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I'd like to stash away at least part of my Bitcoins in an offline wallet which I will put in a bank deposit box.

Which media is recommended to use for that? Should I burn a CD/DVD or put it on an USB stick? Which one has the longest expiration date? Are there other alternatives?

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I wouldn't recommend CD/DVD or USB sticks. CD/DVDs don't actually have that long of a lifespan. Googling around I found various different estimates and no exact number, but the consensus is that they will probably last less than 10 years. Finding an estimate for how long a usb drive will last is a little bit more hazy, but the numbers I saw for that were around aboutish 10 years as well.

There's a bigger reason why you shouldn't use CD/DVDs or a usb drive: accessibility. If you plan on locking this thing into a deposit box and forgetting about it for a while, there's a pretty decent chance that when you come back to get it you won't be able to read it. CD/DVD drives are already used less and less, and there's a pretty good chance that 10 years from now you won't be able to get your data because your computer can only read hyper-bluray disks and the USB 12.0 connector is shaped like an octagon instead of a rectangle.

I'd actually recommend printing it out. A paper wallet printed on good archival paper with archival ink can last a very, very long time. If you do this at home, it will probably cost you some money since printers that can use archival ink aren't especially cheap, but there are some online services that can do this for you too if you are willing to trust them. You could also probably find some archival paper and archival pens and actually write out your paper wallet for not too much money.

If you really, really want to go crazy, you could have your address keys machined into a piece of steel or aluminum. If you pick a material that doesn't rust easily, and store it out of the elements so it can't erode, your wallet will essentially last for ever.

  • Thanks for the info. Looks like cold storing Bitcoins will cost me even more than buying them. I don't plan to leave them there for 20 years. Just maybe 2 or 3 years until I'm a multi millionaire because of them, hehe. Guess a DVD along with a print out on paper will not let me down in this timespan. – Alexander Rechsteiner Dec 19 '13 at 0:27
  • @AlexanderRechsteiner When backing up on a DVD, consider writing several copies of your wallet (there's a lot of space on a DVD which is lost anyway). I'm not an archiving expert, but each copy should make error correction easier. – jnnk Dec 21 '13 at 19:01
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I recommend printing out too. Crossposting from something I posted to reddit here, especially since I have direct experience with digital data going bad on supposedly stable mediums (e.g. CDRs.)

Reasons for using a simple paper wallet instead of digital data

1) Inheritance. If you were to die very unexpectedly from an Aneurysm, will your family (A) know you have Bitcoin, and (B) know how to retrieve it? Paper wallets make this easy. You just keep a copy of your paper wallet in the safety deposit box / safe along with precious jewels and cash.

2) Longevity. Have you ever dealt with obsolete data before? I have. Here's a sampling of what I've experienced in the past 29 years (no exaggeration) of dealing with my own data: I've had to recover data on obsolete media (5.25 floppy disks) stored in obsolete formats, with limited success I've had to recover data on gold-plated CDR's subject to "bitrot" because the manufacturers didn't realize that CDRs would oxidize after as little as 10 years, again with limited success

I've run around in circles trying to preserve data when interfaces change. I've still got masses of data on 8mm tapes written with SCSI drives and I have no idea how I'll ever recover it.

When you commit your data to an encrypted thumbdrive, or an encrypted cloud service, or whatever digital medium, you are also committing yourself to shepherding that data from medium to medium as the technology evolves. Talk about "human error"! USB will not be around in 10 years. Nor dropbox.

Specifically, what's a proposal for storing information in way that will be safe and relevant for 20 years without having to migrate your data to more modern media every so often?

When you commit your data to a piece of paper, you get to rely on 1000's of years of human experience regarding how to keep paper, jewels, cash, etc. safe without being screwed over by technology or hackers.

Disclaimer: I'm the guy behind https://bitcoinpaperwallet.com so obviously I'm totally biased. :)

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