Before we learn about how to store Ethereum using your computer it is imortant to first know that the level of security that a computer can offer when it comes to storing cryptocurrency is pretty good, but it’s not perfect. When storing a small value’s worth of cryptoassets (maybe $1000 dollars worth or less), your computer or your smart phone is a great option. If you are storing large value’s worth of crypto, we strongly recommend investing in a hardware wallet as a more fail safe method to store your cryptoassets. Obviously what constitutes a “large value” is relative to each person, but a good rule of thumb is if you own over one paychecks worth of cryptoassets it’s a good idea to have them stored on a hardware wallet. If hardware wallets are uninteresting to you but you want the next best way to store your Ethereum and ERC-20s, continue below.
More likely than not, if you are reading this, you already own some Ethereum or an ERC-20 token and you would like to securely store it off of the exchange where you purchased it. If this is not the case but you are interested in owning Ethereum or another cryptoasset you can check out our guide on how to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum and our guide on how to trade Bitcoin or Ethereum for another cryptoasset (such as an ERC-20 token) by following those links. If you are keeping your coins on an exchange right now we recommend setting up a wallet to keep them safe by continuing with this tutorial or by checking out this one.
If you are a normal person, you are probably wondering what on earth an ERC-20 token is. You can always find definitions for confusing terms like this in our taxonomy, but as it relates to this tutorial, ERC-20 tokens are cryptoassets which do not have their own blockchain, but rather their existence is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. While that definition may not make the term any clearer, what it means for the reader of this tutorial is that the proper place to store any ERC-20 token is in an Ethereum wallet. If you are unsure whether or not a token you own is an ERC-20 token, there is a good chance it is. To find out, you can visit https://eidoo.io/erc20-tokens-list/ and search for the name of the token you own by pressing ctrl and f at the same time and then typing in the name or the ticker of the coin you own.
Many of the most popular cryptoassets today are ERC-20 tokens and can be stored in a simple Ethereum wallet like the one we are about to set up, this means that once you know how to store Ethereum, you will also know how to store your ERC-20s. So, without further adieu, we can continue with our step by step guide on how to securely store your Ethereum and ERC-20 tokens using your computer.
Step 1: Install the Metamask Browser Extension
Metamask is a tool that allows you to interact with the Ethereum blockchain through your web browser. It is can be used to interact with a number of different applications made for the Ethereum blockchain. These applications include wallets, like the one we are going to set up today but they also include decentralized applications such as decentralized exchanges, games, marketplaces, and much more.
Even if all you want is an Ethereum wallet to put your ETH or other ERC-20’s in, Metamask is a good tool that will help you do that and equip you to do much more in the future.
Because Metamask is a Chrome browser extension, you will need to use Chrome or another browser that supports Chrome extensions such as Opera, Firefox, or Brave browser. For the sake of simplicity, we will walk through this how-to on Chrome. If you have none of the mentioned supported browsers, we recommended that you download an install Google Chrome from:
Once chrome is installed, you can follow this link to the Chrome Web Store:
Upon arrival at the Chrome Web Store, you can type “Metamask” into the search bar located at the upper left hand corner of your screen. After searching, the first option has an orange fox face with the word “Metamask” printed under it. This is the correct option and you can click the blue box to the right of that picture which says “add to chrome” as depicted below.
When you click “Add to Chrome” a message will pop up detailing what Metamask will be able to do that asks if you really want to install it. Metamask is a safe application from trusted developers so you can go ahead and click “add extension”.
Once you’ve added Metamask, the formerly blue “Add to Chrome” button will now be green and say “Rate it” and you will notice the little Metamask fox face in the upper right hand corner of your browser as indicated below. This means Metamask is installed and you’re ready for step two!
Step 2: Configure Metamask
Now that Metamask is installed, it’s time to get it set up. To begin this process, click the little fox face in the upper right hand corner of your browser (the one with the red arrow pointing to it in the last step). After clicking this arrow, you will have the option to try the new version of Metamask. This tutorial covers the setup of the new version although the steps should be more or less the same if you decide you don’t want to try the new version now. If you want to follow along with us, go ahead and click the big blue button which says “Try it Now”.
After clicking “Try it Now” a new tab will open which welcomes you to Metamask and you can click the big orange button in the middle of the page that says continue.
Once you press continue, you will arrive at a screen where you can create your password. This password will protect your money, so make sure it is a strong password, ideally consisting of at least 12+ characters which include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. We recommend a short and memorable phrase like,
Blockteqismy#1place2learnaboutcryptosince2018 (but one that is unique and memorable to you). The more characters and variety of these characters, the better. Once you have typed this password twice, you can press “create” to create your wallet as shown below.
After you create a password, Metamask will show you your “account image” which is a completely unique image to you and your wallet. You can look for this image to verify that you are using a real version of your wallet before you send a transaction.
The next warning Metamask offers is about a phenomenon known as “phishing”. Phishing is where websites pretend to be Metamask and as for your seed phrase (you will receive this seed phrase in the next step) to continue with your intended purpose for visiting the site. Metamask will never ask for your seed phrase, so if you find yourself on a website asking for your seed phrase, DO NOT enter it. These websites will steal all of the contents of your wallet.
Next, you will be presented with a screen containing your “secret backup phrase” also known as your seed phrase. This collection of words is like a seed that will always regrow your wallet. This means that anyone with access to this phrase can access your wallet. Because of this, it is recommend that you never store this phrase on a device that is connected to the internet (like the notepad app on your phone, or as a word doc saved on your computer). Instead, it is a better idea to write it down and put it somewhere secret and safe. If you feel like you may loose a copy, maybe write it down two or three times and store the copies in different places. Another option is to memorize the seed, but I certainly do not trust my memory that much.
To view your recovery seed (also known as your seed phrase), click the box that says “click here to reveal your secret words”. Once you can read the words, write them down! Whatever you do, do not skip over writing these words down and storing them someplace secure.
After you have your backup phrase written down, Metamask requires confirmation that you actually wrote it down (it is really important after all). In order to confirm you wrote it down, Metamask will present you with a jumbled list of your seed words and you need to click them in the order that you have them recorded.
Once you have confirmed your backup phrase, you will be taken to your fully setup Metamask wallet! It should look like this.
Within this wallet, you will be able to receive, send, and store ETH or any other ERC-20 token. To send ETH or an ERC-20 to this account, copy the address which starts with 0x that is below the words “Account 1” and paste it into the “send” box of wherever you are sending funds from.
Remember, if you send your ETH or ERC-20 tokens to the wrong place, you CANNOT recover them. Because of this, it is best to start with a test by sending a small amount of whatever token you are going to be keeping in this wallet before sending the full amount. Once the small amount you sent arrives, you will know you configured everything correctly and you are safe to send the full amount. After a test run or two, you will probably have the hang of how the wallet works.
Finally, when you are done with your wallet don’t forget to log out of Metamask. You can do this by clicking your unique account image in the upper right-hand corner and clicking “log out” at the top of the menu that appears as depicted below.
Thanks for checking out this tutorial! Now you know how to store Ethereum on your computer. Make sure to stay tuned for more!