What are private keys?

Private keys are a crucial part of how crypto assets work. In this article we explain what they are, give an example, and show you how to find your private keys.

In this Article:

What are Private Keys? (Private Key Definition)

Private keys in the context of blockchain assets prove ownership of assets associated with a particular wallet address and allow you to access and spend the assets in that address.

Every address that you create, or own, has its own private key.

An easy way to think about private keys is by using the analogy of a bank.

If your wallet is like your online banking account, your private key is the login for the account, allowing you to go in and spend your money as you please.

Therefore, in the same way that you want to keep your online banking information safe, you must keep your private keys safe. Otherwise, anyone with the keys can “login” (access) your “account” (wallet) and drain it of your funds!

You must never give your private keys to anyone you don’t want accessing your crypto assets! There are many scams out there that will ask you for your private key. Never give out your private key, no matter how "safe" it seems.

Private Key Example

Private keys are different from your public receiving addresses. Unlike public addresses, you should never share your private keys with anyone, even if they are sending you funds. This is an example of what a private key looks like.

The full address and full private key in the screenshot aren’t shown, but you can see that the address has its own corresponding private key. This private key gives whoever can access it, full access to the address (and the funds inside them).

How Does Exodus Create My Private Keys?

When you first created your Exodus wallet, your private keys were created using your 12-word secret phrase. Your 12-word secret phrase, when run through a standardized algorithm or formula, turns into a seed integer or number that can be thought of as your master private key. When this “master” private key is run through a standardized algorithm, an almost endless amount of private and public keys can be created.

If it weren’t for the secret phrase, you would have to keep track of your private key for each and every address that you own. This of course would be a huge headache and an easy way to lose access to addresses (and the money inside them) if you have multiple assets (maybe some with multiple addresses) and aren’t a superstar recordkeeper.

Exodus makes it easy so that you never have to worry about your private keys and can manage your funds using one secret recovery phrase.

Since your secret 12-word recovery phrase is your “master” private key, it gives access to all your private keys (and their addresses with your funds). This is why it's important to always keep it safe and never share it with anyone, not even Exodus staff. Anyone who knows your secret phrase or any of your private keys will be able to steal your assets from anywhere.

How to Find Your Private Keys?

If you'd like to learn how to view your private keys, please reference this page: How can I view my private keys?

More information

Check out these videos to learn more about private keys: