What are public keys, private keys and wallet addresses in Ethereum?

Public keys, private keys, and wallet addresses are essential for understanding how Ethereum’s blockchain works and how ether transactions are secured. This Ethereum-focused wiki will explain these key concepts.

Ethereum Account Basics

Unlike Bitcoin, Ethereum has two types of accounts:

  • Externally owned accounts (EOAs) which are controlled by private keys and have ether balances
  • Contract accounts controlled by contract code

This wiki focuses on EOAs and their use of public/private key pairs to sign transactions.

EOAs are accounts created and owned by individuals or organizations. Just like you manage a bank account, Ethereum users must securely manage their account’s private keys and wallet addresses.

Ethereum Addresses

An Ethereum wallet address, or EOA address, is a 42 character hexadecimal string derived from the account’s public key like this:

0x067236d3abc1b119557203da72a53b56db7844f

This address can be publicly shared to receive ether and tokens on Ethereum. The address does not actually store or hold ether – it simply points to the location of funds on Ethereum’s blockchain.

Ethereum Public Keys

The Ethereum public key is a unique 66 character hexadecimal string derived mathematically from the private key:

04cf43abe5b07bbd5389c52b6057b3ac3d38bec1f0565299c3318743b122ee537a6eaf14d2da5f1f546a891c5c879996cbbf1ee45639769b41b20a6aa948844u2

This public key allows others to confirm valid signatures made by the account’s owner. Like the address, it indicates funds associated with an EOA rather than storing them directly.

Ethereum Private Keys

The Ethereum private key is a 64 character alphanumeric code used to access Ether funds and sign Ethereum transactions:

8254d2b02122e129025644ff6ce6b3e777aed3db4bb82e6932c140d8c3b690a6

This private key proves ownership associated with an account’s public key/address and authorizes transferring ether and tokens from that wallet.

Ethereum private keys should be kept highly secure since anyone who knows your private key has full control over the account and can withdraw all its funds.

Ethereum Wallets

An Ethereum wallet is cryptocurrency wallet software used to manage private keys, public keys, and addresses on Ethereum. Wallets handle:

  • Generating Ethereum addresses and key pairs
  • Signing & sending Ethereum transactions with private keys
  • Encrypting (backing up) private keys for security
  • Interacting with Ethereum’s blockchain

By using Ethereum wallet software, users can receive, store, and spend ether as well as manage ERC-20 tokens and decentralized applications. Leading types of Ethereum wallets include MetaMask, MyEtherWallet, TrustWallet, and hardware wallets like Ledger and Trezor.

Conclusion

In summary, Ethereum wallet addresses indicate balances, public keys enable verification of transactions, private keys authorize transfers of funds, and wallet software ties these elements together to send, receive, and interact with decentralized applications. Mastering these concepts is key for securely managing ether funds.

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