Note: This is an advanced crypto topic on Ethereum troubleshooting.
This is a common problem that took me several hours to figure out, but the solution turned out to be rather simple.
It starts like this – you set up a hardware wallet, which for most people will be a Ledger or Trezor (I recommend Trezor!)
Let’s say you start with a Ledger.
You set up your wallet, you use it for a while, and then later you decide to switch to Trezor.
When your Trezor arrives in the mail, you restore your wallet using your seed words and guess what – your Ethereum wallet shows a zero balance!
You’ll probably also notice the Ethereum wallet address is completely different to the one you had in Ledger Live?
You might start freaking out now.
You had a whole $4.50 of ETH in that wallet! Where has it gone!!!
But this is a completely normal thing and easy to solve.
Same seed words, different addresses
Yes, the Trezor is producing a different ETH wallet than your Ledger wallet from exactly the same seed words.
How is this possible?
It’s the same seed/private key! How can it produce different wallets?
But the reality is, you can produce an endless amount of wallets from the same seed.
The reason the Trezor produces a different wallet than your Ledger is that the devices use a different derivation path.
As the name suggests, a derivation path is how the device derives your wallet address from the seed.
Trezor uses BIP44, and Ledger uses BIP32.
If this is all sounding like gibberish, here’s all you need to know:
Don’t worry. Your ETH is safe.
It’s still sitting there on the blockchain and hasn’t moved, and you can still easily access it.
There are two ways:
Use another interface like MyEtherWallet
Apps like MEW are more advanced interfaces for interacting with the Ethereum blockchain and allow you to change the derivation path to find all your other wallets.
For example, if you connect your hardware wallet to MEW (myetherwallet.com), you will get the option here to choose a different derivation path:
The derivation path for Trezor I believe is m/44/60’/0’/0
The derivation path for Ledger I believe is m/44/60’/0′
There’s also a ton of other ones.
(Don’t quote me on these, I’m not an expert!)
Simply choose the right derivation path, and you should see your wallet in the listings.
Then you can access it through MEW just like you would through Ledger Live, Trezor Suite or Metamask.
Note: Metamask does not have this functionality. MEW is superior.
Use your original brand of hardware wallet
If all of this sounds too complicated, you can always just buy another hardware wallet of the same brand to access your funds again.
So if you set up your wallet on a Ledger, then buy another Ledger.
This is the easiest way, but obviously involves a cost (assuming you lost/broke your old hardware wallet).
The important thing to remember though is, your funds are not lost!
They’re still there in your wallet, which is still protected by your seed.
You just need the right interface to access them.