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I have some pre-split BTC in a paper wallet. Now, I found an article that describes how I can extract BCC from it using Electrum and Electron Cash. Basically the steps are:

  1. Install Electrum wallet, import your paper wallet into it
  2. From Electrum wallet, send your BTC elsewhere (possibly a new paper wallet)
  3. Install Electron Cash, import the same private key and you should see your BCC balance there and be able to use it

Question: do we really need step #1 - can I just import BTC from my paper wallet into an exchange for example, without first using Electrum wallet?

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Not every exchange or wallet supports import from private key, for example, coinbase explicitly says they don't support it. But if you find an exchange that supports it, then yes you can directly import to it instead of going to Electrum first.

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The steps you posted avoid having to share your private key with an exchange. If you're willing to trust somebody else with your private key, and trust that they will process it correctly for any forked tokens, then that's a valid option.

Because the private key is valid for both Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, once you expose it both currencies are at risk. The advantage of step 1 is that without sharing it with anyone else (assuming your environment is secure) it sends the BTC away from the pre-fork wallet to an alternative BTC-only destination, meaning you can then use the same key to claim Bitcoin Cash without risk of the corresponding Bitcoin being stolen or spent in error.

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