Choosing the Best Ethereum Wallet for You - dummies

Choosing the Best Ethereum Wallet for You

By Michael Solomon

You have many choices for Ethereum wallets. Here, you learn about the most popular types. You can use this information to decide which Ethereum wallet will best fit your needs.

Ethereum wallet

If, after reading this, you aren’t sure which one is the best Ethereum wallet, don’t worry — choose the one that looks good and start using it. If you decide later to change to another wallet, the process is easy. And no rule dictates that you can’t have multiple Ethereum wallets. (It’s not like cramming multiple wallets into your back pocket!)

Software Ethereum wallets

Software wallets are simply programs that generate, store, and manage your keys Your options are web wallets, desktop wallets, and mobile wallets. The two primary differences among software wallet options are where they run and where they store your keys.

Web wallets for Ethereum

Web wallets are popular for casual Ethereum use. They are easy to use and make access to your keys convenient. To open your Ethereum wallet, you need only an Internet connection, a web browser, and your login credentials.

Popular Ethereum Web Wallets
Name Description Pros Cons
MyEtherWallet Open-source, decentralized cold wallet. You locally control your keys. Most popular Ethereum web wallet. Works well with hardware wallets. Has been hacked and may be vulnerable to phishing attacks.
Coinbase Popular cryptocurrency exchange that provides a hot wallet as well. Provides more than just wallet services. Long history handling cryptocurrency. Limited tokens and coins supported. Keys stored online.
Guarda Cold wallet that supports multiple cryptocurrencies and makes it easy to transfer funds between cryptocurrencies. Also offers a desktop wallet. One of the first to support multiple types of coins and tokens. Doesn’t store personal info. User must manage local key storage.

Ethereum desktop wallets

Desktop wallets are software programs that run on a personal computer. Most desktop wallets store keys locally, so you need to have access to your computer to open your Ethereum wallet.

Popular Ethereum Desktop Wallets
Name Description Pros Cons
Exodus First to offer multiple cryptocurrencies in a single wallet. Cold wallet with easy key backup and restore operations. Visually appealing and informative, easy-to-use interface. Source code is not open source.
Mist Cold wallet and the official Ethereum wallet, developed by those who created Ethereum. Created by the Ethereum Foundation, officially endorsed wallet. Less user friendly than other wallets.
MetaMask Cold wallet running as a Firefox or Chrome extension. Supports easy switching between test and live Ethereum networks. Partially funded by the Ethereum Foundation, easy to use in Chrome. Easy to switch between test and live networks. Released only as a Chrome extension, making it possible for other websites to see that you have a wallet installed.

Mobile Ethereum wallets

Mobile wallets are similar to desktop wallets, but the software runs on mobile devices. Your keys are commonly stored on the mobile device as well. A mobile wallet is a good option if you always want your keys with you. The drawback is that if you lose your mobile device, you could lose access to your Ethereum assets. (That’s why backups are always good.)

Popular Ethereum Mobile Wallets
Name Description Pros Cons
Jaxx Cold wallet available on mobile devices and desktops (Windows, macOS, Linux). Multi-platform support. Stores keys on specified device. Code is not open source. Limited number of coins and tokens supported.
Coinomi Cold wallet for multiple cryptocurrencies currently available for only Android mobile devices. Runs on Android, iOS, and desktops. Extensive list of supported coins and tokens. Focus on privacy. Code is not open source.
Bread (BRD) Cold wallet for multiple cryptocurrencies that runs on iOS and Android mobile devices. No central server. Easy to use and fast. Code is open source. Limited number of supported coins and tokens. No two-factor authentication.

Hardware Ethereum wallets

Hardware wallets provide an extra layer of security for your keys because they are stored on a physical chip inside the device. Most hardware wallets for Ethereum are USB devices. You access your keys by attaching the wallet device to a computer or a mobile device, and then running some software to access the keys.

Depending on the device, the software could be web based or running locally on the computer or mobile device. Several software wallets provide the option to integrate with hardware Ethereum wallets to make key storage even more secure.

Storing your keys on your own device means that you have to take measures to secure the device. Always be aware of the device’s location and always have a backup in case the device goes missing.

Popular Hardware Ethereum Wallets
Name Description Pros Cons
Ledger Nano S Secure physical device that supports multiple cryptocurrencies and uses two-factor authentication. Small. Most popular hardware wallet. Hardware designed for security. Supports over 700 types of coins and tokens. Cost ($59). Requires client software to control crypto-assets.
Trezor Secure physical device that supports multiple cryptocurrencies and uses two-factor authentication. Established reputation. Physical buttons or touchscreen. Supports nearly 700 types of coins and tokens. Cost ($49). Requires a web wallet to control some stored crypto-assets.
KeepKey Similar to the Ledger Nano S and Trezor features, but with a slightly larger screen. Firmware is open source. Designed to meet current blockchain requirements. Cost ($49). Relative newcomer. Limited number of supported coins and token types. Requires Chrome add-in.

Paper Ethereum wallets

A paper wallet is the simplest type of Ethereum wallet. After you create an account and generate your keys, you simply print the keys on a plain piece of paper. Your keys exist only on the paper you used to print them; you don’t store them using software or on a hardware device.

The advantage to a paper Ethereum wallet is that you have supreme control over your keys and no one else can touch them. That’s the biggest drawback, too. You have to take extra precautions to securely store a backup copy in case something happens to your piece of paper.

Popular Paper Ethereum Wallets
Name Description Pros Cons
ETHAddress Open-source project with source code you can compile and run on your own computer to generate private and public keys. Open-source code. Useful for creating multiple accounts and keys. No easy to use interface. Must download and run code or use Chrome add-in.
MyEtherWallet Provides the option to print your keys instead of storing them. The easiest way to create your own paper wallet. Easy-to-use web interface for creating accounts and keys. You must protect generated keys.

Whichever Ethereum wallet you select should be carefully weighed against the benefits, drawbacks, and ultimately, how you plan to use it.