It is known that the type of computing power required for mining is the same used to generate addresses, and it is known that "in general" it is much more profitable to simply mine, rather than try to generate addresses hoping to stole their content.

But AFAIK there are some addresses out there which contain a huge amount of bitcoins: successfully generating their private key would award you a lot more bitcoins than those you would get generating a new block.

Has someone actually made some figures comparing the average revenue of mining vs. the chance of generating the key of a very rich address?


2 Answers 2


The chance of generating the key of a very rich address is effectively zero. That is, in the entire history of humanity, nobody has come anywhere close to accomplishing such a feat.

Let's consider 1 Bitcoin a score. Since there can never be more than 21 million bitcoins or so, you need to hit on one of at most 21 million accounts. Let's say you could try 2 trillion accounts per second. Your odds of matching an account in a hundred years are approximately one in 11 billion billion.

Good luck.

  • 5
    You're thinking that you need to find the same private key to steal funds, but you don't. You only need to find a private key that hashes to the same (160 bit) bitcoin address. So it's 2^(256-160) times easier than you thought, and so your odds are really approximately one in 11 billion billion - a much safer bet! May 15, 2012 at 20:30
  • To get David's number, "pow(2,256) / (21*pow(10,6) * 2*pow(10,12) * 60 * 60 * 24 * 365.25 * 100 * pow(pow(10,9), 5))". To get mine: "pow(2,160) / (21*pow(10,6) * 2*pow(10,12) * 60 * 60 * 24 * 365.25 * 100 * pow(pow(10,9), 2))". Both typed at a Python prompt. May 15, 2012 at 20:31
  • @Chris We can currently have up to 2100 trillion accounts since there's 2100 trillion units. So instead of 1 in 11 billion billion, we now have 1 in 110k.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 18, 2012 at 3:57
  • @Pacerier if you could test all 2100 trillion accounts in the time it took David to test one account (ie. one 2 trillionth of a second) then OK. If your computer gets 2100 trillion times faster, your odds get about 2100 trillion times better. Jun 18, 2012 at 5:09
  • @Chris Right, I'm just pointing out the cap of 21 million accounts is wrong.
    – Pacerier
    Jun 18, 2012 at 5:12

Is it possible to brute force bitcoin address creation in order to steal money? is the same question, and has an argument about what "possible" means in which a majority of people seem to think that something can have a greater than zero probability and also be impossible at the same time. Check it out!

  • I was aware of that question, thanks :) Here I was asking specifically if its profitability could change due to some addresses containing a substantial amount of money.
    – o0'.
    May 15, 2012 at 20:27
  • Oh, I see. So are you happy with your answer? It's "not really, no", because the substantial reward is offset by the much-more-than-substantial difficulty in stealing money the way you describe. May 15, 2012 at 23:55
  • Incidentally, you can also have something with zero probability that is possible. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almost_surely. May 16, 2012 at 6:39
  • @ChrisMoore yes I'm totally satisfied, in fact I accepted it.
    – o0'.
    May 16, 2012 at 7:17

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