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Import a Bitcoin private key

Importing a Bitcoin private key can allows to use a different Bitcoin wallet software or service without changing Bitcoin address. It can also be used to restore exported addresses for security purposes.

Private keys must be protected

Caution, private keys can allow to use funds associated with these addresses. Do not expose the private keys to a situation where they could fall into wrong hands. It is therefore preferable to encrypt the keys and securely erase any hard drive or USB key that contained an unencrypted private key.

Bitcoin software is not designed to share a key

Another important note, it is important not to use a private key simultaneously with the Bitcoin software and other online wallets. This practice is considered experimental and may cause operational problems with the Bitcoin sofware. If a problem occurs after this mistake, it is be necessary to export the private keys, reinstall Bitcoin and re-import private keys.

  1. Open your Bitcoin software.
  2. Click on the menu Help / Debug window (at the top).
  3. Click on the Console tab.
  4. If your wallet is encrypted, type the following command followed by the Enter key to unlock the wallet
    walletpassphrase (password) 600
  5. Type the following command to import the key
    importprivkey (private key) (label)
  6. Wait patiently for the import to be completed. The software will not respond for several minutes. It is important not to close the software while the import is still incomplete. The import is complete when the console is ready for a new command.
  7. Close and open the software to refresh the Bitcoin addresses list.