If you’re new to Web3, you might still be getting used to using MetaMask and managing your new online identity and assets. But if you’ve been around a while, you may be juggling several different Secret Recovery Phrases. That can get complicated, but there are ways to make it easier from a usage perspective. Let’s take a dive into how to manage multiple wallets without losing your mind.
Why would you want, or need, multiple Secret Recovery Phrases? After all, each SRP can generate a near-infinite number of accounts, so you can just organize your tokens and assets at the account level, right?Well, there are actually a lot of potential use cases and avantages. First of all, if your SRP becomes somehow compromised, all the accounts generated using that SRP are compromised. Some users who are interested in engaging with cutting-edge, unproven dapps and platforms prefer to have their riskier behavior ‘sandboxed’ in a separate wallet.
Another reason to employ multiple SRPs is so that you can have a ‘public’ identity as well as more anonymous identities; if you want to try out a platform without associating it publicly through on-chain data with your publicly-known identity, an alternate SRP is a straightforward way to do it.
Another common scenario is that of entrepreneurs or businesspeople; they may have personal wallets and business wallets. It is, of course, good business practice to keep these separate. However, there’s a practical side to it as well: if you need to report your crypto holdings to tax agencies, it’s much more convenient to have a separate SRP for each taxable entity.
Last but not least: some people have several different versions of MetaMask installed at the same time. A developer may be working with a custom build they’ve created themselves, or making beautiful new functionality for MetaMask in our developers' distribution, Flask. An institutional investor may be working with our enterprise-tailored MetaMask Institutional, perhaps with several different wallets. Developers often have SRPs specifically for development, which they use to deploy smart contracts. Under these circumstances, you have to be very careful to have only one version of MetaMask active in the same browser at the same time, or it won’t work.
These are some of the most common scenarios, and this list is by no means exhaustive. So enough about the why; how do these crypto-connoisseurs manage it all?
Secret Recovery Phrase hygiene and safety
The first step to managing any Web3 identity is to practice good SRP hygiene and safety. This is what we mean:
“Not your keys, not your coins”: the old Bitcoin maxim holds true on other blockchains, as well. Never, ever, ever share your Secret Recovery Phrase. Anyone who has that phrase has complete and irrevocable control over the accounts generated with it. Never share it–especially if they say they’re trying to help.
Secure backups: If those twelve words represent total control over your accounts, how do you keep them safe and accessible at the same time? We’ve got a whole article on SRP security, but these points bear repeating:
Write down your Secret Recovery Phrase somewhere safe
Double-check your spelling and that you wrote down every word in the same order they were given
Reach out to MetaMask Support's official channels if you need help
Keep it in an easily discovered location; e.g. in a cloud-saved document or email titled "Seed Phrase"; on a post-it note stuck to your computer.
Provide your seed phrase to anyone, even if they say they're from MetaMask Support
Change the order of the words
Consider getting a hardware wallet. This adds a layer of complexity to your SRP management, so if you’re thinking about it, read our hardware wallet configuration recommendations here.
Lastly: if a sidechain (like Ronin, for example) requires you to set up a new wallet, consider whether you want to re-use an existing SRP, or generate a new one. Pro tip: it would be safer to generate a new one.
Follow these guidelines, and you’re well on your way to staying safe in Web3.
So without further ado: how do I hold all these SRPs??
So many BIP-39 compliant words
There are two main ways to do it: use different browsers, or set up different browser profiles. Don’t worry, it’s fairly easy.
Using different browsers
This option is as straightforward as it sounds: if you’ve only got two or three SRPs, then you can simply install MetaMask in several different browsers, and use a different browser for each one. Given the open-source nature of the modern web, there’s not a definitive listing of browsers that it will or won’t work in. The browsers officially supported by MetaMask at press time are Chrome, Firefox, Brave, and Edge.
Using browser profiles
The easiest way to manage multiple wallets is by using browser profiles. Let’s take a look at how these work with MetaMask in Chrome, as so many browsers are based on it. Chrome’s canonical instructions are available here, and the steps are fairly simple:
In the top-right corner of your browser, click the profile image (it will have your Google profile image, or if you haven’t logged in, it will have a placeholder image)
Under that menu, at the bottom, click on ‘add’:
Walk through the prompts to create the new profile; you probably don’t need to associate it with another email account, so you can just click ‘Continue without an account’:
Choose a color scheme, give your profile a name that reminds you which wallet you’re going to use with it, and hit done:
Now all that’s left to do is to open a browser window in that new profile, install MetaMask from our downloads page like you normally would, and follow these instructions to restore from your SRP–or create a new one.
This will allow you to juggle between wallets with ease, as you can have multiple browser windows open, each one in a different profile, at the same time.
Keep in mind that while MetaMask’s team is at the forefront of open source security practices and works tirelessly to keep our users safe, you’re only as safe as your computer is. Be careful not to interact with malware, and be sure to read how to enable full-disk encryption: the more SRPs you have on one machine, the more you have to lose!