What if I Receive a Bitcoin and my Computer is Powered Off?

Bitcoins and managing them can be a confusing topic for those who are not an expert in the surrounding technical details of the bitcoin process. Even those who do have a solid grasp on what bitcoins are and how they’re generated can still have some questions regarding their management, among other facets of the currency’s quirks.

The question currently being asked is one of high importance. Less technically literate individuals may be afraid that they will not recieve their bitcoins, and in that event, they would be losing out on a large amount of money. Rest assured though, the bitcoin transaction will be completed the next time your computer is turned on.

Starting from the beginning, bitcoins are “held” within software on the users computer commonly referred to in the community as a bitcoin wallet. This wallet is an application that allows you to monitor how many bitcoins you have from the various dealings you’ve been apart of.

Wallets generally provide incoming and outgoing “addresses” that will allow users to either send or receive bitcoins. By providing your address to the other individual in the transaction, they can send bitcoins to the unique ID associated with the wallet on your computer.

Wallets and ID’s are meant to be unique to a computer or a username and password login set. This prevents theft and fraud from occurring within the community, as a single user should theoretically be the only one that can access the wallet they have set up.

It is important to note, however, that the wallet on your computer does not actually locally store the bitcoins. Bitcoins are not stored locally inside of your computer, and can be accessed from any computer in the world, provided you can access your wallet from that computer. To understand why this works, it is important to understand what a wallet for bitcoins actually is.

Bitcoins are not stored locally on your computer, because bitcoin transactions are really just an list item on a giant ledger of transactions that have occurred throughout the history of bitcoins. Every single time a bitcoin is generated or moved, this public ledger is updated.

Wallet software on an individuals computer accesses this public list of transaction, and associates the amount of bitcoins with the ID of that wallet. This is the amount that is ultimately revealed to this user through the wallet. The result of this is that as long as your computer is able to connect to the public ledger that holds all of the transactions of the bitcoin community, your computer and wallet software will be able to be updated with the most current and accurate info.

This process of a wallet accessing the history of bitcoin transactions is called “synchronizing” and is actually the wallet application running through and verifying each transaction made involving bitcoins. Synchronizing is generally a difficult and time-consuming task for the application, as it has to run through billions upon billions of ledger lines in order to be fully updated.

Through this process, however, users can be ensured that the bitcoins they send, and those that they receive when offline, will without a doubt end up at the right user and in the correct wallet. As long as the destination ID or user is correct, he bitcoins will be available when the bitcoin ledger is updated. In addition to being powered on, in order for a wallet to access the ledger, a computer must be connected to the internet.

Following this information, it is important to maintain quality safety for your bitcoin wallet. Ensure that you have a backup ready in case of a hard drive failure. If your wallet is only accessibly locally on the hard drive of your computer, if it is to break, there will be no way to salvage the bitcoins. An “address” is associated uniquely with a wallet. It is possible to create a new wallet with a new id, but then you will never be able to get the bitcoins lost. The way to avoid this problem is to back up the same instance of your wallet on several locations. This will ensure that in the failure of a primary location, there will still be other accessible methods of sending and receiving our bitcoins.

Overall, the important things to take away from this are that in order to receive a bitcoin from a sender, you do not need to keep your computer powered on. Bitcoins can be received through the ledger whether your computer is on at the time or not. The only way how to access the received coins, however, is to turn the computer on and ensure it is linked up to the internet, allowing your wallet to self-update and become the most current it can be with the current ledger.