HD wallets

Hierarchical Deterministic (HD) wallets allow users to derive keys from a common seed making backup easier and allowing for new wallet features and privacy improvements.

How it works

Basically, you generate an initial secret key SK₀ from a random seed. Then you can derive child keys SK₀-₀, SK₀-₁ from SK₀. From these children, you can derive SK₀-₀-₀, SK₀-₀-₁, SK₀-₁-₀ and so on (derivations for a tree of arbitrary depth).

We distinguish two types of keys:

  • Hardened
  • Non-hardened

The only distinction here is that hardened keys allow only generation of child secret keys from parent secret keys. Thus, to derive a child key for a hardened key, you have to own the private key. Non-hardened keys allow one to derive a child public key from a parent public key (without requiring access to the secret key).

Each child is assigned a 4-byte index i:

  • i ≤ 2³¹ - 1 for non-hardened keys,
  • i > 2³¹ - 1 for hardened keys.


  1. Metadata to reconstruct the tree is stored as part of the root address.

Root Address format

We start with a PublicKey type address and add a new field for additional attributes. The attribute indexed by 0 (HD wallets attribute) is used to store tree data in the form of derivation paths. Each derivation path is specified as a list of derivation indices. Each derivation index is 4-byte unsigned int.

The resulting object is serialized and encrypted with the symmetric scheme (ChaChaPoly1305 algorithm) using the passphrase computed from the SHA-512 hash of the root public key. This will not allow an adversary to map all child addresses on the chain to their root as long as we do not actually store any funds on the root key (which is not forced by consensus rules, rather by UI).

Crucial point in wallet design: root public keys are not used to actually store money.

Use cases

Financial audit

An auditor requires only the hash of a root public key in order to view all keys / addresses in the hierarchy.

Payment server

This is applicable for non-hardened keys only.

For a payment server to be able to derive subsequent addresses for receiving payments, one of the following is required on the server:

  • Root public key


  • Payload of:

    • Public key PK of level i

    • Hash of root public key

    • Tree path for PK


For a wallet to operate over some subtree, one needs to provide either:

  • Root secret key


  • Payload of:

    • Secret key SK of level i

    • Hash of root public key

    • Tree path for SK


Let A(K) denote the address that holds information about keypair K. Let child(K, i) denote the i-th child keypair of K. Let tree(K) denote the tree of addresses for keypairs, derived from K (and having positive balance) and held in utxo.

a -> b denotes b is derivable from a. a -x b denotes that b can not be derived from a:

priv(K) -> pub(K)
pub(K) -> A(K)
pub(K) -x priv(K)
A(K) -x pub(K)
A(K) -x A(child(K, i))

For hardened keys:

(priv(K), utxo) -> tree(K)
pub(K) -x pub(child(K, i))
priv(K) -> priv(child(K, i))

For non-hardened keys

(pub(K), utxo) -> tree(K)
pub(K) -> pub(child(K, i))
priv(K) -> priv(child(K, i))

Derivation Crypto Interface


  • kp denotes a private key with index p. Just an Ed25519 private key.

  • Kp denotes public key with index p. Just an Ed25519 public key.

  • cp denotes chain code with index p.


Bitcoin uses a 512-bit hash, but kp is only 256 bit. For this reason we need to supply 512 bits of entropy, so we do not reduce hashing space.

  • Extended private key is a pair denoted as (ki, ci).

  • Extended public key is a pair denoted as (Ki, ci).

From application perspective, HD wallets (as defined in BIP-32) introduce following crypto primitives:

  • CKDpriv :: ((kpar, cpar), i) → (ki, ci)

    Computes a child extended private key from the parent extended private key.

  • CKDpub :: ((Kpar, cpar), i) → (Ki, ci)

    Computes a child extended public key from the parent extended public key.

Daedalus HD wallets

This section describes how HD wallets are used. It is split into two parts:

  1. Extension of wallet backend API to support HD wallet structure locally (as implemented in Bitcoin).

  2. Extension to blockchain handling to utilize new address attribute to keep HD structure of multiple wallet clients in sync.

Local storage

Old storage

The old wallet stored a simple list of addresses. Each address was associated with a name and was derived from separate secret key (backed up by mnemonics and encrypted with the spending password).

New storage

Wallet storage is extended to store a list of wallets. Each wallet corresponds to a single root secret key (backed up by mnemonics and encrypted with spending password).

Each wallet contains a number of accounts.

Each account contains a number of addresses (i.e. an address is a key of the 2nd level in a HD tree).

This maps to a HD tree:

  • wallet set corresponds to key of 0-th level (root),

  • wallet corresponds to key of 1-th level (children of root),

  • address corresponds to key of 2-th level (grandchildren of root).

Funds are kept only on addresses.

When funds are spent from one or more addresses, a new one is generated to receive the change (unspent coins) from the payment.


A user is able to:

  • import/export an arbitrary number of wallets,

  • generate an arbitrary number of accounts,

  • assign names to wallets and accounts,

  • generate an arbitrary number of addresses,

  • change wallet spending password.

Backup and restore

There are two ways of backing up a wallet:

  • mnemonics: 24 words which allow the wallet to later regenerate all required keypairs. Names will not be restored however.
  • Wallet backup file: will restore the whole wallet structure with names.


In both cases we have a secret root key which can be used to regenerate the wallet using the following procedure:

  • Root key is checked to be absent from local storage.

  • The utxo set is traversed to find all addresses with a non-zero balance corresponding to each derived keypair and add them to storage along with their parent wallets.

  • In case of file import, the structure that resulted from step 2 is additionally labeled with names (if they exist in the backup file).

New transaction handling

When a new transaction becomes available (appears either in block or in the mempool), it will be analyzed to see if it modifies outputs associated with addresses belonging to a wallet we own. If it does, the address and balance is shown in the user interface.