How much of Bitcoin is lost or stranded?

Bitcoin's mysterious creator Satoshi Nakamoto may have mined around 1. Since then, it appears that Satoshi hasn't touched his stash , indicating he, or she they? Because of this, the general consensus is that Satoshi's Bitcoin holdings are out of circulation—thereby reducing the available supply by around 5.

On those occasions when some Bitcoin is moved from a wallet that hasn't been touched since the cryptocurrency's early days, it frequently prompts misinformed speculation that Satoshi has returned. It's been known to cause fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin , since it opens up the possibility that the market could be flooded by large amounts of Bitcoin that was previously thought to be locked away forever.

One of the main ways Bitcoin is removed from circulation is by simply being lost. Since Bitcoin owners need access to their private keys or recovery phrase to transfer their Bitcoin, anybody that loses access to these will also lose the ability to spend their funds. Though most of the time this only results in the loss of a small sum, there have been several examples where thousands of bitcoin were lost in a single sweep—including one unfortunate accident that saw a man discard a hard drive containing 7, BTC.

Bitcoin owners who've passed away account for some of the inaccessible Bitcoin.

Loads of Bitcoin Could Be Lost Forever

One Reddit user recently found an old computer belonging to his late brother, who owned Bitcoin —but the device's hard drive was missing. If you lose it, you lose it. There's no recovery process for that. Since then, a lot of people have come up with all kinds of clever solutions like, you know, metal wallets where you can put down your secret keys and things like that. But most of that didn't exist back then. Back then, you had to kind of come up with your own solution. And apparently I didn't do a very good job of that. We know that this has been a very good year for bitcoin.

How many people do you think are not able to access their fortunes? And so you can imagine it's probably hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, who are in my situation.

What Happens to Bitcoin After All 21 Million Are Mined?

But I think they said it was 20 per cent of all the bitcoin accounts are owned by people who can't access them [according to the cryptocurrency data firm Chainalysis]. Yeah, I think a good chunk of that, especially, like, some of the larger ones, were very early wallets.

So, you know, at the time, it might have been less money. But of course, you know, once you can't access it and the price goes up, the number just gets bigger and bigger. So what is it like for you? After I realized I lost the coins, I was completely destroyed. Like, when I think back to that, it's hard to even wrap my head around how I felt that those couple of weeks.

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And I tried everything. I would stay up all night trying different ideas for how to recover it, or just, like, staring at the ceiling for hours. You know, just what you imagine you would do if you lost that sort of money. And then after a couple of weeks of that, I got to a point where I started to realize that the chances of recovery were not very good. And we'll get into, you know, what that last little glimmer of hope is in a moment.

So I sort of had to make a decision, right? Like, either I let this define the rest of my life and I keep thinking back to it and I just, you know, like you said, lose sleep for the rest of my life, or I just, you know, face the fact that this money is gone, these bitcoins are gone, and I move forward and I get back to work. And I chose the latter.

Satoshi's stash

There is a way to take a scanning electron microscope and take apart the physical chip and literally go into the the silicon chip and take away layer by layer, like a few atoms thick, and then read out the actual memory cells. And then with that technique, you should be able to bypass that limit of 10 tries, and then you can have a supercomputer try, you know, billions of passwords per second.

Now, the problem is that, first of all, that requires a specialized laboratory. Still, we wanted to make sure there was absolutely no way to get the bitcoins back.

Lost Bitcoin: million Bitcoin are probably gone forever - Decrypt

WIRED's editor-in-chief, Nicholas Thompson, suggested that if we were able to recover the funds, they might go toward hiring a full-time cryptocurrency reporter. I reached out to the founder of Butterfly Labs, who didn't respond. He agrees we're screwed. I also looked into a service that tries to crack cryptocurrency wallets via sheer brute force.

But their services would be no help, since we don't have access to the hard drive itself.


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The good news is we're far from alone. Chainalysis, a research firm that analyzes activity across different cryptocurrency markets, estimates that between 2. That includes wallets believed to belong to Satoshi Nakamoto, the mysterious founder of Bitcoin who hasn't touched his estimated 1 million coins since He also says that even if Satoshi were to reemerge, his activity wouldn't significantly impact the market because he wouldn't likely spend a large sum of Bitcoin at once.

There are several ways you can lose Bitcoin. He reportedly wants to dig through five years of trash to unearth the computer. This is the most common way to lose Bitcoin; even Elon Musk tweeted that he forgot how to access a portion of a coin. You can also lose bitcoins by running buggy code or making software mistakes, though these instances are more rare.

Last year, for example, someone forgot to collect their mining reward and burned In another similar incident , someone may have accidentally swapped a processing fee with the value of the transaction, resulting in nearly coins lost.

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One time, someone even sent 2, coins to an incorrectly configured address , burning them into nonexistence. All of these examples come from BlockSci , a tool developed at Princeton University for analyzing the Bitcoin blockchain. It can be difficult to assess whether any given bitcoin is really lost for good. He says part of the problem is that you can rarely determine whether someone is just holding onto their Bitcoin, or whether they've definitively lost access to it.