The seed words (also know as your ‘recovery phrase‘) are the most important part of your wallet. They are your backup that you use to recover your wallet and its contents should you lose access to it. The seed words are created at the same time you create your wallet and you’ll usually be instructed to write the seed words down and store them somewhere safe.
Your wallet seed words are actually a mnemonic representation of your private key, and if your wallet was created to the BIP39 standard (as 99% of current wallets are) then you can recover your wallet and it’s contents on any type of BIP39 compatible wallet. For example, if your original wallet was a MultiBit HD software wallet you can easily recover it to a Ledger Nano as both are BIP39 compatible.
BIP39 compatible wallets include: Exodus, Trust Wallet, MetaMask, MultiBit HD, Breadwallet, Ledger Nano S and X, Trezor One and Model T.
Losing Your Seed Words
Unfortunately some people don’t take as much care as they should when creating a wallet and write their seed words down incorrectly, or don’t write them down at all. This causes big problems when people lose access to their wallets. To regain access to their funds the wallet will have to be cracked by a very powerful computer that fills in the blanks by guessing the missing seed words. The more missing words there are the longer the time it takes to crack the wallet. Here are some scenarios for recovering seed words:
Some of the seed words are missing – If 1 or 2 seed words are missing the chances of recovering the wallet are extremely good and a wallet can be cracked quite quickly. If 3 seed words are missing it’ll take days to crack a wallet and if 4 seed words are missing then it can take weeks. Anything more that 4 missing seed words can quickly become impractical.
Some of the seed words are wrong – In these instances it’s a case of identifying which of the seed words are wrong and then using various techniques to identify the correct words before swapping them out. As in the example above, the more wrong words there are the longer it’ll take to crack the wallet. Recovery chances are good.
The seed words are in the wrong order – As long as you are sure of the seed words, it’s quite straightforward to find their correct order, so the recovery chances are excellent.
The seed words were never recorded – There is no chance of recovering the wallet