Stay secure with your handy guide to private keys! – The BTC Blog is always looking to bring new users into the world of bitcoin. We understand, however, that the technology can seem overwhelming to someone with little experience using it. With that in mind, we have decided to create a series of blog posts explaining certain topics in a concise and easy to digest manner. This week, we tackle private keys.

When sending or receiving bitcoin, your public key is used to generate your wallet address.

To create your public key, however, you will need a private key.

Whereas a traditional banking system will sign transactions for you, bitcoin transactions are “signed” by the transactor, using his or her private key. Once signed, broadcasts the transaction. This means that you maintain control of all of your transactions. Furthermore, transactions are always made at a fee that is competitive relative to other bitcoin transactions in the network. There are no flat fees.

Often, a private key takes the form of a long, alphanumeric string. With a wallet, however, your private key is encoded in a more human-friendly text block, consisting of randomly generated words.

These words can be manually input or uploaded into the Blocktrail recovery tool (which we detailed in a recent blog post), in the unlikely event that the office is unavailable or inoperative.

Thus, a private key is an assurance that you always have access to—and are able to spend—your bitcoin.