What is a Bitcoin client?

Having difficulty understanding the Bitcoin client? When searching the internet in order to develop an understanding of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies you will come across many confusing terms. Cryptocurrency seems to be soaked in terminology. This is partly due to its software origins, but I also suspect that its deliberate to add an air of mystery to the whole cryptocurrency community.

Whilst on your search you will inevitably come across the term Bitcoin client. The context of your find will normally be the first instruction to download a Bitcoin client. This tends to send potential users of Bitcoin users into a panic: Will they have to start mining? What Bitcoin hardware do you need? How do you protect your Bitcoins?

Stop! Have no fear as a client is very simple. A client is simply the software that will be required in order to send and receive Bitcoins. If all that you want to do is buy and spend Bitcoins then you will not need to understand Bitcoin mining. However, you will need a Bitcoin client in order to transact.

The Bitcoin client is the wallet

Quite simply, the Bitcoin client is the Bitcoin wallet software. The Bitcoin client software communicates with the Bitcoin network in order to discover the latest blockchain. This enables other users to send and receive Bitcoins.

The client software creates the private keys needed by Bitcoin users in order to secure their Bitcoins.

A Bitcoin client such as the ‘full wallet’ requires the user to download the entire blockchain. This will use over 125GB of data on your hard drive and will take time. Furthermore, it will need to re-sync every time that you open your Bitcoin client.

An alternative client is the ‘lite wallet’. As you might expect, this wallet does not require you to download the entire blockchain. The lite client is sufficient for the majority of Bitcoin users.

bitcoin client

Why would you use a full Bitcoin client?

A full client is a Bitcoin node. A node is a computer that helps to maintain the decentralisation of the Bitcoin system. The full nodes allow other lite clients to connect to the Bitcoin network through peer-to-peer networks sourced from full nodes.

Full nodes need 2GB of RAM and an internet speed of at least 50KB per second in order to help to sustain the network. The full nodes upload the Bitcoin blockchain to other users. As a result, full nodes can on average use 200GB more of upload per month.

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