If you have an old wallet that you haven’t looked at in years, MEW is a great place to restore access to your assets, and then dive right back into all the latest and best developments on Ethereum.
Whatever your access method, MEW supports it, though you may have to take a few extra steps to keep your access secure. Once you’ve located your coins, we can help you get them to a safer, better wallet, and catch you up on all the news in the space since you were gone.
What to do if you have an old:
- Do you have a printout of a public address, a private key, a QR code, and/or a 12/24 word phrase? This is usually what a ‘paper wallet’ looks like. Here, the private key or the phrase will be your method of access. Keep in mind that we don’t recommend entering your private key directly online. Here’s why: the private key gives full and permanent access to your wallet’s contents, so accidentally entering it on a fake site or having it exposed to malware can lead to the immediate theft of your assets.
- Search your public address on an Ethereum block explorer like EthVM or Etherscan. Note which cryptocurrencies you hold and their balances. If you are seeing unexpected balances, review your transaction history. A transaction that you don’t recognize could mean that, unfortunately, your wallet was compromised. If your coin balances are as expected, you can access them by importing your private key or phrase into a wallet.
- When restoring with a recovery phrase, we recommend using either MEW wallet app or our web3 browser extension wallet Enkrypt to restore your wallet. Just download the app or install the extension, and choose 'Restore' wallet instead of creating a new one. If you're having issues with importing the phrase, see our Recovery phrase article for troubleshooting.
- If you are trying to restore access using a private key, you will see that MEW web does support access by private key under ‘Software’ methods, BUT we don't recommend using the private key online. For a private key wallet recovery we offer two options:
a. Using MEW web offline. You will have to download MEW and install it on a computer that’s not connected to the internet, then access with your private key while still offline. Follow our Help Center guide to do this and send a transaction from your old wallet to a new one. If you hold multiple currencies, you will need to send multiple transactions, and remember that you need to have some ETH in the wallet for gas to send out tokens. We know this seems like a hassle, but we promise, it’s worth the safety of your assets. You just need to do this once, and then continue your crypto journey with a more secure setup.
b. Using our web3 browser extension wallet Enkrypt. First, you will need to create a new wallet with Enkrypt and write down the recovery phrase. Then, you can import an additional account using your private key or keystore file.
Private key, phrase, or keystore file
- Even if you didn’t print out a paper wallet, you might have the private key or phrase written down. An Ethereum private key has 64 hexadecimal characters (meaning numbers and letters a-f), not counting an ‘0x’ in the beginning. A recovery or mnemonic phrase will have 12 or 24 words (rarely, 13 or 25 words if it features a passphrase).
- Alternatively, you may have saved a keystore/JSON file on your computer and written down a password for it. The file only works together with the password chosen when the file was created. If you have only the file or only the password, unfortunately, we can’t restore access for you.
- For these three types of wallet access — the ones we call ‘Software’ on our Access Wallet page — the same advice applies as to the ‘Paper wallet’ above: check your public address balance on a block explorer, set up a new secure wallet, and follow the instructions for offline access to transfer your assets, or import your wallet into the Enkrypt extension.
I think I created an account…
- MEW is a non-custodial wallet, which means we don’t collect or store any user information, and don’t manage accounts. Giving us your email or phone number won’t help — we never had that information, and it was not tied to any account. If you remember generating a wallet, you will need to find the access information: a private key, a phrase, or a keystore file plus password. Check your files and notes from the time when you remember creating the wallet. You are looking for a list of 12 or 24 words, a 64-character string of letters and numbers, or a file that has a name beginning with ‘UTC’. Once you locate your keys, see the ‘Paper wallet’ and ‘Private key, keystore file, or phrase’ sections above.
- Another possibility is that you were actually using a centralized service, like Coinbase or Binance. In that case, you would have made an account and used an email/password type of login rather than getting your wallet keys. Centralized exchanges and wallets might be able to restore your access through your email address, so if you think this applies to you, contact their support.
- If you can’t find anything that looks like your keys, unfortunately, we can’t help you recover the wallet. We never collected your information and you are the only one who had access to your crypto.
- The most common issue with accessing assets on an old hardware wallet is that users can’t find the address they were using before. Most likely, this has to do with the wrong derivation path. These paths are like branches on a tree – one wallet seed phrase will generate a different set of addresses for every derivation path. When you access the MEW web interface, you may be able to select different paths from a dropdown. Try as many as possible to see if you can spot your address.
- Another reason for wrong addresses with a hardware wallet is that you were using a passphrase before, and aren’t using it now, or vice versa. When a seed phrase is used with an additional passphrase – an extra 13th/25th word – it will lead to a different set of addresses, just like a different derivation path.
- Or perhaps you reset your wallet since you used it last and generated a new seed phrase? In this case, all your addresses will be different than before. To regain access to old addresses, you should reset the wallet again and restore using your old phrase (if you have it written down, of course).
- For more information and tips on troubleshooting wrong addresses, see this MEWtopia article.
- If you tried everything and still can’t find the right address, you might need to contact the hardware wallet company for additional support, or resort to third-party tools that cycle through many possible paths to look for your address. If you must, only use such programs in an offline setting. Never enter your seed phrase directly into a website! This can compromise your wallet and lead to immediate loss of assets.
Found and secured my assets! What now?
- Consider creating a completely new wallet (either with MEW wallet app, Enkrypt extension, or by purchasing a hardware wallet) and moving your funds from the old wallet to the new one. While you may be confident that no one had access to your paper wallet while it was lying around, this might not be the case, especially if you were keeping some of the information on a computer.
- Explore the crypto space to see what's new. Both MEW wallet app and Enkrypt browser allow you to buy ETH, swap tokens on decentralized exchanges, stake on Ethereum, and interact with any web3 sites, DApps and marketplaces on the decentralized internet. If you decided to get a hardware wallet, both MEW web and Enkrypt support connection with a hardware wallet like Ledger or Trezor, so you can swap tokens and interact with DApps while keeping your crypto secure on the hardware device.
- If you’ve been out of the loop for a while, it’s probably a good idea to refresh your memory and read up on the recent developments. Visit our Help Center and the MEWtopia blog for news, beginner guides, and fresh ideas to get the most value out of your Ethereum assets.
We hope you found this guide helpful, but if you are still struggling, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to help you recover your wallet. A lot has changed in crypto in the last few years, and you may feel lost, but we are so glad to see you again! From the oldest forgotten wallet, to the latest and best in Ethereum — MEW is here for you.
If you are regaining access to a mnemonic phrase or hardware wallet and seeing wrong addresses, see these articles for more help: https://www.mewtopia.com/dear-mew-i-dont-see-the-right-address-when-using-mnemonic-phrase/
Confused why you can't just restore wallet access with your email, phone number, or id, as you would with a social media platform or bank? See our explanation of how crypto wallets are different: https://www.mewtopia.com/why-we-are-not-a-bank/