Bitcoin Desktop Wallets – Complete Guide, Reviews and More

This resource explores and compares the different types of desktop wallet

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Wallet TypeSecurityUsabilityBest forCostPrivacy
DesktopMediumMediumHybridFreeLow

A desktop wallet also known as a software wallet or desktop client runs as a computer program on your PC or laptop.

Desktop wallets are the equivalent of using Outlook (Windows) or Mail (Mac) for checking your emails. Gmail, for example, would be equivalent to using an online Bitcoin wallet or a mobile Bitcoin wallet.

These wallets store your keys directly on the computer’s hard drive. A compromised device is highly vulnerable to a hack (theft of coins). Always password-protect access to your desktop wallet.


Best Bitcoin Desktop Wallets 2018

 SecurityUsabilityAnonymityCompatible Coins
ElectrumHighMediumHighBitcoin
ExodusHighEasyHighBitcoin + ERC20
Bitcoin CoreHighHardHighBitcoin
CoPayHighMediumHighBitcoin
ArmoryHighMediumHighBitcoin

The first-ever Bitcoin wallet, Bitcoin Core, is the perfect example. Some of the best and most trusted wallets are desktop clients.

The advantage of desktop wallet (clients) is that your coins are only accessible from the computer on which the client is installed.

Assuming your computer is virus-free and that your wallet is backed up securely if your computer is protected by a password and your wallet as well, your coins can be very safe, especially if kept offline.

Desktop wallets can be divided into one of two categories


Full Node vs. Lightweight (SPV) Bitcoin Wallets

In simple terms, a full node wallet downloads the entire Bitcoin transaction history (the blockchain) and the other doesn’t.

The entire Bitcoin transaction history. A lightweight wallet is only a few megabytes.

Full Node Bitcoin Wallet

A full node Bitcoin wallet is one that hosts (and verifies) the entire Bitcoin transaction history also known as the blockchain.

Full node wallets give you the highest degree of control over your funds, privacy, and security. Without full nodes, the Bitcoin network could not exist.

As the number of full nodes increases, so does the reliability, security, and degree of decentralization of the Bitcoin network.

Best Full Node Bitcoin Wallets 2018

 SecurityUsabilityAnonymityCompatible Coins
ExodusHighEasyHighBitcoin + ERC20
Bitcoin CoreHighMediumHighBitcoin
ArmoryHighMediumHighBitcoin
AgamaHighHardHighBitcoin + ERC20
MSignaHighHardHighBitcoin +

Lightweight (SPV) Bitcoin Wallet

Lightweight wallets, Simple Payment Verification (SPV) or light wallets on the other hand, only download a very small portion of the blockchain.

This allows the lightweight Bitcoin wallet to participate in the ecosystem by linking to full nodes.

This is a reminder that the Bitcoin network could not exist without full nodes.

In technical terms, SPV wallets retrieve the block headers upon setup and then call the full nodes as needed (when sending or receiving coins).


Best Lightweight Bitcoin Wallets 2018

 SecurityUsabilityAnonymityCompatible Coins
ElectrumHighMediumHighBitcoin
CoPayHighMediumHighBitcoin
JaxxHighMediumHighBitcoin +
CoinSpaceMediumEasyMediumBitcoin +
BitherHighEasyMediumBitcoin

Desktop Wallet Security Tips

  • Use a dedicated computer
  • Wipe the computer clean before installing a wallet (client)
  • Encrypt (password protect) your wallet very well
  • Backup a copy of your password on a different device
  • Backup your wallet.dat file on a different device
  • Password protect you wallet.dat file
  • Maintain the latest antivirus and anti-malware software
  • Store your wallet password and wallet backup file offline (usb)
  • Do not store your coins on a public computer

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