Explained: What is the difference between public keys, private keys, and wallet addresses?

Mastering addresses, public keys, and private keys are essential to understanding how cryptocurrencies function.


To access any encrypted information, a public key and a private key are both required in cryptography. Cryptography, in its most basic form, is the process of encrypting data in order to keep it hidden from prying eyes. It’s used to ensure that data can only be decoded by those who have authorization.


What is the definition of cryptography?


“Cryptography” is a term with Greek roots that originally meant “hidden writing.” Cryptography developed from intelligence agencies and the military composing and decoding classified messages to become a unique practice of computer science throughout time. Cryptocurrencies, like the internet, have their roots in academic and military applications that have now spread to the public world.


Since the late 1980s, those active in this movement have referred to themselves as “cypherpunks,” and they have advocated for more privacy and control over our data.


Why is a two-key system used in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?


The two-key system works on the following principle: the public key allows you to accept transactions, while the private key is required to send them. When we look at how this amazing system actually works, things become a little more tricky.


Asymmetric cryptography involves the use of two separate keys (a public and a private key), and it is a necessary aspect of a blockchain. In mathematical terms, the two keys are linked to each other.


The private key is the origin of the unique public key. Users can use this connection to establish unforgeable signatures that can only be verified by other network participants who have access to the relevant public key.


What makes an address, a key, and a wallet different?


The differences between addresses, keys, and wallets are frequently misunderstood. Let’s take a closer look at each of their qualities one by one to have a better understanding of the subject.




An address is a sequence of numbers and characters that are produced at random to represent a form of a unique number, comparable to a bank account number. As an example, consider the Bitcoin genesis address, which was the first Bitcoin address ever created: 1A1zP1eP5QGefi2DMPTfTL5SLmv7DivfNa.


The distinction is that anyone can create an address for free and in a matter of seconds without the assistance of a third party. You are free to create as many public addresses as you want or need.


You are allowed to give out your public address to anyone. People can then transfer cryptocurrencies to your address.




Keys are classified into two types: public keys and private keys. Account numbers are analogous to public keys. They are open to anyone, and anybody can make transactions with them.


Private keys, on the other hand, should, as the name implies, be kept private. Consider them a type of PIN or verification code that, when combined with the matching public key, provides you accessibility to the physical funds on the blockchain.


Under no circumstances should you disclose your private key(s) with anybody else. It’s preferable to keep them in the safest place possible (e.g. on a paper wallet or a hardware wallet).


It should be noted that the keys are not maintained on a blockchain. They can instead be preserved in an (encrypted) file that can be saved anywhere and stored offline.




Consider a wallet to be an encrypted virtual keychain holding all of the information required to access your funds on the Bitcoin network. A wallet stores both your address(es) and your digital key (s).


A wallet in its most basic form is a file storing a database. Since it does not require a link to a real blockchain, it may easily be stored offline.

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Any opinions, news, research, analyses, prices, or other information discussed in this presentation or linked to from this presentation are provided as general market commentary and do not constitute investment advice.

MX Global Team does not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to, any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from the use of or reliance on such information.