I'm trying to use the results of Dumpprivkey to sign a message outside of the QT client, however I'm either having a problem signing or extracting the real value of the key.

What encoding, endian, or format is Dumpprivkey in?

I assume it's Base58 encoded...

2 Answers 2


The format is base58check, with 0x80 as version byte (for Bitcoin mainnet, at least), and an optional suffix 0x01 byte to indicate that the corresponding public key is compressed. So combined:

  • base58(0x80 | 32-byte big-endian secret parameter | checksum) for uncompressed public keys
  • base58(0x80 | 32-byte big-endian secret parameter | 0x01 | checksum) for compressed public keys

It is Base58 encoded with an initial version byte and 4 checksum bytes on the end. The version byte indicates the network (production network=128 and test network=239). The checksum is the first 4 bytes of the double SHA-256 hash of the version and key.

Here is some Java code which creates the private key from the dumped format:

public DumpedPrivateKey(String string) throws AddressFormatException {
        // Decode the private key
        byte[] decodedKey = Base58.decodeChecked(string);
        int version = (int)decodedKey[0]&0xff;
        if (version != Parameters.DUMPED_PRIVATE_KEY_VERSION)
            throw new AddressFormatException(String.format("Version %d is not correct", version));
        // The private key length is 33 for a compressed public key, otherwise it is 32
        if (decodedKey.length == 33+1 && decodedKey[33] == (byte)1) {
            isCompressed = true;
            privKeyBytes = Arrays.copyOfRange(decodedKey, 1, decodedKey.length-1);
        } else if (decodedKey.length == 32+1) {
            isCompressed = false;
            privKeyBytes = Arrays.copyOfRange(decodedKey, 1, decodedKey.length);
        } else {
            throw new AddressFormatException("Private key length is incorrect");
    public static byte[] decodeChecked(String string) throws AddressFormatException {
        // Decode the string
        byte[] decoded = decode(string);
        if (decoded.length < 4)
            throw new AddressFormatException("Decoded string is too short");
        // Verify the checksum contained in the last 4 bytes
        byte[] bytes = Arrays.copyOfRange(decoded, 0, decoded.length-4);
        byte[] checksum = Arrays.copyOfRange(decoded, decoded.length-4, decoded.length);
        byte[] hash = Arrays.copyOfRange(Utils.doubleDigest(bytes), 0, 4);
        if (!Arrays.equals(hash, checksum))
            throw new AddressFormatException("Checksum is not correct");
        // Return the result without the checksum bytes
        return bytes;

  • Thanks! Can you tell me where you got this from? I need to sign a message in c# using this private key. The functional verification code is here stackoverflow.com/a/20400041/328397 Feb 9, 2014 at 16:26
  • It's from my bitcoin node (which is written in Java). I can send you the Java class if you send me your e-mail address. It uses BouncyCastle 1.50 for all of the heavy lifting. Feb 10, 2014 at 1:10
  • I'm using this code here to inspire the C# work in BitcoinJ You can email me at Myname at gmail. Thanks! Feb 10, 2014 at 1:57
  • @makerofthings7 Sent Feb 10, 2014 at 4:13

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