Everything you need to know about your 12-word secret recovery phrase

Your secret recovery phrase is the key to your wallet and controls access to all your funds, so write it down and keep it safe!

If your device is lost or stolen, the only way to recover your funds is with your 12-word secret recovery phrase. 


In this article:


What is a secret recovery phrase?

Your secret recovery phrase is the key to your wallet and controls access to all your funds.

A secret recovery phrase generates all of the private keys in your wallet. Each receive address for every crypto has its own private key. The private key is used to authorize transactions and prove ownership of your funds. All private keys in Exodus are generated from and tied to your 12-word secret recovery phrase.

If anything happens to the device your wallet is on, like your phone is lost or stolen, or your computer crashes, the only way to recover your funds is with your 12-word secret recovery phrase. You can restore your wallet on another device by entering your 12-word phrase into a new wallet.

Secret recovery phrases, also known as mnemonic phrases, or seed phrases, can be any length, but they are usually 12, 18, or 24 words.

Exodus secret recovery phrases are always 12 words.


How is a secret recovery phrase generated?

There is a set list of words that the wallet chooses from randomly. Each word is assigned to a number. 

This means the secret recovery phrase can be converted to a string of numbers, which is used as the seed integer to a deterministic wallet. This seed integer generates all the key pairs (public keys, or addresses, and private keys) used in the wallet.

Exodus uses the English-language wordlist of the BIP39 standard which has 2048 words. If the phrase contained only 12 random words, the number of possible combinations would be 2048^12 = 2^132, meaning 2 to the power of 132, and the phrase would have 132 bits of security.

However, some of the data in a BIP39 phrase is not random, so the actual security of a 12-word BIP39 seed phrase is only 128 bits. This is approximately the same strength as all Bitcoin private keys, so most experts consider it to be sufficiently secure. If you want to learn more about how big 2^128 is, you can have a look here: http://bugcharmer.blogspot.com/2012/06/how-big-is-2128.html

When your 12-word phrase is converted into a seed integer or number for your wallet, the seed integer is used with a standard derivation algorithm, or formula, to derive and generate your master private key.

From this master private key, a very large number (almost infinite for all practical purposes) of private and public keys can be derived with the standard derivation formula. Given that the same master private key is used with the derivation formula, the same private and public keys will always be generated.

Also, different blockchain assets have different starting points in the derivation formula, which prevents differing assets from generating overlapping keys.

It is important to understand that the seed integer doesn't represent the private key, but is used to derive your private and public keys in a series of processes described in the following Bitcoin Improvement Proposals (BIPs):

This is a rather lengthy and technical bit of reading, but below is a basic summary.

BIP32: Describes how to use a master private key to generate (derive) child private keys. These child keys are guaranteed to be 256-bit because of the process that is used to derive them.

BIP39: Describes how a seed is generated. Although the 12-word seed is 128-bit, the derivation process described in BIP32 will ensure that the child keys are 256-bit, but the randomness (entropy) of those keys will be equal to 128-bit.

BIP44: Describes a derivation path. In basic terms, it sets the properties that are used to derive private keys as described in BIP32. These properties, for example, can indicate what type of coin this is (BTC, BCH etc.).


What is an 18- or 24-word secret recovery phrase?

Exodus generates a 12-word secret recovery phrase to back up your wallet. However, other wallets might generate 18-word or 24-word secret recovery phrases. 

For example, the Trezor Model T automatically generates a 12-word phrase, while the Trezor One creates a 24-word phrase.

Although 12-, 18-, or 24-word secret recovery phrases all provide excellent security, some platforms choose a 24-word phrase because it provides 256-bit security rather than the 128-bit offered by the 12-word phrase. If you want to dive into the math, you could start with this video about 256-bit security or this article about cryptographic algorithms.

Also, keep in mind that different wallets use different derivation paths. Exodus and Trezor both use the BIP39 standard. However, other wallets might use an older incompatible standard. So not every secret recovery phrase can be entered in every wallet successfully. 


Where is my 12-word secret recovery phrase stored?

Your 12-word secret recovery phrase is encrypted and stored on the device where you install Exodus.

We do not store your 12-word phrase on our servers, nor do we have any access to it. As the owner of the wallet, you are the only one with access to your 12-word phrase and private keys. As Andreas Antonopoulos famously said: "Your keys, your Bitcoin. Not your keys, not your Bitcoin".

This also protects you in the unlikely event of a hack on our servers. The hacker wouldn't find any information that gives access to your wallet and funds.

However, this means that you are solely responsible to ensure your wallet's safety and security. If you lose your secret recovery phrase, your funds are irretrievable. We can't help you retrieve your 12-word phrase because we never have access to it.


How do I keep my 12-word secret recovery phrase safe?

Anything online is hackable! This is also true for your 12-word secret recovery phrase. So don't store it on a computer or any device that is connected to the internet.

Write down your 12-word phrase on a piece of paper or print it out using a secure network printer. It's a good idea to have multiple copies of your 12-word phrase, and store it in multiple locations to prevent loss from disasters like floods, earthquakes, fires, etc.

Write down your 12-word phrase in the correct order without any spelling mistakes! The words need to be in the correct order to restore your funds. Entering the secret phrase incorrectly (wrong order or incorrect spelling) will result in you not being able to access your wallet.

Do not store your 12-word phrase on the notepad of your computer, as a digital image, in a file-sharing service like Dropbox, MegaBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud, etc., as an e-mail draft, any kind of file on your computer or phone, including password-protected files, or on a USB drive.

Because the threats are digital and online, the best way to protect your 12-word phrase is to store it on paper and offline.


How do I use my 12-word secret recovery phrase?

You can use your 12-word phrase to restore your Exodus wallet on any device: How do I restore from my 12-word secret recovery phrase?

It's also possible to enter your 12-word phrase into another wallet. Some airdrops require you to enter your secret recovery phrase or private keys into another wallet to claim their tokens: How do I manage airdrops in Exodus? 

However, this is not recommended. Be aware that your 12-word phrase could be compromised as soon as you expose it anywhere online. Even an internet router or WiFi password that isn't secure can cause you to lose your funds. 


How do I back up my wallet and write down my 12-word secret recovery phrase?

Web3 Wallet

1
a) Click the Profile icon, then b) click Security.

2
Click Back Up.

3
To confirm you want to view your 12-word secret recovery phrase, a) enter your password and b) click Next. Make sure no one can see your screen, because anyone with your 12-word phrase can steal your funds.

4
You can now view your 12-word phrase by clicking Reveal phrase. Write down your 12-word phrase and store it in a secure place to you always have access to your funds. Be sure to double-check that the words have been written down in the correct order and that no words are misspelled.

We recommend writing down your 12-word secret recovery phrase on more than one piece of paper, and keeping the copies in separate secure locations to prevent a single point of loss from events like fires, floods, etc.

  • The 12-word phrase generates all your wallet’s addresses and private keys. It is incredibly important for you to keep your 12-word phrase safe. If you would like to know more about your 12-word phrase, please click here.
  • Do not store your 12-word secret recovery phrase in any digital format. Hackers can access digital files and information, but they can't access a piece of paper. If you would like to know more about how to keep your crypto safe, please click here.

5
After you have written down your 12-word phrase, and checked that all the words are spelled correctly and are in the correct order, you can click Next.

6
Next, to check your backup, you will receive a question regarding the 12-word phrase you have written down. a) Choose the word that is in your secret 12-word phrase, b) then tap Done.


Desktop

1
Click on the Settings icon in the top right corner of your Exodus wallet.

2
a) Click the Backup tab. b) Create a strong, secret and unique password, enter it in the box, and c) click Next.

Make sure your Exodus wallet password is not the same or similar to any other password you have ever used! We recommend using a password manager to create your password, as they can generate highly random and strong passwords for you as well as store them.

If you forget or lose your password, no one can recover or reset it for you. You can only reset your password with your 12-word phrase. 

3
a) Re-enter the password and b) click Next.

4
Click View secret phrase.

5
Write down your 12-word secret recovery phrase. Mouse over the words and write them down in the correct order. Double-check that they are spelled correctly. When you are finished writing down the 12-word phrase, put it in a secure place that only you can access and click Done.

We recommend writing down your 12-word secret recovery phrase on more than one piece of paper, and keeping the copies in separate secure locations to prevent a single point of loss from events like fires, floods, etc.

  • The 12-word phrase is your secret master seed that generates all your wallet’s addresses and private keys. It is incredibly important for you to keep your 12-word phrase safe. If you would like to know more about your 12-word phrase, please click here.
  • Do not store your 12-word secret recovery phrase in any digital format. Hackers can access digital files and information, but they can't access a piece of paper. If you would like to know more about how to keep your crypto safe, please click here.

6
Next, a) read the verification question carefully, b) select the correct answer, and c) click Done.

And that's it! You only have to go through this process once. 


Mobile

1
a) Tap the Profile icon, then b) tap Security.

2
Tap Backup.

3
Make sure no one is around to see your 12-word phrase, then tap View Secret Phrase.

We recommend writing down your 12-word secret recovery phrase on more than one piece of paper, and keeping the copies in separate secure locations to prevent a single point of loss from events like fires, floods, etc.

  • This 12-word phrase is your secret master seed that generates all your wallet’s addresses and private keys. It is incredibly important for you to keep your 12-word phrase safe. If you would like to know more about your secret phrase, please click here.
  • Do not store your 12-word secret recovery phrase in any digital format. Hackers can access digital files and information, but they can't access a piece of paper. If you would like to know more about how to keep your crypto safe, please click here.

4
To see your 12-word phrase, a) press and hold your finger on the Press and Hold to Reveal button. Once you have written it down, b) tap Done.
5
Next, to check your backup, you will receive a question about your 12-word phrase. a) Choose the correct answer, then b) tap Done.

6
Now that you have your 12-word secret recovery phrase secure, it is time to add a passcode to lock your wallet. In the Security menu, toggle on Secure with a Passcode.

7
Once you have created your passcode, you will be asked to re-enter it to confirm it. This will enable your passcode on your mobile Exodus wallet.

And that's it! You only have to go through the backup process once! As long as you have your 12-word secret recovery phrase safe, you won't lose access to your funds. 

If you would like to set up Face ID on an iOS device, or Touch ID on an Android device, you can visit: How do I secure my wallet with Face ID or Touch ID?

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