptors that contain private keys will be sufficient to recover the entire wallet.
    – Ava Chow
    Feb 16, 2021 at 7:20
  • Where are these PRs? I searched but apparently I'm bad at finding them.
    – maletor
    Mar 3, 2021 at 18:23
  • The PR is here but now it is merged.
    – mountrix
    Jul 24, 2022 at 23:41
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when you create the wallet, you will be shown the seed used. that is when you write the seed down.

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  • 1
    I downvoted. This answer is not correct for Bitcoin Core's wallet, but may be true for others. Feb 14, 2021 at 8:52
  • yeah im used to electrum and similar so I just assumed that btc core would work the same, my bad
    – Base64__
    Mar 7, 2021 at 20:23

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