A Basic Overview of MyEtherWallet and a Quick Tutorial
MyEtherWallet (MEW) is an online platform that functions like a Ethereum wallet letting you create an Ethereum address and send/receive/store Ether and Ethereum-based tokens.
Essentially, although MyEtherWallet isn’t a place to store tokens (you create an address on which tokens are stored, you don’t store them at MyEtherWallet), MyEtherWallet is the simplest solution for an Ethereum wallet out there and is going to be most people’s go-to solution for interacting with ICOs.
- Coinbase is simpler, but they don’t offer ERC-2o friendly wallets or allow you to control your private keys,
- MetaMask is equally as useful and pairs well with MEW, but it is slightly headier,
- and a full Ethereum wallet requires downloading the massive Ethereum blockchain, which you likely don’t want to do… so let MyEtherWallet run it on their servers for you.
Let’s put it this way, if you want to transact in Ether, and especially if you want to own any ERC-20 token that isn’t Ether, then MyEtherWallet is an obvious go-to.
So, with that soft sell in mind, let’s do a super simple walkthrough of MyEtherWallet.
- Click “generate wallet” in the navigation of the site.
- Enter a strong password and keep it safe and then hit the “generate” button.
- Now store your strong password and private key somewhere safe and not connected to the internet.
- You can access your wallet with your private key, or you can download a keystore/JSON file (an encrypted version of your private key that you can access with a password; in overly simple terms, you can use it to access your wallet as long as you have the password). Keep that file somewhere safe and offline too, as even though it is an encrypted version of your private key, it is essentially your private key and thus you should keep it safe and offline!
- Write down your public address. Save that somewhere safe, but it doesn’t have to be protected like the other information and files.
You now have “a public address” (which you can share) and “a private key,” “an encrypted keystore/JSON file,” and a password (all of which you want to keep as far away from other humans and internet when you aren’t using them as possible).
You are also essentially done and ready to transact in Ether using MyEtherWallet. So let’s quickly go over how that works.
- If you want to send Ether, just hit the Send button in the nav. Here is the deal though, you don’t have Ether in this wallet because you just created it. Thus, the first thing you need to do is buy some Ether or send yourself some Ether. See: how to send Ether.
- You can check your balance by going to the view wallet info screen. Here you’ll notice that you can access MyEtherWallet a number of ways. The simple ones are Keystore/JSON (where you choose that file you downloaded and enter the password) or your private key. These aren’t the most secure however. If you want a more secure option, then you’ll need to use something like MetaMask, Mist, or TREZOR (each of which has its own learning curve, but each of which are useful tools if you want to deal in Ethereum).
- Now after waiting for your transaction to go through, you should have Ether in your wallet (if not, check EtherScan for the transaction details). You can now send Ether, deploy a smart contract and use your Ether for gas, or you can check your wallet info over and over to see if your Ether is still there, sky is the limit.
TIP: Every transaction costs gas. Gas is paid in Ether. Thus, you always need a little extra Ether in your wallet to pay for transactions.
TIP: MyEtherWallet does more than just facilitate checking your balance or sending Ether. You can create and deploy smart contracts. You can check transaction statuses. You can buy and sell domains. You can swap Ether for other tokens. You can safely click any button to learn about the site, just be careful about where you put your information in.
TIP: On the view wallet status screen you can “add custom tokens.” You must add and then load tokens to see ERC-20 tokens you have in your wallet (i.e. associated with your public address). That single Ethereum address / private key combo allows you to access all Ether and all other tokens associated with it. So you can share that public address with others (including ICOs), but remember, never share your private key or password (an ICO won’t need that and should never ask for it).
TIP: Why isn’t it secure to enter your private key into a website (or to use an encrypted JSON file)? The answer is if you go to the wrong site like MEW with two “V”s instead of a “W” then you can get phished, if you click a bad link in an email you can get phished, if you have malware you can get phished, etc. To get phished like this, you essentially need to be connected to the internet and then give the malicious site access to your private key. Will this happen to you? Very likely it will not if you double check you are using the official MyEtherWallet.com site and if you haven’t been downloading a bunch of random files or clicking random links. Still, the warning is necessary. As a rule of thumb, most people will keep large balances in something like TREZOR or Coinbase vault.