How To Recover Bitcoins From Bitcoin Core


Why Bitcoin Core Won’t Sync

While bitcoin core is the original and most recognized bitcoin wallet, it is also extremely bulky and requires a ton of resources to run.   With the bitcoin core wallet you have to download the entire bitcoin blockchain (over 8 years of bitcoin transactions) and keep it synced to be able to spend your bitcoin.  The bitcoin blockchain is over 100 GB in size which is too large for most users to store and can still take weeks for some people to download before they can use the wallet.   Many people accidentally send bitcoin to their core wallet without realizing how long it will take to sync, then decide they would like to use another wallet.  This guide will help you recover your bitcoins from bitcoin core, then transfer them to a lightweight wallet that is easier to use.

 

How To Recover Coins From Bitcoin Core

If you have sent bitcoins to your core wallet and can’t wait to synchronize the wallet, you can export your private keys and import your coins into a different wallet.  For this tutorial I will be moving coins from Bitcoin Core to Electrum.  The Electrum wallet only takes a few seconds to sync so it is easy to recover and spend your bitcoins from.  Here is a download for Electrum, I will explain how to use it later in the guide.

Find Your Coins in Bitcoin Core

If your bitcoin core wallet is years behind from being synced to the blockchain, you probably will not see your coins in the wallet even if they are stored at your bitcoin address.  This can be very scary for new users, but rest assured your coins are safe and recoverable.  The first step is to identify which bitcoin public address you need to recover coins from.  To do this, click ‘File’ then go to ‘Receiving Address’.

sent bitcoins to bitcoin core

Bitcoin core automatically generates your first bitcoin address for you but you can create as many new ones as you want.

find bitcoin core address

Right click on an address to copy it:  1CFizxE8xovgBNad4Tqhpe295cnrANAf4C

Once you have your bitcoin address, use a blockchain explorer website to check the balance of the address and make sure your coins are still there.  A blockchain explorer will tell you the live balance of your bitcoin address even if bitcoin core cannot display it yet.

Here is my bitcoin address on Blockchain.info – As you can see I have 0.02 bitcoin confirmed even though bitcoin core doesn’t show it.

where is my bitcoin balance

How To Export Coins From Bitcoin Core

Now that I know my bitcoins are safe and I have identified which address they are stored in, I can start the recover process.  To export your bitcoin you will need to use the debug console to dump your bitcoin private key.  Once you have your bitcoin private key you can import it to electrum and spend your coins.  Here is a step by step guide to exporting your private keys from bitcoin core:

Click on the ‘Help’ tab and choose ‘Debug Window’

how to debug bitcoin core wallet

Move to the ‘Console’ tab.

using bitcoin core console window

From here you can use the bitcoin core command line which has tons of complicated features.  The two commands we will be using are:

walletpassphrase

dumpprivkey

The first command, ‘walletpassphrase’ is essentially just entering your password to unlock the wallet.  When you started your bitcoin core wallet hopefully you encrypted your wallet with a password.  That is the phrase needed here.

Here is the proper syntax to enter:

walletpassphrase  YOURPASSWORDHERE 600

I have censored my password but if you did it right it should look something like this:

walletpassphrase bitcoin core recover

The second command, ‘dumpprivkey’ is your way to tell bitcoin core that you want to export the private key of your bitcoin address.  To use this command you need to copy your bitcoin public address like we did in an earlier step.

Here is the proper syntax:

dumprivkey 1CFizxE8xovgBNad4Tqhpe295cnrANAf4C

If you have done it right an even longer string of numbers and letters will appear, this is the private key to unlock your bitcoin.  It is very important that no one else see this string of characters and you don’t share it anywhere.  If someone else gets your private keys they can spend your bitcoin and there is no way to recover them!  I censored a portion of my private key but you can see roughly how long it should be.

export private key bitcoin core

Now that you have your private key, time to open up Electrum wallet.  Choose to restore a wallet or import keys, then create a standard wallet.

restore bitcoin wallet electrum

In the next screen you will be prompted for your recovery seed or private keys.   This is where you paste that long string of characters that you exported from bitcoin core wallet.  Click next, where you will be asked to create a new password for the wallet.

recover bitcoins in electrum wallet

Congrats! You did it! You should be able to spend your bitcoin within seconds!

restored bitcoin wallet address

**NOTE:  Once you have recovered your bitcoins by using your private key, it would be best to not use that bitcoin address ever again.  You can create new addresses easily so either spend your bitcoin or just send them to another bitcoin address in electrum for safe storage.

Now you can go to the ‘Send’ tab to spend your bitcoin.

spending bitcoins in electrum wallet

My balance is 0.02 BTC, but I can only send 0.0199 because I have to pay a small fee to bitcoin miners to process my transaction.

bitcoins sent from bitcoin core to electrum

The string of characters display here is your bitcoin transaction ID.  If you copy and paste that into blockchain.info you can track the status of your bitcoin transaction.  As you can see I successfully moved the bitcoin from my bitcoin core address to a new bitcoin wallet.

bitcoin core transaction ID

For the safest bitcoin storage, we suggest buying a Keepkey, Trezor, or Ledger wallet.  They are external hardware wallets that store your bitcoins off of your computer.  Then you can connect the device to your computer via USB and use electrum to spend your coins.