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What happens when my hardware wallet e.g. http://trezor.io stops working?

It would be great if someone could outline the procedure. And if there are multiple ways I would like to compare by effectiveness & security.

I'm thinking about getting one, but I'm unsure about the risks having everything stored on an electronic device, rather than good ol' printed keys.

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For Trezor specifically, just check their website for details.

Essentially, you need to have:

  1. a new or wiped Trezor wallet.
  2. your Trezor recovery card, filled out correctly.
  3. a computer with the Trezor bridge software installed.

You plug the new Trezor into the computer, open the Bridge software, and and follow the "Trezor Recovery" instructions. It will ask you to enter the seed recovery words from the your recovery card, which will recreate the wallet on your new Trezor device.

Other hardware wallets might have a slightly different approach; check with the prospective vendor about how to perform recovery on their device, then choose the device which suits your needs.

FYI, the recovery seed words are typically going to be compatible with any Hierarchical Deterministic (HD) wallet recovery process. This means you could in fact recover your wallet into any HD-compatible software wallet. Pretty clearly, this means anyone with access to those seed words can recreate your wallet and steal all your funds. Guard those recovery words with your life.

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    Not all HD wallets support seed words. Bitcoin Core, for example. BIP32 is the HD Wallet spec, BIP39 is a later addition that specifies a way to use mnemonic words to derive the seed. Since Trezor uses BIP39, you need a BIP 39-supporting wallet to recover from seed words. – Adam Millerchip Nov 23 '17 at 23:30

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