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The following is based on my very limited understanding of the software involved in Bitcoin (I have a reasonable understanding of the structure of Bitcoin itself at a high level).

I read an article in 2010 (on Slashdot, maybe) about Bitcoin. It sounded interesting from a technical point of view, so for a laugh I decided to see whether I could get some. I found a faucet that someone had set up. Needed an address to send it to, so downloaded the current Bitcoin client (v.0.3.0). While I never got around to requesting coins that way, I did leave the client on in the background mining.

About a week later, I scored 50 coins. Annoyingly, work got busy, I got distracted, and I never got around to starting up mining again after a computer restart.

In any event, I backed up the entire HDD and stored all the files safely for several years.

I'm now at the point where I'd like to see whether the coins actually exist and, if so, to sweep them into a more modern wallet.

First, upon opening the old client and with the original wallet.dat file in the correct folder, I see a balance of 50 BTC with several hundred confirmations. However, there is only a single address shown, and according to blockchain.info, the balance is zero and there's never been a transaction at that address.

Can someone explain what, if anything, this means about the "confirmed" 50 BTC? Is there some sort of obscured address/private key combo within the client at which the mined coins were stored? The answers to the following question don't fill me with optimism: Found my old wallet, is it empty?

Second (and assuming the answer to the first question isn't "you're screwed"!), I've done some reading about getting the keys out of this client. It precedes clients with the "debug" console, so I can't get them out that way.

Apparently I may be able to use pywallet by jackjack, but not being very familiar with software of this type, I've found it a real struggle to install. Are there any other ways of getting at the address/private key at which the coins are stored?

Am I right that the wallet file is so old that it won't correctly be opened by the current Bitcoin Core client?

I've checked other answers to related questions at Stack Exchange, but it seems most people with older wallets are using clients that at least have the debug console.

I'll be trying to do this on a Windows 7 machine, in case that helps.

Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

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    Not a full answer, but Bitcoin Core intends to support wallet files going back to 0.1. That's hard to test of course, and incompatibilities may have been introduced inadvertently along the way. – Pieter Wuille Aug 8 '17 at 14:02
  • Thanks Pieter, I wasn't aware of that approach to backwards compatibility. Should I therefore download Bitcoin Core, allow it to fully update, then replace the (new) default wallet.dat it will generate with my old wallet.dat? – JMens Aug 8 '17 at 14:42
  • ... possibly using the -upgradewallet option? Thanks. – JMens Aug 8 '17 at 15:34
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    0.3.0 won't synchronize with the network anymore (see BIP50), so I would suggest making a backup of your wallet (and maybe a "database" dir if you have one), and installing Core 0.14.2, and letting that sync with a copy of your wallet. – Pieter Wuille Aug 8 '17 at 19:30
  • Thanks Pieter. Backups of the wallet and directory already made. I did know about 0.3.0 not synchronizing, but wasn't aware that the current version is (hopefully!) able to open a wallet from v.0.3.0. I've downloaded the current version of Bitcoin-Qt (which I understand uses Core 0.14.2) and am now downloading the blockchain. Will see how it goes... Thanks again. – JMens Aug 9 '17 at 8:50

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