This Is Why You Should Never Get Rid of Your Old or Unused Private Keys

Including your 24 word secret passphrases, private key JSON files, and hardware wallets.

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By Donald McIntyre

September 15th, 2022

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Never delete your private keys.

Our private keys are the secret passwords to control and manage our addresses on public blockchains.

Under our addresses, we hold our crypto assets such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, stablecoins, NFTs, blockchain domain names, and others.

These private keys and addresses are unique in universe for each user who manages his/her crypto assets on self custody or non-custodial wallets such as Emerald.

When users control their own private keys, there is no other entity who has access to their addresses on public blockchains except themselves. This is the security guarantee and decentralization that blockchains offer.

However, our addresses will "live" in blockchains forever and are generally known to anyone who can see them in the ledger, which is transparent and public.

This means that every address that we have ever used on any blockchain is open and subject to keep receiving crypto assets in the future.

If for some reason you stopped using old addresses, it is not wise to get rid of their corresponding private keys from your files because you think that they are not necessary anymore.

It is entirely possible that you may receive, by mistake or unsolicited, crypto assets in any of your old addresses. This may happen because a past counterparty may use it to send you things, a new project or entity may decide to send you "helicopter" money, or for any reason that may be.

It is not a good idea to get rid even of compromised private keys.

Even if compromised, you could still have crypto assets sent there and it is important that you keep access to these addresses to move them as soon as possible.

The above security recommendation applies also to your old, compromised, or unused 24 word secret passphrases, private key JSON files, and hardware wallets. These all contain your private keys in one form or another.


If you have private keys, 24 word secret passphrases, private key JSON files, or hardware wallets that you don't use anymore, just keep them in a safe place together with your current ones as you never know when or if you will need to use them again!

Thank you for reading this post!

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