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Most people have the bulk of their funds held in cold storage. Wouldn’t it be great to have a way to track your Bitcoins? Just like how you track fiat using bank statements, you can track Bitcoins using watch only wallets.

Note: while this article discusses Bitcoin, the concept is applicable to other cryptocurrencies. We would highlight differences with other major cryptos too.

In this article, we would discuss what watch only wallets are, their use in helping you track Bitcoin transactions or check your Bitcoin address balance. We also guide you step by step on how to create a watch only wallet.

Stuff We Are Going to Discuss

This is an overview of what we would be discussing. Click links to skip around.

Why Should I Use a Bitcoin Watch Only Wallet?

A watch only wallet is one which is in read-only mode. Thus, they only allow you to track Bitcoin transactions or check your Bitcoin address balance.

As the name suggests, watch only wallets cannot spend funds on the addresses they track. This is because only public keys are used to create such wallets. Thus, watch only wallets are an ideal way to track blockchain transactions or your Bitcoin address balance.

Also, watch only wallets increase security. Regularly accessing a live wallet (one with the private keys) just to check your balance increases the risk of theft of your private keys.

How Do I Create a Bitcoin Watch Only Wallet?

 DesktopsiOS phoneAndroid phone
Ledger wallet usersLedger Live desktopLedger Live app
Trezor wallet usersTrezor wallet websitebitWalletSentinel
Other wallet usersElectrum
Block explorer services**
** Block explorer services are accessible over the internet. So you can access them on any platform.

Choosing how to implement your Bitcoin watch only wallet is easy. A lot depends on the type of wallet you currently use.

  • You are a Ledger or Trezor wallet user. Decide whether you want to create your watch only wallet on a desktop, iPhone or Android phone. Click links in the above table to view instructions on setting up your watch only wallet.
  • You use a hardware wallet other than Ledger or Trezor. First, check if your wallet provider allows you to track funds on your desired platform. If not, consider the options available to you in the table above. Click links in the above table to view instructions on setting up your watch only wallet.
  • You do not use a hardware wallet. Consider the options available to you in the table above from the row labeled “Other wallet users”. Click links in the above table to view instructions on setting up your watch only wallet.
  • You store your funds on an exchangeWhat the heck! Get them off right away! If you need help deciding on a wallet to use, see our beginners guide to cryptocurrency wallets.

We also urge you to read about the risks associated with watch only wallets.

Setting up Watch Only Wallet with Ledger on Desktops

In this section, we would discuss how to set up a watch only wallet for your Ledger wallet on desktops.

Step 1: Download Ledger Live.

Step 2: Set up your account. If you need a step by step guide on how to do this, see our Ledger Nano S guide for setup procedures.

Step 3: In the future, simply open Ledger Live and navigate to the Portfolio view. From there you can check Bitcoin address balances or track Bitcoin transactions. You do not need your Ledger device to do this. You only need to connect your Ledger device if you want to send money to a Bitcoin address. Or if you want to generate new addresses to receive them.

Portfolio view in Ledger Live
Portfolio view in Ledger Live

Setting up Watch Only Wallet with Ledger on iOS or Android

The setup procedures are same on both iOS and Android. For illustration purposes, we would use Android.

Step 1: Download the Ledger Live app from the Apple App store or Google Play. Instead of searching for the app, it is best to get your download links direct from Ledger’s website. This would avoid the possibility of downloading a fake Ledger wallet app. To do so, go to Ledger’s website and then select the relevant link.

Links to download Ledger wallet apps
Links to download Ledger wallet apps
Download Ledger wallet from Google Play Store
Download Ledger wallet from Google Play Store

Step 2: Select Get started.

Select Get Started in Ledger app
Select Get Started in Ledger app

Step 3: Select your device. For us, we would select the Ledger Nano S.

Select relevant wallet in Ledger app
Select relevant wallet in Ledger app

Step 4: On your Ledger Live desktop application, select Settings. After that select Accounts, followed by Export. You should see the following screen with a code to scan.

Export accounts in Ledger Live
Export accounts in Ledger Live
Scan account code in Ledger Live
Scan account code in Ledger Live

Step 5: On your mobile phone, select Import desktop accounts, followed by Scan LiveQR code.

Select Import desktop accounts on Ledger app
Select Import desktop accounts on Ledger app
Select Scan LiveQR code in Ledger app
Select Scan LiveQR code in Ledger app

Step 6: On your mobile phone, scan the code shown on your Ledger Live desktop application in Step 4. Do note that you may have to scan the QR code for a while (ie. Just hold still and wait).

Step 7: This screen shows up after the import. Select Import.

Select Import in Ledger Live app
Select Import in Ledger Live app

Step 8: Set your password. After that select Continue.

Set up password in Ledger app
Set up a password in Ledger app

Step 9: Click Continue to get through the other settings eg. Analytics and bug reports.

Select Continue in Ledger app
Select Continue in Ledger app

Step 10: Once complete, you should see the following screen.

Congratulations you have just set up your watch only wallet on Ledger successfully!
Congratulations you have set up your watch only wallet on Ledger successfully!

Step 11: Congratulations! You have created a watch only wallet. Now you can use your Ledger app to track your Bitcoin transactions or check your Bitcoin address balance.

You do not need your Ledger device to do this. You only need to connect your Ledger device if you want to send money to a Bitcoin address. Or if you want to generate new addresses to receive them.

Portfolio view in Ledger app
Portfolio view in Ledger app

Creating Watch Only Wallet with Trezor on Desktops

Step 1: Set up your Trezor wallet on your desktop. See this link for instructions.

Step 2: After setting up your accounts, unplug your Trezor device from your computer. The following screen would appear. Select Remember device.

Select Remember Device on Trezor website
Select Remember Device on Trezor website

Step 3: To track Bitcoin transactions or check Bitcoin address balances, go to wallet.trezor.io. You do not need your Trezor hardware device to do this. You only need to connect your Trezor device if you want to send money to a Bitcoin address.  Or if you want to generate new addresses to receive them.

Access accounts on Trezor website
Access accounts on Trezor website

Creating Watch Only Wallets on iPhones

There are two different types of Bitcoin wallet structures – deterministic and non-deterministic. We would be discussing how to set up Bitcoin watch only wallets for both. Let’s begin with deterministic wallets.

Skip to the section below (click here) if you have a non-deterministic wallet or want to do any of the following:

  • Track a particular Bitcoin address balance
  • Create a Bitcoin watch address

Note: The distinction between Hierarchical Deterministic and non- Hierarchical Deterministic wallets does not apply to all cryptocurrencies. For example, using Hierarchical Deterministic wallets for Ethereum would only complicate transaction processing as it is built differently. Thus, most Ethereum wallets only have a single receiving address.

Deterministic Wallets

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Check if you are using a deterministic wallet. Hardware wallets such as Ledger or Trezor are deterministic wallets. Skip to the section below if you have a non-deterministic wallet (click here). Also, skip there if you only wish to track particular addresses.

Step 2: Extract your Extended Public Key. For instructions on how to extract the relevant extended public key, see this link.

Download and configure the app to track funds

Step 3: Go to the App Store and download bitWallet.

bitWallet app on the App store
Get bitWallet app on the App store

Security tip: Before downloading any app, always check the reviews. Complaints of scams by reviewers would alert you about malicious apps.

Step 4: Select the bottom left-hand corner.

Select the area where the red arrow is pointed
Select the area where the red arrow is pointed

Step 5: Select Add Wallet.

Selecting Add Wallet in bitWallet
Select Add Wallet in bitWallet

Step 6: Name your wallet and select the crypto you would like to track.

Naming your wallet and selecting your coins in bitWallet
Give your wallet a name

Step 7: Select HD Wallet.

Selecting HD Wallet in bitWallet
Select HD wallet option

Step 8: Select Restore a Wallet.

Selecting Restore a Wallet in bitWallet
Select Restore a Wallet

Step 9: Enter your Extended Public Key, which you got in Step 2.

Entering your Extended Public Key in bitWallet
Input your Extended Public Key

Security tip: The app asked you to import either your Extended Public Key, Mnemonic Seed or Extended Private Key. Do not import your Mnemonic Seed or Extended Private Key!

Step 10: At this screen, select Save in the top right-hand corner. The app should have automatically selected the right wallet structure for you.

Select Save (in the top right-hand corner).
Select Save (in the top right-hand corner).

Step 11: Your wallet would show up on the main screen.

Successful creation of wallet in bitWallet
You have successfully created your wallet

Verify that your wallet works

Step 12: Select your wallet from the main screen. Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct. If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Reviewing addresses added in bitWallet
Check your address balance in bitWallet

Step 13: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for iPhone has been successfully created.

Non-Deterministic Wallets or Tracking Specific Addresses

The process for setting up is like deterministic wallets. But, instead of importing the Extended Public Key, you will import addresses you wish to track.

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Extract the addresses you wish to import. For illustration, we would import the following address.

339xN86kVE2DosHZN9D6AnzkGA2KpMLHdQ

Download and configure the app to track funds

Step 2: Go to the app store and download bitWallet.

bitWallet app on the App store
Get bitWallet app on the App store

Security tip: Before downloading any app, always check the reviews. Complaints of scams by reviewers would alert you about malicious apps.

Step 3: Select the menu at the bottom left-hand corner.

Selecting a menu in bitWallet
Select the area where the red arrow is pointed

Step 4: Select Add Wallet.

Selecting Add Wallet in bitWallet
Select Add Wallet in bitWallet

Step 5: Name your wallet and select the crypto you would like to track.

Naming your wallet and selecting your coins in bitWallet
Give your wallet a name

Step 6: Select Classic Wallet.

Select Classic Wallet in bitWallet
Select Classic Wallet option

Step 7: Your wallet shows up on the main screen. Select your wallet.

Successful creation of wallet in bitWallet
You would then see this screen. But the work is not over yet.

Step 8: Click the + sign at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Select the plus sign in the bottom right hand corner in bitWallet
Select the plus sign in the bottom right-hand corner in bitWallet

Step 9: Give a name to your address in the Name section. Enter the address you would like to track in the Public Address section. Select Save in the top right-hand corner.

Adding your address and giving it a name in bitWallet
Adding a Bitcoin address to track in bitWallet

Step 10: The address you have saved would show up as shown below.

Successful creation of wallet address in bitWallet
Your wallet now tracks the address you inputted

Step 11: Repeat Step 8 and Step 9 as many times as you need to add the addresses you wish to track.

Verify that your wallet works

Step 12: Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct.  If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Step 13: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for iPhone has been successfully created.

Setting up Watch Only Wallet on Android Phones

Deterministic Wallets

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Determine what kind of wallet you are using.

Check if you are using a deterministic wallet. Hardware wallets such as Ledger or Trezor are deterministic wallets.

Skip to the section below (click here) if you have a non-deterministic wallet or want to do any of the following:

  • Track a particular Bitcoin address balance
  • Create a Bitcoin watch address

Note: The distinction between Hierarchical Deterministic and non- Hierarchical Deterministic wallets does not apply to all cryptocurrencies. For example, using Hierarchical Deterministic wallets for Ethereum would only complicate transaction processing as it is built differently. Thus, most Ethereum wallets only have a single receiving address.

Step 2: Extract your Extended Public Key. For instructions on how to extract your relevant extended public key, see this link.

Download and configure the app to track funds

Step 3: Go to the Play Store and download Sentinel.

Download Sentinel on Google Play
Download Sentinel on Google Play

Security tip: Before downloading any app, always check the reviews. Complaints of scams by reviewers would alert you to malicious apps.

Step 4: Select the Start button.

Getting Started in Sentinel
Select Start in Sentinel

Step 5: Select the appropriate option based on the Extended Public Key you extracted in Step 2. For example, if your address starts with 1, you have the legacy bitcoin address format. Thus, you should have extracted the xpub for import. In this case, you would select the second option ie. Bitcoin Wallet.

Selecting address type in Sentinel
Selecting address type to input in Sentinel

Step 6: Sentinel would then ask you to input your Extended Public Key. Select Manual.

Select mode of entering address in Sentinel
Enter the relevant Extended Public Key

Step 7: Enter your Extended Public Key, which you got in Step 2. For our example, we entered the xpub.

Entering extended public key in Sentinel
Entering our Extended Public Key (xpub).

Step 8: Give a name to your watch only wallet.

Name your Bitcoin watch only wallet in Sentinel
Name your Bitcoin watch only wallet

Security tip: The app asked you to import either your Extended Public Key, Mnemonic Seed or Extended Private Key. Do not import your Mnemonic Seed or Extended Private Key!

Step 9: Your watch only wallet would show up on the main screen.

Successful wallet creation in Sentinel
Your watch only wallet is created! Just a few more steps to go.

Verify that your wallet works

Step 10: Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct.  If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Step 11: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for Android has been successfully created.

Non-Deterministic Wallets or Tracking Specific Addresses

The process for setting up is like deterministic wallets. But, instead of importing the Extended Public Key, you will import addresses you wish to track.

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Gather the addresses you wish to import. For simplicity, we would import the address shown below.

339xN86kVE2DosHZN9D6AnzkGA2KpMLHdQ

Download and configure the app to track funds

Step 2: Go to the App Store and download Sentinel.

Download Sentinel on Google Play
Download Sentinel on Google Play

Security tip: Before downloading any app, always check the reviews. Complaints of scams by reviewers would alert you to malicious apps.

Step 3: Select the Start button.

Getting Started in Sentinel
Select Start in Sentinel

Step 4: Select the first option Bitcoin Address.

Selecting address type in Sentinel
Selecting address type to input in Sentinel

Step 5: Sentinel would then ask you to input your address. Select Manual.

Select mode of entering address in Sentinel
Enter the relevant address

Step 6: Enter the address you wish to track.

Entering address in Sentinel
Entering the Bitcoin address you wish to track in Sentinel

Step 7: Give a name to your watch only wallet.

Naming Bitcoin watch-only wallet in Sentinel
Name your Bitcoin watch only wallet

Step 8: Your watch only wallet would show up on the main screen. Repeat the above steps as many times as needed to import all the addresses you wish to track.

Successful wallet creation in Sentinel
Your watch only wallet has been created! Just a few more steps to go.

Verify that your wallet works

Step 9:  Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct.  If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Check address added in Sentinel
Check your Bitcoin address balance in Sentinel

Step 10: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for Android has been successfully created.

Setting up Watch Only Wallets on Desktop Using Electrum

Deterministic Wallets

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Determine what kind of wallet you are using.

Check if you are using a deterministic wallet. Hardware wallets such as Ledger or Trezor are deterministic wallets.

Skip to the section below (click here) if you have a non-deterministic wallet or want to do any of the following:

  • Track a particular Bitcoin address balance
  • Create a Bitcoin watch address

Note: The distinction between Hierarchical Deterministic and non- Hierarchical Deterministic wallets does not apply to all cryptocurrencies. For example, using Hierarchical Deterministic wallets for Ethereum would only complicate transaction processing as it is built differently. Thus, most Ethereum wallets only have a single receiving address.

Step 2: Extract your Extended Public Key. For instructions on how to extract your relevant extended public key, see this link.

Download and configure Electrum to track funds

Step 3: Download Electrum. After that, install and run it.

Download Electrum for Windows
Download Electrum

Step 4: Select Auto connect.

Select auto connect in Electrum
Select Auto Connect in Electrum

Step 5: Give your wallet a name.

Name your wallet in Electrum
Name your wallet in Electrum

Step 6: Select Standard wallet.

Select Standard Wallet in Electrum
Select Standard Wallet

Step 7: Select Use a master key. While you can create a watch only wallet with the Use a hardware device option, it is less convenient. This is because it requires you to connect your hardware device each time (assuming you want to encrypt your wallet file in Step 9 below).

Select Use a master key in Electrum
Select Use A Master Key

Step 8: Enter the Extended Public Key which you extracted in Step 2.

Enter your extended public key in Electrum
Enter your Extended Public Key. For us, we used our ypub.

Step 9: Enter a password to encrypt your wallet file.

Enter a password to encrypt your file in Electrum
Enter a password to encrypt your file

Step 10: Your Bitcoin watch only wallet is created.

You have created a bitcoin watch-only wallet for Windows with Electrum
Your Bitcoin watch only wallet has been created. Just a few more steps to go!

Verify that your wallet works

Step 11: Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct.  If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Step 12: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for desktop has been successfully created.

Non-Deterministic Wallets or Tracking Specific Addresses on Desktop

The process for setting up is like deterministic wallets. But, instead of importing the Extended Public Key, you will import addresses you wish to track.

Get relevant wallet information

Step 1: Gather the addresses you wish to import. For simplicity, we would import the address shown below.

339xN86kVE2DosHZN9D6AnzkGA2KpMLHdQ

Download and configure Electrum to track funds

Step 2: Download Electrum. After that, install and run it.

Download Electrum for Windows
Download Electrum

Step 3: Select Auto connect.

Select auto connect in Electrum
Select Auto Connect in Electrum

Step 4: Give your wallet a name.

Name your wallet in Electrum
Name your wallet in Electrum

Step 5: Select the last option Import Bitcoin addresses or private keys.

Import Bitcoin addresses in Electrum
Select the last option: Import Bitcoin addresses or private keys

Step 6: Enter your addresses.

Enter your address in Electrum
Enter the Bitcoin address you want to track

Step 7: Enter a password to encrypt your wallet file.

Encrypt your wallet file with password in Electrum
Enter a password to encrypt your file

Step 8: Your wallet has been successfully created.

Successful wallet creation in Electrum
Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for Electrum has been created! Just a few more steps to go.

Verify that your wallet works

Step 9:  Check that the balance in your watch only wallet is correct.  If you have not transferred funds to the addresses, send some funds to them. Then, check that your watch only wallet updates for them.

Step 10: Give yourself a pat on the back! Your Bitcoin watch only wallet for desktop has been successfully created.

Check Your Bitcoin Address Balance or Track Bitcoin Transactions Using Block Explorer Services

So are there any alternatives to using wallets to check Bitcoin address amounts or track Bitcoin transactions? Yes, there are block explorer services! Different cryptocurrencies have their own block explorer services. One popular service is Blockchain.com. It supports a few cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash. Another such example is Blockonomics.co, which only supports Bitcoin.

For Bitcoin, there are two types of wallet structures – deterministic and non-deterministic. We would be discussing how to use block explorer services for both types of wallets. And would begin with deterministic wallets.

Skip to the section below (click here) if you have a non-deterministic wallet or want to do any of the following:

  • Track a particular Bitcoin address balance
  • Create a Bitcoin watch address

Note: The distinction between Hierarchical Deterministic and non- Hierarchical Deterministic wallets does not apply to all cryptocurrencies. For example, using Hierarchical Deterministic wallets for Ethereum would only complicate transaction processing as it is built differently. Thus, most Ethereum wallets only have a single receiving address.

Deterministic Wallets

Step 1: Get hold of your Extended Public Key. Steps on how to do this can be found in our guide on Extended Public Keys.

Step 2: Access Blockonomics.co. Note that this website works only with Bitcoin. Enter the relevant Extended Public Key where it states Bitcoin Addresses / Transaction ID.

Access Blockonomics.co website
Access Blockonomics.co website

Step 3: All transactions associated with that Extended Public Key will show at the bottom of the page. You can now check your Bitcoin address balance and also track Bitcoin transactions related to these addresses.

Enter Extended Public Key in Blockonomics.co
Enter Extended Public Key in Blockonomics.co

Non-Deterministic Wallets or Tracking Specific Addresses

We would illustrate how to do this for Bitcoin.

Step 1: Access Blockchain.com.

Access Blockchain.com website
Access Blockchain.com website

Step 2: Select the relevant cryptocurrency. In this instance, we would use Bitcoin as an example.

Select the relevant cryptocurrency
Select the relevant cryptocurrency

Step 3: Enter the Bitcoin address or transaction ID you wish to check. After that, select Search.

Enter Bitcoin address into Blockchain.com
Enter Bitcoin address into Blockchain.com

Step 4: View the details of your Bitcoin address balance or your Bitcoin transaction.

View details of Bitcoin address
View details of Bitcoin address

What Should I Be Aware of When Using Watch Only Wallets?

Issue 1: You Are Trusting Other Parties to Verify Transactions and Balances on Your Behalf.

As explained in our article on safely sending and receiving cryptocurrencies, while watch only wallets are easy to use, you are relying on third parties to verify transactions and balances for you. In doing so, you are making many assumptions such as:

  • That there isn’t a man-in-the-middle attack. Or that your computer setup isn’t compromised to display false information.
  • That their consensus algorithms are free from bugs.
  • That they are not deliberately trying to mislead you.
  • That the third-party provider is not hacked.

If you don’t feel comfortable with this, you may want to consider running your own full node.

Issue 2: Is It Safe to Import My Extended Public Key or Addresses into Apps or Programs?

The options we discussed above involve importing your Extended Public Key into other apps or programs. Is this safe?

Deterministic Wallets

If someone has your Extended Public Key only, they wouldn’t be able to spend your funds. But there are some downsides to entering them into electronic devices. Should your Extended Public Key fall into the wrong hands, your privacy will be compromised.

  • Anyone with your Extended Public Key can view all your transactions. This person may then be able to establish your identity by analyzing them.
  • If this person is able to get a single private key from your wallet, he can derive all private keys to your wallet. Thus, he can steal all your funds. Effectively, this person would have gotten the Extended Private Key to your wallet.

Non-Deterministic Wallets

For non-HD wallets, exposing your addresses would likewise compromise your privacy. But, this would be to a lesser extent since an attacker would not be able to view details of your other addresses. (only those that have been exposed).

If you are uncomfortable taking such risks, what can you do? Read on below.

Alternative Methods of Setting up Your Bitcoin Watch Only Wallet

Deterministic Wallets

Instead of importing the Extended Public Key, send all your funds back to yourself. Just select the next receiving address and instruct your wallet to send all funds there.

This would aggregate funds spread across many addresses into a single address. You would then set up watch only wallets to track that particular address.

As a side note, if you do send funds from this particular address, the app would not show the new, lower balance. Instead, a zero balance would show. This is the way Bitcoin works. The remaining balance is not kept in the same address but instead forwarded to a different address within the same wallet. You then need to track this new address to check your balance.

Non-Deterministic Wallets

The concepts discussed for HD wallets are equally applicable to non-HD wallets. Users should avoid reusing addresses and periodically move funds to different addresses.

Conclusion

Phew, that was a long article! We hope you found it useful and that you are able to create a watch only wallet whichever platform you are on.

Did our article help, or do you have any questions for us?

Let us know by leaving a comment below right now.

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