Should you recover Bitcoins yourself or consult an expert?

23 February 2018 by Michael Nuncic

The question of whether you should recover Bitcoins yourself or consult an expert continues to be a hot topic for many Bitcoin owners.

Background to Bitcoin

Many early adopters of the Bitcoin who bought them in 2014 as a freak idea, actually soon forgot about them. But, with their value soon rising (500% since initially launch), many Bitcoin ‘owners’ wanted to trade in their Bitcoin to be able to make purchases in the real world.

One of the main problems found was that many Bitcoins became lost or inaccessible due to their ‘owners’ forgetting the password or private key to open them. According to research by a digital forensics firm, up to 4 Million Bitcoins out of 16.7 Million could be lost forever.

So, for anyone that thinks they have lost their Bitcoins and want to try and recover them; should they try and recover them themselves or consult an expert?

The answer:  It depends!

Why does it depend?

It depends on how much value we are talking about in each specific case, and what the reason is for the Bitcoin loss. Are we talking about a simple deletion or formatting of the disk drive? Or is it because of a hardware failure? Did the laptop fall from a desk and the hard disk has likely suffered a head crash? Or is the SSD functioning? Or can you not access any folders because the controller has broken?

There are so many different ways Bitcoins can be lost, there is not a single recovery solution available that can cover every case.

Using software to recover Bitcoins

There are many software solutions available which are able to restore lost Bitcoins. If a Bitcoin ‘owner’ simply deleted of formatted their hard disks where their wallet was stored, but has not used the hard disk for several years (therefore space has not been overwritten), there is a good chance that the old folder could be located.

You can use any data recovery software solutions, but Ontrack Easy Recovery will most likely find the missing file. If after using the software you cannot see the wallet, you should consult a data recovery expert.

Additionally, when a user simply forgot their Bitcoin password there are a couple of tricks available to a data recovery expert that will enable them to retrieve the missing phrase to be able to access the wallet again. Although, if the Bitcoin ‘owner’ has used a password that contains 17-24 characters this would be almost impossible to crack!

Storing and backing up your Bitcoin

There are a few ways of storing your Bitcoin; many people store their Bitcoins in online wallets, but these can be vulnerable to potential hacks. Below are a couple of alternative methods of storing Bitcoins…

A desktop wallet 

A hardware wallet

A Paper wallet

Physical coins

To finalise

There are many cases in which a user can definitely recover their lost Bitcoins themselves. Mainly when the Bitcoins have been lost due to accidental deletion.

However, when trying to recover Bitcoins yourself, there is a possibility of something going wrong and the data getting corrupted. If this happens, recovering the Bitcoins will be much harder and a dedicated and experienced data recovery expert should be used. Experts at Ontrack Data Recovery have special tools that enable them to recover a Bitcoin wallet as well as a private password.

If the Bitcoin loss is related to a hardware failure, the best bet is to get in contact with an expert. In many cases, hardware failures can only be handled professionally in a dedicated clean room with the necessary tools.

So, with all that money at stake, it is better to get the experts in to try and recover your Bitcoins, rather than attempt to do it yourself and risk a permanent loss.

Some of our favourite Bitcoin stories

Read about the Wired journalist who lost $30,000 of Bitcoin because he had no backup!

Read about the gentlemen in Australia who lost his Bitcoin due to a cheap USB stick!

Read about the gentlemen that recovered $200,000 Bitcoins from a broken computer!

Do you have a great Bitcoin story? Tweet us @OntrackUKIE

Picture copyright: Tim Reckmann /

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