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I have this question, say I have my coins in my local wallet and 1 of 2 things can happen, say I somehow delete the wallet.dat file or some kind of malware deletes the file. I have the password private key to the wallet, would I need the wallet.dat file to recover the bitcoins or could I just recover with the private key to the address? Would I need both?

  • wallet.dat is mostly a collection of private keys for multiple addresses. – John T Mar 26 '14 at 4:15
  • In the off chance I lose access to it, what can happen? – rdadkins Mar 26 '14 at 4:19
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    @fatso113: I think you may be confusing "private key" with "password". The private keys are in the wallet file, the password to the wallet will not help you if you don't have the wallet itself. You will lose all your coins if you don't have a backup of the file. – Meni Rosenfeld Mar 26 '14 at 9:00
  • Thank you, sorry for not being very clear – rdadkins Mar 26 '14 at 14:01
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Since wallet.dat is mostly a collection of private keys, you will simply lose all private keys that you have not duplicated or copied. It also by default stores the next 100 Bitcoin addresses it will give you when you generate a new address as a safety measure.

Bottom line

You will lose the copy of the private keys to addresses you've created or added but you won't destroy them. A backup will save you regardless if wallet.dat exists or not. You won't:

  • will not lose past transactions, those are stored by the network, not you.
  • will not lose ownership of any bitcoins you may have acquired under the private keys you backed up, generating a new one and not creating a backup may result in loss. Keep in mind first 100 addresses are stored in wallet.dat.
  • will not need to know the address of a public key. Those are derived from the private key mathematically.
  • If I lose wallet.dat but have the private keys derived from wallet.dat, would I be able to have access to my coins again? – rdadkins Mar 26 '14 at 14:04
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    @fatso113 Yes. You can access your coins without a wallet, so long as you have the private keys. Be careful, though, so can anyone else! – oks Mar 26 '14 at 15:13
  • This was confusing because I got mixed up with BIP38 encryption with paper wallets. I understand now – rdadkins Mar 26 '14 at 17:19

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