Frequently Asked Questions

Electrum FAQs - Contents


  • How do I open a different wallet?

    Electrum allows you to have unlimited wallets each in their own wallet file. By default it’ll open the last wallet you used. Here are different ways you can open a new wallet file in Electrum:

    1. Use File menu > Open or File > Recently Open
    2. If you have a password protected default wallet you will see a window like the following when running electrum:

      Click on choose to open the file navigation window and choose a different wallet file. If you want to create a new wallet simply change the name in the wallet field to a unique name for your new wallet file.

    3. You can create a shortcut to open a specific wallet using the command line switch -w. For example on Linux:

      electrum -w /path/to/wallet/file

      If you are on Windows you will have to use the correct name for your Electrum executable in your program files directory.

    4. Another option is to rename the default_wallet wallet file and electrum will show the wallet opening/creation window. The wallet file is located here.

    The wallet file name and wallet type are always present in the Electrum window title. You can also find this information under Wallet menu > Information. So please pay attention to what wallet you are using when you have multiple wallets.

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  • How can I tell what my wallet type is and what my wallet file name is?

    • The Electrum window title should list the wallet type and filename.
    • The filename and wallet type are also listed in wallet menu > information.

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  • How does a 2fa wallet work?

    A 2fa wallet is a multisig wallet where transactions need to be signed with any 2 out of 3 secrets associated with the wallet. Your seed contains 2 secrets and the third one is with the co-signing company Trusted Coin. Your seed is only displayed during the wallet creation process so that you can back it up. It is not stored in your wallet file because if it were you wouldn’t need any 2nd factor authentication at all i.e. no need for Trusted Coin’s services. Instead your wallet has only one secret and during normal usage you need Trusted Coin to sign your transactions or you can’t spend. Trusted Coin only signs transactions if you provide it with the correct 2fa code from your phone. This way if your computer is ever compromised the thief can’t steal your bitcoins because they can’t generate the 2fa code which is only on your phone.

    Obviously, if the computer was already compromised at the time of wallet creation then you would lose your bitcoins because the seed is displayed at the time of wallet creation and that is sufficient to steal from you.

    How do 2fa codes work? The way 2fa works is that you and Trusted Coin have a shared secret which is contained in the QR code which is displayed during the wallet creation process. You scan this code with google authenticator or some other 2fa app on your phone. When you need to enter the 2fa code in Electrum you open the app on your phone and look for the entry for Trusted Coin. The app on your phone combines the shared secret with the current time and generates a one time password (OTP) of 5-6 digits. Trusted Coin will do the same to verify that you have the same shared secret. In this manner you get the 2fa protection you seek.

    How do I tell if I have the shared secret? There should be an entry for Trusted Coin in the 2fa app on your phone that contains the shared secret. You don’t have to save the OTPs.

    What if I lose my phone? If you lose your phone you can still recover your wallet with your seed. If you didn’t write down your seed then you should create a new wallet and move your coins to it ASAP because if you ever lose your phone in future you will also lose access to your coins.

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  • What do the transaction status messages on the history tab mean?

    Electrum displays various messages pertaining to a transaction’s status in the date column on the history tab. Here is what they mean:

    Unconfirmed Transactions

    These are transactions that have yet to be incorporated by miners in the blockchain. All transactions initially start of as unconfirmed and gradually confirm over time. You generally don’t have to do anything to get your unconfirmed transaction to confirm.

    Here are status messages that pertain to these unconfirmed transactions:

    • Unconfirmed parent: The transaction that generated your transaction’s inputs is unconfirmed i.e. the parent transaction is unconfirmed.
    • Local: A transaction that you created, signed and saved in your wallet file but didn’t broadcast yet. If you wish to broadcast this transaction right click on it and choose details. Then click on broadcast.
    • Unconfirmed: An unconfirmed transaction that is neither local nor has an unconfirmed parent transaction.

    In addition to the above certain extra information is displayed in brackets starting with Electrum 3.1.0:

    • Replaceable or RBF means that the transaction can be replaced with a higher fee one. If this is an outgoing transaction you can bump the fee using the increase fee option if you like.
    • Fee in satoshis per byte. Learn more about transaction fees here.
    • In certain cases the total size of higher paying unconfirmed transactions in the mempool is displayed like this “x MB”. These transactions will be incorporated into blocks before your transaction is. If you want to estimate how long it’ll take for your transaction to confirm you can do that by dividing x with the average size of blocks which these days is 1.3MB and multiply by the average time between blocks which is 10 minutes.

    Don’t deliver the goods or services you are selling for the bitcoins until the transaction in question confirms. New blocks are generated on average once every 10 minutes so you have to wait to see if the transaction gets incorporated in a block and becomes confirmed or not.

    Confirmed Transactions

    Transactions that have been incorporated in the blockchain have these graphics next to their entry on the history tab:

    • A clock icon means the transaction has confirmed but not enough times to be considered irreversible. Given more time it’ll almost certainly be confirmed a sufficient number of times. For low value transactions you can deliver the goods or services now. For larger transactions you may wish to wait for a green tick.
    • A green tick mark next to the transaction means it has confirmed sufficient number of times and is now irreversible.
    Transactions with uncertain status
    • Not verified means that Electrum is not sure whether this transaction is valid. Switch servers or restart Electrum to get a more definite status.

    Thanks to SomberNight for help with this question.

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  • Receiving bitcoin

    • Where is my bitcoin address?

      To receive money to your wallet you can go to the receive tab and grab a bitcoin address from there.

      Click on the little blue icon on the “Receiving address” field to copy the address to your clipboard.

      If you like you can fill in the description and amount fields. The description that you fill in here will show up on the history tab when someone sends money to that particular address. Click on save to save the record in your wallet file.

      Both the amount and description fields are for your reference only. They are not shared with anyone and they don’t affect how much money someone can send you.

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    • Why does Electrum give me a different address everytime?

      All bitcoin transactions are public so it is a good idea to use a different bitcoin address for every transaction so that it becomes harder for someone to track your activities.

      OTOH it becomes easier for you to track who sent you how much when you give each sender a different bitcoin address.

      Because of the above reasons Electrum hands out different receiving addresses each time you go to the receive tab and request an address. Your old addresses can still be used to send you money. They never stop working and your electrum wallet keeps track of all your addresses.

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    • Will my old address no longer work?

      Your old receiving addresses can still be used to send you money. They never stop working and your electrum wallet keeps track of all your addresses.

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    • How can I tell if an address belongs to my wallet?

      There are two ways:

      1. Go to view menu > show console, switch to console tab, enter the following and press enter:

        ismine("<youraddress>")

        For example if you want to know whether 1BitcoinEaterAddressDontSendf59kuE belongs to your wallet you would put

        ismine("1BitcoinEaterAddressDontSendf59kuE")

        If it displays true in response to the above then that address belongs to your wallet

      2. Go to view menu > show addresses, switch to addresses tab and press ctrl+f to search for addresses.

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  • Sending Bitcoin

    • Are fees deducted from the amount I send or from my wallet balance?

      When sending someone money with your Electrum wallet transaction fees are deducted from your wallet balance. The recipient gets the exact amount you enter in the amount field on the send tab.

      For more information see the screenshot in the next question here.

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    • How can I find out how much I will pay in fees when sending bitcoin?

      Go to tools menu > preferences > fees tab and check edit fees manually. Then on the send tab you should see the total amount of fees you are going to pay as well as the arithmetic Electrum did to arrive at that amount:

      If you pause your mouse cursor over the fee slider you should see an informative tooltip. The further to the right you move the fee slider the higher the fee you pay and the faster the transaction is likely to confirm. You can also set a fee rate manually by editing the value in the fee rate or total fee fields.

      More information about transaction fees is given here.

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  • Troubleshooting

    • My bitcoin transaction is not confirming. What can I do?

      Usually transactions confirmation within an hour. If your transaction hasn’t confirmed for a long time it means you didn’t pay a high enough fee.

      How to get your low fee transaction confirmed

      First of all you have to be using the latest version of Electrum. Download and install the latest version of Electrum like you did the last time to upgrade. Then you can try any one of these steps to get your transaction confirmed:

      1. Bump the fee: Right click on the transaction in the history tab and see if the option to “Increase Fees” or “Child pays for parent” (CPFP) are there. Using either of these options you can bump the fee for your transaction in order to get it confirmed. Once you’ve set a new fee you will see a window like this where you click on sign (if the transaction status is unsigned) and then broadcast.If the increase fee or CPFP options are not available then that means you can’t speed up transaction confirmation for this transaction using the easy to use bits of the Electrum interface. You may be able to do a manual CPFP so look into that.
      2. Wait it out: You cannot lose bitcoins due to unconfirmed transactions. Bitcoin transactions are atomic in nature which means that they either get confirmed and the recipient gets the bitcoins or they don’t get confirmed and the coins remain in your wallet.  It can take up to 2 weeks for bitcoin full nodes to forget about your unconfirmed transaction. When that happens your wallet will show the coins back in your wallet. It is also possible that in that time period some miner picks up your transaction and incorporates it into a block i.e. the transaction confirms and the recipient gets the money. So to summarize you can simply wait for either of these two outcomes to happen. You don’t need to keep Electrum or even your computer running for either of these two outcomes to happen.
      3. Pay miners another way: You can use “transaction accelerator” services which are run by miners. They offer to incorporate your transaction in a block if you pay them or if you listen to their political message. Two examples of these are the free viabtc accelerator and the paid btc.com one.
      Prevent low fee transactions

      To prevent this sort of thing from happening in future please enable dynamic fees and replace by fee (RBF) in Electrum. Dynamic fees means that Electrum automatically sets a suitable fee based on market conditions. RBF marks a transaction as replaceable so that if it gets stuck due to low fees you can create a higher fee replacement transaction in Electrum. The increase fee option mentioned earlier is what does that.

      Go to tools > preferences > fees tab and select ETA or Mempool for “Fee estimation” and check “Use replace-by-fee”.

      Then use the fee slider on the send tab to set a fee when sending bitcoin. The further to the right you move the slider the faster your transaction will confirm and the higher the fee you will pay. Pausing your mouse cursor on the fee slider will display a tooltip with useful information about the fee.

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    • Electrum is stuck at synchronizing. What can I do to fix this?

      Older Electrum versions, like those found on the TAILS live CD, often get stuck at synchronizing. To fix it this follow these steps:

      • Write down your wallet seed if you haven’t already done so and upgrade to the latest version of Electrum. To upgrade you download and install electrum the same way you originally did. The official site is electrum.org.
      • If you are using Electrum on TAILS then you can follow this guide by /u/jcoinner to install the latest version.
      • If you are already on the latest version of Electrum then switch to a different Electrum server.
      • Check that you don’t have a firewall or antivirus program blocking Electrum’s access to the net.

      Finally if non of the above steps works you can create a thread on the forum for help.

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    • Why did my wallet send money to an unknown address without my permission?

      There are 3 possibilities:

        1. Change: The way bitcoin works unspent outputs have to be spent in their entirety. Excess amounts are sent back to a change address in your wallet. To confirm that this is the case right click on the transaction in question on the history tab and choose details. See if the unknown output in question is highlighted in green or yellow. Yellow refers to change addresses while green means receive address. Both change and receiving addresses are a part of your wallet meaning these coins were sent back to your wallet. You control this money and it is yours.
        2. 2 factor authentication wallet fees: Your wallet is a 2fa wallet and you are paying the fee associated with that wallet. You can find out what your wallet type is by looking at the Electrum window title. Does it say 2fa or 2 factor authentication there? If yes then the fees are for the services of the co-signing company Trusted Coin. Trusted Coin co-signs your transactions if you provide it with the correct google authorization code from your mobile phone when spending your bitcoins. This is an additional layer of security for your wallet and that is what you are paying for.

          Trusted Coin’s fees are for batches of outgoing transactions i.e. you prepay for a bunch of spending transactions at once. Receiving bitcoin is always free. You can learn what their fees are and how many spending transactions you’ve prepaid for by clicking on the little blue shield icon in the bottom right of your Electrum window. Compare the trusted coin fees with the amount that has gone to the unknown address. If the numbers tally then there is nothing wrong with your wallet.

          Part of Trusted Coin’s fees go to support Electrum development so by using a 2fa wallet you are support the development of this awesome free bitcoin wallet. However, if you don’t want to continue using a 2fa wallet you can move your coins to a new standard wallet. Start by creating a new standard wallet and then grab a receiving address from that wallet and send all your coins to it using your 2fa wallet. You can switch between wallets using file menu > open.

        3. Malware: If you are sure it’s neither change nor 2fa fees then it’s probably be a malware infection that has stolen your bitcoin. Bitcoin transactions are irreversible so there is nothing that can be done if your coins are stolen by malware.

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    • What can I do if Electrum won't start?

      Try deleting the all files in the Electrum data directory except the wallets sub-directory. The data directory is one level up from the wallets directory the location of which is given here. Run Electrum after you do this and hopefully it’ll start.

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    • Why am I being told that I have insufficient funds?

      Possible reasons for this include:

      1. Insufficient accounting for transaction fees: This error usually means that you haven’t taken transaction fees into account. Transactions fees are really high on the bitcoin network now.

        In Electrum go to Tools menu > Preferences > Fees tab and check “Edit Fees Manually”. Now you’ll see the absolute amount you have to pay as fees on the send tab next to the slider.

      2. Confusion over unit of account: New units like mbtc, bits and so on lead to confusion about how much money you really have in your account and how much you can afford to spend. I strongly recommend switching to BTC as your base unit to avoid misunderstandings like these in future. You can do that via Tools menu > Preferences > Appearance > Base Unit option.
      3. Unconfirmed vs. Confirmed Coins:  If you have received money but that transaction has not yet confirmed Electrum may not allow you to spend that money. You can change this by going to Tools > Preferences > Transaction tab > Spend only confirmed coins.
      4. Frozen Addresses: It is possible to freeze addresses so that money sent to them cannot be spent. Go to View menu > Show addresses, switch to addresses tab, change the filter up top to receiving and funded and then look for addresses with a cyan or purple background. Change the filter to change and funded and look again for addresses with coloured backgrounds. If you find any such addresses right click on them and choose unfreeze.

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    • My seed is not restoring my wallet! What can I do?

      There are two possibilities:

      1. Electrum is rejecting your seed as invalid. That is you can’t complete the wallet restoration process. For help with that see here.
      2. The wallet restoration process completes but the wallet you get is different from the wallet you remember. See here for help with that.

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    • Why won't Electrum accept my seed when I attempt to restore my wallet from it?

      During the seed entry step of a wallet restoration process you may discover that the next button is disabled after you’ve entered the seed words and you can’t complete the wallet restoration. Here are some things you can try to solve this issue:

        1. Make sure you are using the latest version of Electrum. Even if your seed is from an older version you should always use the latest version. Electrum maintains backwards compatibility with all old Electrum seed mnemonics. Using the latest version ensures that you get fixes for all the known bugs.
        2. Typical seed mnemonic lengths are as follows:
          1. < 2.0 : Seeds from Electrum versions less than 2.0 were 12 words in length. 2.0 was released on March 02, 2015
          2. 2.0 – 2.6.4: Standard wallet seeds were 13 words while 2 factor authentication wallets had 24-25 words. 2.0 was released in march 2015 while 2.6.4 was released in Apr 12, 2016.
          3. 2.7.0 – current: All wallet types’ seeds were standardized to 12 words. 2.7.0 was released on Oct 2, 2016.

          Does your seed mnemonic have the right number of words? Missing words are one possible reason that Electrum will not accept your seed. However, note that the above are typical seed lengths. It is possible to get shorter or longer seeds depending on how the seed was generated.

        3. The order and spelling of the words in your seed matters. While only you know the order of the words when it comes to the spelling you can refer to the Electrum dictionary. The dictionary for pre-2.0 is here (lines 29-1655)and the one for all wallets made in versions 2.0 – current is here. Make sure that all the words in your seed are present in the dictionary and spelled correctly.
        4. Was your seed created using other wallet software? If yes then it is most likely a BIP39 seed. On the seed entry screen click on options and check bip39.

       

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    • Why does restoring my wallet from seed lead to a different wallet?

      You have completed the process of restoring your wallet from seed but you find that the wallet that has been created is different from the one that you expected. There are two possibilities:

      1. The wallet is the same but it does not appear as such:
        1. Make sure that your wallet is synchronized with the network. The wallet balance should be shown in the bottom left and the circle icon in the bottom right should be green or blue. Try switching servers.
        2. Once the wallet has synchronized correctly see if the history in the history tab is correct and the balance is correct. If not then go to view menu > show addresses, switch to the addresses tab and see if you can find familiar addresses. You can press ctrl+f to search your addresses and the filters up top in the addresses tab can also be adjusted to limit or widen your search.
        3. Did you adjust the gap limit of your wallet in the past? The gap limit is the lookahead window that Electrum uses when searching for transactions relevant to your wallet. If you changed the gap limit of your wallet before you may have to do it again. To change the gap limit go to view menu > show console, switch to console tab, type in the following and press enter:
          wallet.change_gap_limit( 50 )

          Replace 50 with the gap limit you used before. Restart Electrum for the change to take effect.

      2. It is really a different wallet:
          1. Did you extend the seed with custom words? During the seed entry step of the wallet restoration process you have an options button next to the seed field. If you click on that you get the option to extend the seed with custom words. If you originally used that option then you have to use it again during the restoration process and enter the exact same words/characters that you originally used.
          2. Was the seed originally generated in a different wallet software i.e. not Electrum? If the seed is from a different wallet software you need to pay attention to the note in step 4 here when restoring the wallet.
          3. The seed you have is for a different wallet. Search for the seed for the wallet you want to restore.

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    • Why is the Electrum menu bar missing on Ubuntu?

      Try this:

      1. In Ubuntu application menus are shown in the top left corner of the screen rather than in the application window itself. So bring the Electrum window into the foreground i.e. give it focus and then move your mouse cursor to the top left of the screen to see the menus.
      2. If the above doesn’t work then open a terminal window and type in cat /etc/issue to find out what version of Ubuntu you are using. If you are on a version of Ubuntu older than 16.04 LTS try removing the package appmenu-qt5: sudo apt-get remove --purge appmenu-qt5. Then logout, log back in and see if the menus show up in Electrum now. They should show up within the Electrum window.

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    • My question is not answered here. Where can I get help?

      You can ask for help on the forum, reddit or #electrum IRC channel on freenode.

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4 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions”

  1. On the third step, where I have to paste down my Private Key in the window, it doesn’t allow me use the actual private key, but accepts only public keys. I entered my public key and my btc appears to be there, but I don’t think that’s how it should be.

    1. Are you talking about importing private keys? Please take a look at the guide here: https://bitcoinelectrum.com/importing-your-private-keys-into-electrum/

      There was a change in the user interface with Electrum 3.0 which moved some elements around. So make sure you follow the guide above which works with the latest version of electrum.

      If you are following the guide above and still having problems then please confirm that your private keys look like the examples given here: https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Private_key#Base58_Wallet_Import_format ?

      1. My private key is 52 digits long, generated via bitaddress.org. I have the latest version and totally tries to follow those steps, but my problem is, instead of Electrum letting me write down my private key in the window where I should write it, it only lets me write down my Public key. If I write down my Private key it doesn’t let me continue to the next step, aka it doesn’t let me click “Next”

        1. One or more characters in your private key are incorrect. WIF has a checksum to detect typos and character omissions. Your private key must not be passing the checksum test.

          Since you are familiar with bitaddress I suggest running that site offline and pasting in your private key on the wallet details tab of it. If there is a problem with the private key bitaddress should point it out to you too.

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