I recently downloaded an Electrum wallet (version 1.7.3) and made two Bitcoin purchases. The wallet shows the public receiving addresses (including those receiving addresses which I used to receive the coins) and the amount of coins received in these transactions. My problem is that I can't see the private addresses anywhere and don't feel confident that the coins are still in my possession (of if they ever were).

I am guessing that when (in the Classic Gui) I click on the 'Send' tab, enter the address for the intended recipient in the 'Pay to' slot, the 'Amount', 'Description' of the transaction for my own benefit, the 'Fee', and subsequently click on 'Send', the client might then perhaps disclose a private address along with an address for any change to go to. Is this correct? If not, can someone be good enough tell me how it does work?

I feel uneasy that I cannot see the private addresses anywhere. And, of course, I can't spend the coins until I have the private addresses. (I would like to commit my private keys to paper.)

In the 'Settings', there is a tab labeled 'Import/Export' and one of the options there is to 'Export' / 'Import' Private Keys. Does this mean to 'Export' the private addresses from the wallet to somewhere else (another file which one might create, perhaps), or to 'Export' them from somewhere else into the wallet? Does 'Import' the Private Keys mean to bring them into display somewhere in the wallet? I just don't understand and am afraid to try out either of these commands just in case I somehow lose my Bitcoins.

As you can see, I'm not exactly tech savvy and would really be grateful for help here from any Electrum wallet users on this forum.


2 Answers 2


You ask a lot of things, so I'll explain how Electrum works for you and hope it is what you need.

Electrum uses a seed (twelve words length password). Your private keys are derived from this seed every time you make a transaction.

The only thing you need to spend the coins received in your Electrum addresses is that seed. You can export the private key for one of the addresses in your wallet, but you should not do it. Keep your Electrum private keys PRIVATE.

You can also import a private key from another wallet, e.g Blockchain.info to be able to spend the coins in that address. It will be added to your wallet as a imported address, imported addresses behave kinda different to Electrum seed addresses. So keep a copy of the imported private key, just in case.

You will always be able to restore all your Electrum addresses using your seed, but not the imported keys, as they are not on your seed.

  • I understood that I could use the seed to restore my wallet, but I had not grasped the connection between the seed and the derivation of the private keys. I see now that, in having exported my private keys, I have, in fact, weakened my security. It seems it would have been better to leave their exportation until I actually wanted to spend them. Nor had I realised that I could import a private key from another wallet, or that, in that case, that private key could not be restored via my seed. Thanks rdymac very much for this important explanation. - terrylei
    – terrylei
    Jun 6, 2013 at 0:59
  • An alarming thought: in exporting my private keys to a CSV file, have I, in effect, 'spent' the bitcoins? Or are they recoverable still from the seed to sign a real transaction? - terrylei
    – terrylei
    Jun 6, 2013 at 6:17
  • I recommend you to create a new Electrum seed and spend all your previous coins to one of your newly created Electrum addresses. After that, you should never export a privkey of your seed. If you want to learn a bit more, look for deterministic wallets and how your addresses are created deterministically derived from your seed.
    – rdymac
    Jun 6, 2013 at 13:18

I haven't used this wallet but from what you're saying, it seems there is no problem. Here is how it works:

  • Wallets will not display your private keys for your addresses on the the display. That's normal. Private keys are important so they should not be left dangling around.(What if someone is looking at your screen?) That's why the program does not show it to you. But private keys are there. The private key for each address is saved on your computer by the wallet program.

  • Import does not mean taking these saved private keys and showing them on the display. If you created a bitcoin address somewhere and if you know the private key, then you can make the program send the bitcoins on that address. to do this, you need to tell the program, this is my address and this is my private key. Then it will automatically start holding/owning that address.

  • How do you get the private keys? That's the export function. It will create a file for you that contains your addresses and your private keys. You can take this file, load it to another wallet program on another computer or the web and that new wallet will own/hold and be able to send the bitcoins on your addresses.

I hope it helps.

I suggest you get an online wallet. You can create a paper wallet from those as well. Google how to...

  • Thanks very much for your clear explanations for my questions, Anton. Guided by what you said, I have found my private keys and exported them to a couple of destinations where I believe they'll be pretty secure. I ‘m relieved to have found those private addresses. You suggested that I "get an online wallet", did you mean something other than (or additional to) the Electrum wallet that I already have? I will do as you suggested and go to Google to see if and how I can create a paper wallet from my Electrum wallet. Once again, thank you. You have helped me a lot.
    – terrylei
    Jun 3, 2013 at 22:26
  • No problem :) I meant getting an account on a site like blockchain.info you can create a paper wallet from an online wallet service too.
    – Emre K.
    Jun 3, 2013 at 22:47
  • I'll check out blockchain.info. Thanks again, Anton - terrylei
    – terrylei
    Jun 5, 2013 at 23:55
  • @terrylei How did you find those private addresses?
    – caliGeek
    Nov 11, 2023 at 1:22

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