How to create an Unchained vault

This do-it-yourself guide covers everything you need to know to set up your 2-of-3 multisig Unchained vault

If you understand the benefits of using multisig and why a collaborative custody Unchained vault is a great way to do so, you’re well on your way to being in control of your generational bitcoin wealth. The next step is setting up your Unchained account, adding your keys, and creating your vault, so you can start moving your bitcoin onto our platform—all while keeping complete control of your own keys.

Check out Concierge Onboarding

Before we get started, know that our Concierge team is available to walk you through every step of this process. With our white-glove Concierge Onboarding service you get an onboarding call with a vault specialist, training on how to use our open-source external recovery tools, exclusive access to continuing education webinars, ongoing support, and 30 days of access to our Premium Support service. With Premium Support, you can get expert help well beyond the initial setup.

If you would prefer to opt for a do-it-yourself vault, keep reading.

Create an Unchained account

The first thing you need to do to to set up your Unchained vault is create an Unchained account.

The Unchained account creation screen

You will be able to begin adding keys as soon as you create your account.

Initialize your hardware wallets

The next step toward building your own Unchained multisig vault is preparing your hardware wallets. Unchained supports Trezor, Ledger, and Coldcard.

Before you can add them to your Unchained account, you need to install firmware and create a new wallet using your wallet manufacturer’s official software. You can download Trezor Suite or Ledger Live for those wallets, or check out the official guide to getting started with Coldcard. Below we've embedded a video for the device we ship to clients ourselves, the Trezor Model One.

Again, if you aren’t comfortable setting up your wallet yourself, we recommend Concierge Onboarding.

Upload keys to Unchained

Once you sign in to your new Unchained account, you should click Keys to view the list of keys in your account (if this is a new account, you shouldn’t have any yet!). From here, you should click Upload New Key.

Give your first key a name

The first thing you need to do for your first key is give it a name. Don’t stress about this too much—it doesn’t directly affect the security of your wallet and it mostly serves to differentiate the two (or more!) uploaded keys within your Unchained account. You’ll need to upload at least two separate keys from two separate hardware wallets before you can create an Unchained vault.

For my first key, I’m going to give it Key Name “Garrus”.

Name your key something memorable that doesn't reveal information about the device

Keep it simple, easy to remember, and if you’re uploading multiple keys, it might be a good idea to choose names that are related to each other. Don’t reveal too much information with these names; names that reveal anything about the device’s security (such as location) or the physical device itself (like “Black Trezor”) are not recommended.

Choose which hardware wallet you’re uploading a key from

On the next screen, you’re going to choose the type of wallet you’re uploading your key from. This is Ledger, Trezor, or Coldcard. For my first key, I’m choosing Trezor.

Export the public key from your device

Now the most important part of the upload process: exporting the extended public key (xpub) from your hardware device. Here, we’re exporting the extended public key from a Ledger wallet that was previously set up in Trezor Suite.

Connect to Trezor to use the Trezor Suite and upload your public key to the Unchained platform

As the bridge (the interface that appears after you click Connect to Ledger or Connect to Trezor) will verify, you’re exporting a public key with this process. At no point during the key creation process are you sharing a private key with Unchained.

An important note about passphrases

Please note that a passphrase and a PIN are two different things. Your PIN is the several-digit code you established when initializing your device. The passphrase that your device bridge may ask for when exporting your public key is a 13th or 25th word that adds a second layer of security to your seed phrase. It is generally best not to use a passphrase in conjunction with multisig. To learn more about how passphrases work, read our explanation here.

Review and create

If your export from your wallet worked correctly, you should see the following screen with the public key that was exported from your device.

The extended public key that we imported from your device

Finally, you’re shown a Review key page which shows you a summary of everything you’ve done so far: the Key Name, the Currency (Unchained only supports BTC), the BIP32 Path (this is the default path unless you have changed it using advanced settings, which is not recommended for most users), and the Public Key itself. From here, click Create to finalize the key add process.

Reviewing the key information for the first key

Do it all again with another key!

After you’ve completed the process of adding one key to your Unchained account, simply click on Upload New Key on the Keys page once again to go through the process with another key from another wallet. The first key was from a Ledger wallet called Garrus, but now you need to upload another key with another name from another wallet—the second hardware device can be another Ledger device, a Trezor device, or a Coldcard. I’m going to add a Trezor, and call it “Liara”.

Two keys with their Xpubs properly uploaded and ready to create a vault

After you’re done, your Keys page should look like the above. Keep reading to learn how to create a vault.

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Create an Unchained vault

You now have two keys uploaded to your Unchained account, and you can move forward with the creation of an Unchained vault as soon as your account has been approved for Tier 2.

To get started creating a vault, simply navigate to the Vaults page and click New vault.

You don't have a vault yet, but you will soon

Name your vault

Simply name your vault, select the two keys you uploaded to your Unchained account earlier, review your vault, and click Create vault.

The last step—review the name and keys associated with the vault before creating it

Congratulations! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve reached the end of creating your Unchained vault. You will be presented with the following overview screen with a look at your multisig wallet balance, options to Deposit, Withdraw, or Transfer funds between vaults, a balance history, and the two keys you chose to set up this vault.

Important: Back up your wallet configuration file

You should also download the wallet configuration file for your new multisig wallet. At the bottom of your vault, in the Vault tools menu, choose View next to Wallet configuration file and click Download.

This file does not include private keys (and hence does not create a high risk situation for your funds), but it does include public keys and information critical to recovering your funds in a doomsday scenario where Unchained’s platform is offline or ceases to exist. Store this file in a safe place such as a password manager.

Next steps

As a quick review, you should now have two hardware devices and two backup seed phrases (for recovering your wallets if you ever lose the devices themselves!). These are the tools that created your Unchained vault and afford you complete control of your bitcoin as long as they remain in your possession. However, with a multisig Unchained vault, if you ever lose access to both a hardware device and its seed phrase, you can recover your funds by requesting a withdrawal using Unchained’s key.

Make your first deposit

After your vault is created, it's time to make your first deposit. Simply navigate to the Vault page and choose the vault you'd like to make a deposit to. Simply click Deposit, and send bitcoin to the address provided on the screen.

Secure your private key material

Given changing balances, risk profiles, and personal circumstances, bitcoin wealth management and security is a process that never ends. Your keys are worth holding, but they aren’t going to hold themselves. We recommend taking some basic next steps with your Unchained account like setting up proper 2 factor authentication, and recording an identity verification video so that real humans at Unchained can confirm your identity if you ever depend on us for signing a transaction or initiating a swap or replacing one of your keys.

Achieving the highest levels of security requires diligence and forethought—especially when it comes to taking steps to secure the physical elements of your vault. We're here to help you identify and deploy an optimized security strategy based on your intended use of your vault, but the below graphic is a great place to start for optimal security.

An example of properly-secured private key material—two hardware wallets and two seed phrases—geographically distributed across four secure locations.

To learn more about how to properly secure your hardware wallets and seed phrases, read our opsec guide.

Want to upgrade your bitcoin security? Onboard today!