A user asks: The problem is the wallet address that I am trying to recover is not showing up (or ‘regenerating’) after I recover my MetaMask using the seed phrase and then creating new accounts.
What’s the deal?
This is a good question because it addresses a misconception many people have. Thanks for taking the time to ask this!
A good analogy is that Ethereum is sort of a database and MetaMask is like a browser to access it.
This is similar to how your web browser’s bookmarks may be deleted after a re-install, but websites still exist. Your wallet allows you access to the internet of value, while your browser allows you access to the internet of information.
After a wallet reset, all your assets will still be on the blockchain. It’s just that the wallet isn’t configured to see them after a re-install.
If you have to re-install MetaMask, you will have to add the:
- Custom network networks
- Contract address for the tokens
- Re-generate all the accounts by clicking “create account”
Your secret seed phrase is a 12-word phrase that opens access to your account on a blockchain network. A secret seed phrase is also called a secret recovery phrase.
So, your secret seed phrase is a recovery phrase that accesses all your accounts. The secret seed phrase works on any wallet. So if you use the same seed phrase on MetaMask and Trust Wallet, it will both work and unlock the same account.
Wallets are interfaces to access your accounts on the blockchain network. The blockchain network is the database that actually stores your accounts and assets. The wallets merely allow you access to them and make things more accessible than they usually are. Similar to how web browsers make things simpler to access the internet. You can think of the blockchain as an internet of value versus an internet of information.
There are different types of blockchains that do different things. Ethereum is the first and leading smart contract platform, which is just a fancy way of saying that you can upload programs to it. You can’t do that with Bitcoin. The tokens that people buy are made from these programs. Binance Smart Chain (BSC) is a separate network based on Ethereum, so it’s EVM (Ethereum Virtual Machine) compatible. Because they are compatible, you can use the same seed phrase and have the same accounts on both. They are like twins, they look identical, but they are two different people.
Like twins, they may share the same looks but not the same bank account. Similarly, funds on Ethereum won’t reflect on Binance Smart Chain. That can be a source of confusion for people.
Another source of confusion are accounts. Your seed phrase unlocks your accounts on the blockchain. The way it works is that your accounts will always appear in the same order created. Say you use your seed phrase on two wallets. If you notice, the addresses are all the same and are generated in the same order. Accounts start with 0x followed by some combination of numbers and letters from A-F. These are base 16 hexadecimal numbers, which allows for a greater representation of numbers with less space. This allows for more accounts to be created. They can be hard to memorize and read.
The problem that people run into is that they don’t see their tokens, leading them to think that these are new accounts. Remember, your funds are stored on the blockchain (the database), not the wallet. The wallet lets you see your accounts.
This is similar to deleting your web browser, which has all your favorite bookmarks. If you were to reinstall it, your bookmarks would be gone, causing a huge inconvenience. However, just because the bookmarks are gone does not mean that the website no longer exists. You would have to add your bookmarks again. This is the same with MetaMask.
Because MetaMask respects your privacy, we don’t store any user information. This means that if you have to reinstall your MetaMask wallet, you will need to add the “bookmarks” again. First, you’d add the custom network again, like Binance Smart Chain, whose database has different funds than Ethereum. Then you’d have to re-generate your tokens by pressing “create account” until you have all your accounts. The names of your accounts are stored locally and not on the blockchain. Finally, you’d have to add the token addresses to each of your accounts.
Tokens are smart contracts (programs on the blockchain) with their own account addresses, just like you. You will have to tell MetaMask where to find them. Then once you do, it reads the smart contract, which has a space that says you have X amount of tokens. That information is displayed in your wallet.
We are looking for ways to make this easier for the user since many new people are entering crypto. We strive to make the easiest and safest wallet that gives users full custody and control of their assets.
User security is a topic for another post.