I lost one of my Ledger devices, back in 2018. Situation which might be the worst nightmare for many teaches me how to recover my private keys without waiting for a new device.
Please DO NOT follow this advice with your own recovery phrase just to confirm your addresses. There is a reason Ledger and similar security focused companies advise to never input your recovery phrase into internet-connected devices. However, I encourage you to try to replicate my results on the zero-seed which is presented below.
- This instruction should work for all Hardware wallets as it's based on Bitcoin's standards.
- I've tested it on Ledger Nano S and Ledger Nano S Plus devices.
- You have installed a Ledger Live application on your computer and set up Bitcoin and Ethereum accounts on it.
- You have backed up your wallet's recovery phrase.
- Seed phrase, recovery phrase or mnemonic: A phrase containing 12 or 24 words which can be used to generate multiple accounts. There are 2048 carefully chosen words in total that form any mnemonic.
- Account, address: A single private key or address in a wallet. We can generate millions of private keys from the mnemonic. Each private key corresponds to a single address of the account.
- Wallet: A collection of accounts we have a private key for. For example Ledger Live allows us to add another account unless we transfer funds to previously added accounts.
- If you are curious about the technical details, the procedure to generate so-called Hierarchical Deterministic Wallets is described in BIP32 and how to use mnemonic as an entropy to the generator is described in BIP39.
I'll show you how to recover private keys to your accounts using the command-line tool wagyu as I prefer a distraction-free text interface. You will find installation instructions in the wagyu repository.
You may also use the online tool which is Ian Coleman's website which will also work offline. It's easier to use so I'll leave the example accounts recovery to you.
⚠ Please don't use your recovery phrase! I won't show you how to clean your computer after the experiments, so proceed at your own risk.
Time for action!
For the purpose of this experiment, I'll use the "zero" mnemonic which is 24-words 23 x abandon + art. If you have read BIP-39 Mnemonic code for generating deterministic keys you may suspect why I call it "zero".
I will proceed in my terminal, you can also try it in the browser on Ian Coleman's website, but it might require more writing and clicking.
Knowing the path
To make the "Hierarchical Deterministic Wallets" procedure work for many blockchains, the first elements along the hierarchy path have to describe the chain. E.g.
- m/84'/0' - is the new Bitcoin path
- m/44'/60'' - is the Ethereum path
You can discover the correct path going for "edit accounts" in the Ledger Live application.
Recovering the accounts
Here I'm using the same paths as the Ledger Live application, so you will be able to recover your own accounts when you need them.
Here are the first 3 addresses derived from our zero-seed. Try to get them by yourself.