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Hi there,

I bought some bitcoin many years ago in 2015 I believe, and I can't for the life of me recall where I've kept it in my computer. At that time, there weren't many facility to keep these private keys and they make no sense to me either. I've received found this crypto code in my computer - see attached - and I wonder if anyone is able to advise if this looks like a bitcoin private key or not.

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4 Answers 4

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A bitcoin private key is a 256-bit number, which means it’s a string of 256 binary digits (0s and 1s). However, it is usually encoded in different formats, such as hexadecimal, base58, or Wallet Import Format (WIF). A WIF is a common way to represent a private key, and it starts with a ‘5’, ‘K’, or ‘L’ and has 51 characters. A WIF also has a checksum to detect errors.

Based on the image you attached, the crypto code you found looks like a WIF, but it is not a valid one. I checked the checksum and it does not match the expected value. This means that the code has been corrupted or modified, and it cannot be used to access your bitcoin address.

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  • I am confused why you think this looks like WIF, especially since the screenshot seems to show a directory. Could you perhaps elaborate that point?
    – Murch
    Feb 20 at 16:40
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The crypto code that you attached looks like a Wallet Import Format (WIF), which is a way of encoding a private key in base. A WIF can be used to import a private key into a wallet program.

However, just because it looks like a WIF, it doesn’t mean that it is a valid one. There are some checks that you can do to verify if it is a genuine private key that corresponds to a bitcoin address.

One way is to use a tool like bitaddress.org or cryptex to decode the WIF and see the public key and the bitcoin address that are derived from it. Then you can compare the bitcoin address with the one that you used to receive the bitcoin in 2015. If they match, then you have found your private key.

Another way is to use a programming language or a command line tool to perform the same steps as above, but with more control and security. You can find some examples of how to do this in Python or grep.

I hope this helps you to recover your bitcoin. Please be careful when handling your private key, as anyone who has access to it can spend your bitcoin. It is recommended to move your bitcoin to a new address that is generated by a secure and reputable wallet program.

Good luck!

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  • I am confused why you think this looks like WIF, especially since the screenshot seems to show a directory. Could you perhaps elaborate that point?
    – Murch
    Feb 20 at 16:41
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A private key is a 256-bit number that allows you to access and spend your bitcoins. It usually starts with a 5, K, or L and has 51 or 52 characters. The crypto code you attached does not look like a valid private key, as it has only 32 characters and does not follow the format. It might be a password, a seed phrase, or something else. You should try to find the file or program where you stored your private key, or use a recovery tool if you have one. Good luck!

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That is a Machine Security ID not a Bitcoin key

prefix S-1-5-2 is used by Microsoft Windows for Machine Security-IDs

As Wikipedia explains

The machine SID is stored in a raw-bytes form in the registry. To convert it into the more common numeric form, one interprets it as three little endian 32-bit integers, converts them to decimal, and add hyphens between them.

Example 2E,43,AC,40,C0,85,38,5D,07,E5,3B,2B
1) Divide the bytes into 3 sections: 2E,43,AC,40 - C0,85,38,5D - 07,E5,3B,2B
2) Reverse the order of bytes in each section: 40,AC,43,2E - 5D,38,85,C0 - 2B,3B,E5,07
3) Convert each section into decimal: 1085031214 - 1563985344 - 725345543
4) Add the machine SID prefix: S-1-5-21-1085031214-1563985344-725345543

The Machine SID can be used in folder names such as c:\documents and settings\%username%\application data\microsoft\crypto\rsa\s-1-5-21-1078081533-1606980848-854245398-1003

Note the similarities:

Your Image          = S-1-5-21-0902708941-4082285366-676173334-153042
Example Machine SID = S-1-5-21-1085031214-1563985344-725345543
Example folder name = s-1-5-21-1078081533-1606980848-854245398-1003

Now compare what you have with an example WIF

Your Image          = S-1-5-21-0902708941-4082285366-676173334-153042
Example WIF         = L1aW4aubDFB7yfras2S1mN3bqg9nwySY8nkoLmJebSLD5BWv3ENZ

These are really not at all alike.
You definitely don't have a private key in wallet import format (WIF).

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