I set up Bitcoin (application) software on a WinXP machine in 2011 and received some Bitcoin. I set the machine aside, disconnected from the internet. Now I want to access the 2011 Bitcoin.

Lately I verified my Bitcoin address/public key on blockchain.info, and the BTC is still there. I backed up the public key and wallet.dat* onto a flash drive. The WinXP machine is functioning.

I am a former coder but new to Bitcoin under the hood, but willing and able to learn whatever is necessary to retrieve, control, and move the BTC. *I suspect that the wallet.dat file "contains" the private key, but I can't read the file contents with Notepad.

What secure tools do I need, and what is the best way to fill my knowledge gaps so that I can resume control of the BTC?

2 Answers 2


The wallet.dat was created with Bitcoin Core (in 2011 it was called "Bitcoin").

You should install the newest version of Bitcoin-Core (0.14.2 by the time of writing). The wallet.dat from 2011 should still run.

Use the GUI.

If you want to export the private key, you don't need to sync (takes a couple of hours / days)

Can also be done on a different machine then your Windows XP box.

Following steps may help:

  1. Start Bitcoin Core
  2. Stop Bitcoin Core
  3. Datadir should be created, open the datadir folder (https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Data_directory)
  4. Replace the existing wallet.dat (backup it if you already had Bitcoin Core installed) with your old wallet
  5. Start Bitcoin Core
  6. If you want to export your keys, open the debug console and type dumpwallet <filename>
  7. If you want to use Bitcoin Core, let it sync (takes a couple of hours/days)
  • Thank you, Jonas. I will give this a try, and give you feedback. It may take a couple days. Jul 5, 2017 at 22:28
  • Jonas, (or anybody), I still have a couple of questions: Q1...While I am taking steps 1 thru 7, will I at some point be able to actually see my 2011 key? I am interested in maximum security.When I make a paper wallet, I can see both keys...especially that private key, can see it exactly character by character. I can't see the 2011 one now - it's somehow encoded in that wallet.dat file Q2...I've been reading 'Mastering Bitcoin' (by A.A.); what are the chances I protected that 2011 private key with a password? IOW, Did 2011 Bitcoin Client require this back in the day? Nov 14, 2017 at 21:28
  • 2
    The wallet.dat file is not human readable (it's a binary database). You can use the RPC command (Bitcoin-Qt / Debug Console) dumpwallet <filename-with-path> to get a human-readable export. Nov 15, 2017 at 6:44

I used Bitcoin in 2013, and it was certainly possible to use it without a password, then. I can't imagine it ever not having a password facility though. The wallet was by default "un-locked", and then, with the password, you could lock it. You could read balances etc even when the wallet was locked.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.