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How Does a Hardware Wallet Work?

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Imagine a vault so secure, it's virtually impenetrable. Now, picture that vault fitting snugly in your pocket, guarding not gold or diamonds, but something equally precious in today's digital age—your cryptocurrency. Intrigued? You should be. Welcome to the world of hardware wallets.

The content of this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. All views expressed are those of the author(s).

In this article, I will demystify how hardware wallets operate to secure access to your cryptocurrencies. If you already have a solid understanding of how hardware wallets function and are on the hunt for one, our hardware wallet reviews might be more up your alley, if not, buckle up, as we’re about to decode the fascinating mechanics behind hardware wallets! 🚀

How does a hardware wallet work

Hardware wallets work by generating a seed phrase, a list of words that serves as a backup in case you lose your device or forget your PIN, The seed phrase is secured by a cryptographic algorithm to prevent unauthorized access, even if the wallet gets stolen or is lost. The device generates a unique pair of cryptographic keys that are stored within the hardware wallet itself, a private key, and a public key when you set up the device for the first time.

The hardware wallet functions like a stripped-down, single-purpose computer, that needs to be asked permission to sign transactions and other services, you typically connect the hardware wallet to the computer or mobile device and will be prompted to enter a PIN or password, except if you use an air-gapped wallet, they do not connect to external hardware but instead uses QR codes to communicate.

The hardware wallets that connect with a PC or Mobile also typically provide software that you will have to install to interact with your cryptos, whereas the ones that use QR codes come with everything built into the screen on the device which can display transaction details, allowing users to verify that they are sending or receiving the correct amount of cryptocurrency to the correct addresses.

If you don't know what a hardware wallet is you are better off reading this article first: "What Is a Hardware Wallet".

Introduction Hardware Wallets

If you want to understand what a hardware wallet is, it is important to take a look the what makes up a hardware wallet and what use case it has, A hardware wallet basically consists of 2 main parts, hardware, and software, and you can use the hardware wallet to access your crypto on their respective blockchains.

When you want to make a transaction, you connect your hardware wallet to a computer or mobile device, enter your PIN, and confirm the transaction. The private keys never leave the device, so even if your computer or mobile device is compromised, your funds will remain completely safe.

Transacting with Hardware Wallets

Hardware wallets are a secure way to transact with your cryptocurrency. With a hardware wallet, you can send and receive transactions with peace of mind knowing that your private keys are stored offline, away from potential hackers. In this section, we will explore how to send and receive transactions using a hardware wallet.

It is worth noting that even tho the private keys are supposed to be safe and stored offline, you still rely on the security of the device and the software being deployed by the wallet provider.

Sending Transactions

To send cryptocurrency using a hardware wallet, you will, depending on device and model, need to connect your device to a computer or smartphone and access your wallet through a compatible app or website that will act as an interface talking to the hardware wallet, some hardware wallets have implanted the interface directly into the hardware wallet itself by adding a screen with a graphical UI eliminating the need for a PC or Mobile. Once you have access to your wallet, you can select the cryptocurrency you wish to send, pick one, and enter the recipient's wallet address. You will then need to confirm the transaction on your hardware wallet by verifying the transaction details and entering your PIN or seed phrase.

Please note that a hardware wallet is only providing an interface to make it easy to interact with your cryptocurrency with a high level of security, the cryptos are not stored on the hardware wallet.

Receiving Transactions

To receive cryptocurrency using a hardware wallet, you will need to provide the sender with your wallet address. This is a unique string of characters that identifies your wallet on the blockchain. You can find your wallet address by accessing your hardware wallet's app or website and then selecting the cryptocurrency you wish to receive. Your wallet address will be displayed, and you can then copy and paste it to the sender, For some wallets you can share a QR code which can be practical and one of the reasons air-grapped wallets are so secure.

Once the sender has initiated the transaction, it is impossible to tamper with and you will receive the cryptocurrency directly to your wallet which will then be displayed with your hardware wallet's software or interface. You can access your funds with a hardware wallet at any time.

Interacting with Hardware Wallets

When it comes to interacting with hardware wallets, there are a few different methods that you can use depending on the device and your preferences. Here are some of the most common ways to interact with a hardware wallet:

USB Cable

One of the most common ways of interacting with a hardware wallet is through a USB cable, connecting your hardware wallet to your computer or mobile device. Once you are connected, you can use the hardware wallet to confirm transactions and send or receive cryptocurrency.

QR Code

Another way to interact with a hardware wallet is through a QR code, the QR code which can be used for both sending and receiving cryptocurrency, this is in general considered the safest way to interact with your funds.

Please be aware that while QR codes are considered the safest solution, they are also considered to be the most inconvenient.


Some hardware wallets also support Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to easily interact with your wallet using your Bluetooth devices, typically mobile phones. This can be a convenient way to access your wallet on the go without having to carry around a USB cable or connect to a computer.

Please note that while Bluetooth is a convenient way to interact with your hardware wallet, Bluetooth is considered less safe because it can be a target for different malicious attacks.


Some of the newer hardware wallets now support NFC "Near Field Communication" technology, which allows you to interact with your wallet by tapping it against your mobile device to pair and create a connection, This can also be a much more convenient way as you don't have to carry a USB cable or connect to a computer.

As with Bluetooth, NFC comes with convenience, but is considered less secure due to the different malicious attack vectors NFC presents.

Security with Hardware Wallets

As mentioned before hardware wallets are considered one of the most secure ways to store your private keys, because, they are stored offline and far away from hackers, they use cold storage to keep your crypto assets safe even if the device is lost or damaged.

They provide an additional layer of protection compared to software wallets, which are connected to the internet and installed on personal, easily hackable, devices. In this section, we will discuss the various security features that popular hardware wallets offer.


One of the main security features of a hardware wallet is that operates offline, meaning they are not connected to the internet. This makes it much harder for hackers to access your crypto funds. When you need to make a transaction, you either briefly connect your hardware wallet to a computer or smartphone, confirm the transaction, and then disconnect it or you do it through a QR code on an air-gapped cryptocurrency wallet.

Private Keys

Hardware wallets store your private keys safely encrypted and are nearly immune to physical attacks, depending of course on the device, model, brand, and software version installed. This means that even if someone steals your hardware wallet, they will not be able to access your private keys without your PIN code or recovery phrase.

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Recovery Phrase

If your hardware wallet is lost or damaged, you can recover your crypto funds using a recovery phrase, also known as a seed phrase. This is a list of words that you write down and keep in a safe place. With this recovery phrase, you can restore access to your wallet and your crypto funds.

Pin Code Access

Most crypto hardware wallets make use of PIN code access, meaning you will need to enter a PIN code correctly, in x amount of times, if you fail the device reset itself. This adds an extra layer of security in case your hardware wallet is stolen or lost. You should choose a PIN code that is difficult to guess and keep it in a safe place where no one easily can get to it.


Some hardware wallets offer multi-signature functionality. This means that you can require multiple signatures to make a transaction. For example, you could require two out of three signatures to confirm a transaction, this functionality adds a huge layer of protection against home robbery attempts as you might have to travel to another location to do their bidding.

It is always important to take good security measures, as people tend to be raised with a "Paradise Hotel Mentality", The outcome is a society with people who do not know what real values, respect, and integrity are... Make it extremely hard for them to attack you.

Tamper Proof Chip

Hardware wallets can be designed with a tamper-proof chip, meaning that it has been made very difficult to modify the original chip used by the manufacturer without going unnoticed, most have also implemented a "self-destruct" or "zeroize" feature that wipes the chip clean of any sensitive information if tampering has been detected by any of the security implementations made for detecting tampering.


In case you do not believe that Crypto Is Dead, I think it is safe to conclude that hardware wallets have tremendous value when it comes to securing your digital assets. These wallets are not only secure but also offer a variety of convenient ways to interact with them, including USB cables, QR codes, Bluetooth, and NFC. Each method comes with its own trade-offs between convenience and security. While hardware wallets are generally considered the safest options for storing cryptocurrencies, they do have some downsides, such as higher costs and being less convenient for frequent trading. Despite these limitations, hardware wallets come highly recommended, especially for those who hold significant amounts of cryptocurrency and prioritize security.

Veelgestelde Vragen

What are the downsides of hardware wallets?
They can be expensive, less convenient for frequent trading, and there's a risk of physical loss or damage.
Are hardware wallets 100% safe?
No, but they are among the safest options for accessing crypto.
Are hardware wallets worth it?
Yes, especially if you have a significant amount of crypto or prioritize security.
Is crypto safe on a hardware wallet?
Generally, yes, as they keep your keys offline.
Can hardware wallets fail?
Yes, due to hardware failure, software bugs, or user error.
Can crypto be stolen from a hardware wallet?
It's rare but possible, especially if someone gains physical access and knows your PIN or seed phrase.
Do you lose your crypto if you lose your hardware wallet?
No, you can recover your funds using your backup seed phrase.
What if the hardware wallet provider goes out of business?
You can still recover your funds using your seed phrase on another compatible wallet.
How long can a hardware wallet last?
The lifespan varies but generally, many years if well-maintained.
What if my hardware wallet breaks?
You can restore your funds on a new device using your seed phrase.

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