How do I transfer bitcoins over from a watch only electrum account if I have the private key and its address?


2 Answers 2


Transfer control to a new Electrum wallet

If you have the private key you can, in principle, either import the key into a new wallet or sweep it into a new wallet.

Electrum supports sweeping and doesn't encourage importing.

Importing doesn't involve a transaction or transaction fees but is more vulnerable to subsequent loss. The recovery-words also known as recovery-phrase or seed-phrase, cannot be used to recover control over money associated with an imported key. You'd need to make regular backups and test recovery from backup.

Sweeping involves a transaction but is regarded as safer.

Transferring Bitcoins

Note that you are not really moving bitcoins. The record of who controls what money is recorded in the public Blockchain which every full-node wallet has a copy of.

A watch-only wallet lets you observe transactions relating to money controlled by other people (or by other wallets). So there's no sense in which your bitcoins are in a watch-only wallet. You could as well say that everyones bitcoins are in every full-node wallet.

Electrum account

Electrum is a wallet, not an account. Your money is not stored by, managed by or controlled by Electrum.org. You control your money using software you install on your own computer.


Watch-only wallets are a useful feature if you keep your private-keys in cold-storage - such as in a hardware wallet.

They are also a favourite method by which scammers trick people out of money.

  • +1 but I think the last part is the only relevant part.
    – MCCCS
    May 7, 2020 at 17:01
  • I have one address in my wallet and one private key in a WIF format. Do I need multiple keys to have my regular spending wallet?, cause I only have one address. May 7, 2020 at 18:00
  • You only need the key that corresponds to that address. May 7, 2020 at 19:07
  • My Private Key is in a WIF Format, when I put it in it doesn't want to go with my address. Its 51 characters long. Is there a converter from WIF to a regular private key? May 7, 2020 at 19:31
  • See the last sentence of my answer and the comments by MCCCS. May 7, 2020 at 19:51

Based on some of your comments:

My Private Key is in a WIF Format, when I put it in it doesn't want to go with my address.

It sounds as though your wallet could be importing the wrong address type (ie legacy vs p2sh-segwit vs bech32).

With Electrum you can import your WIF and specify the address type.

Electrum can import private keys using the console and the importprivkey() command.

If you want to import p2sh segwit (address starts with a 3):

Import as native(bech32) segwit (address starts with bc1):

Import as legacy p2pkh (address starts with a 1):

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