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I recently downloaded the Bitcoin Core wallet, and was mildly inconvenienced by the fact that I had to spend 4 days downloading 200 GB, but I just beared with it.

However, I soon discovered that some wallets like Electrum and Bitcoin Wallet don't need syncing at all, which makes me curious about why some wallets need syncing and others don't, and what are the benefits to syncing as it takes up a lot of space, time, and bandwidth?

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In brief, so-called lightweight wallets have to trust the nodes they communicate with, full-node wallets don't have to trust other nodes.

Bitcoin's creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, wrote about Simplified Payment Verification (SPV):

As such, the verification is reliable as long as honest nodes control the network, but is more vulnerable if the network is overpowered by an attacker. While network nodes can verify transactions for themselves, the simplified method can be fooled by an attacker's fabricated transactions for as long as the attacker can continue to overpower the network.

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  • Would this factor of trust be significant to an average user of the network? – James Palmer Mar 26 at 0:29
  • @JamesPalmer that depends on how you define 'average'. Note that if everyone decided to trust someone else to do the verification, then the network would become very fragile to certain attacks and manipulation (ie a changing of consensus rules). On the other hand, if everyone runs a fully validating node, then it becomes very hard to alter the network's rules in this way. So it is in the user's best interest, from both a personal sovereignty, and network-health perspective. You wouldn't want to invest/use a network that is prone to unjust manipulation! – chytrik Mar 26 at 1:32

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