In July 2014, Ethereum’s core developers opened a historic presale of their new ether (ETH) cryptocurrency to interested investors. At the time, anyone who wanted to invest in the Ethereum Foundation’s vision of a “decentralized internet” could have visited the official ethereum.org website, created an Ethereum presale wallet, and purchased ETH with Bitcoin (BTC).
According to news reports, it only took one day for early Ethereum adopters to trade over $2 million worth of BTC. At the end of the 42-day sale, the Ethereum Foundation raised an impressive $18.3 million and recorded 6,670 transactions with 51,000,213.9 ETH sold. Considering Ethereum is now the second-largest cryptocurrency, it’s safe to say the ETH presale was one of the most lucrative investment opportunities in crypto market history.
However, since the Ethereum developers encrypted each presale investor’s private key to a JSON file with a unique password, people who didn’t store this info properly couldn’t claim their crypto once the Ethereum blockchain went live in 2015. Sadly, there are many unfortunate stories of people still struggling to access a ton of ETH stuck in their Ethereum presale wallets.
If you’re having issues with Ethereum presale wallet recovery, know there are troubleshooting strategies and expert wallet recovery services to regain access to your cryptocurrency. Keep reading to learn the methods you can use to recover your ETH.
The Basics of ETH Wallet Set-up
The Ethereum presale wallet is an encrypted JSON file that the Ethereum Foundation offered to crypto investors in 2014. Each of these files contains the essential private key for a new Ethereum address, which users could use to import the ETH they purchased during the presale to the Ethereum blockchain once it went live. The only way to decrypt the private key on an ETH presale wallet’s JSON file is to use the password users created during the presale wallet set-up process.
To better understand how the Ethereum presale wallet works, let’s quickly run through what people had to do to claim ETH when this wallet came out. Between July 22nd and September 2nd of 2014, Ethereum.org’s homepage had a few countdown clocks and a button on the bottom to “Buy Ether.” For the first 14 days, one BTC equaled 2,000 ETH, and this figure gradually diminished until 1,337 ETH equaled one BTC at the end of the presale.
If users clicked the “Buy Ether” button, they had to read and agree to the Terms & Conditions statements.
From here, users entered how much BTC they wanted to trade for ETH, with the minimum set at 0.01 BTC and the max at 500,000 BTC. Users then needed to enter an email address and create a password for their account. The Ethereum Foundation warned users they would need their password to recover their presale wallet.
After hitting “Continue,” the next page told users to move their cursor around to generate a random wallet address.
On the second-to-last page, investors had to download their new ETH presale wallet and the associated JSON file before sending their BTC. There was a QR code on this screen with the Ethereum Foundation’s Bitcoin payment address, as well as info on the new Ethereum presale wallet address.
The Ethereum Foundation also sent a backup JSON file to the email address registered at the start of this process.
Common Reasons for Losing Access to Ethereum Presale Wallets
As we’ve helped people regain access to their Ethereum presale wallets, we’ve run across a few common issues people have accessing their ETH. While there could be dozens of potential problems with your presale wallet, chances are you’re having trouble with one of the following situations.
Misplaced or Forgotten Password
Arguably, the most common reason people can’t get into the Ethereum presale wallet is that they don’t know their password. Whether you forgot where you stored the password, you can’t remember it, or the info you have isn’t correct, you can’t decrypt your wallet’s private key without this crucial info.
Lost JSON File
Along with the password, the JSON file associated with an Ethereum presale wallet is essential to claiming your ETH. Remember, each JSON file contains the private key for your wallet, so you need this information to access your ETH on the Ethereum blockchain. Unfortunately, some people deleted this file from their email or lost access to it on the computer they downloaded it on.
A Bug In The ETH Wallet’s Software
Working with various clients, we’ve identified a few bugs, glitches, and other issues with Ethereum’s code which make it impossible for early investors to access their presale wallet. For instance, in one case, an ETH presale wallet owner couldn’t get into their account because of foreign characters they used during setup. Even though this client knew their password, the presence of these foreign characters prevented the decryption process.
Hard Drive Corruption
In addition to software issues, a few investors have trouble because there’s a problem with the computer they used to download their JSON file. If there’s an issue with the computer’s hardware, like a damaged hard drive, then there’s a risk you can’t reclaim the crypto you downloaded during the set-up process.
Phishing Scams or Hacks
Since the Ethereum presale was a major success, it attracted many scammers into the crypto industry. Indeed, during the presale, the Ethereum developer community pointed out the rise in fraudulent social media profiles and sites claiming to offer premined ETH. Some early investors might have lost their presale Ethereum wallet due to a cyberattack or a scam.
Recovering the ETH in your presale wallet depends on how much info you have to start with. Ideally, you’ll have both your JSON file and the correct password to your account to import the private key to an Ethereum-compatible crypto wallet. However, even if you’re missing one of these elements, there are alternative techniques and crypto recovery services which can get into Ethereum presale wallets.
Ethereum Presale Wallet Recovery With the JSON File and Password
Suppose you have the original JSON file for your presale Ethereum wallet and the correct password for this account. In that case, you can import your Ethereum directly into a wallet that supports keystore files. Typically, investors who had presale ETH use MyEtherWallet (aka MEW) or MyCrypto because these early wallets have an excellent reputation and make it easy to select and upload the keystore file.
Whichever wallet you choose to use, you’ll find an option to use a keystore file to claim the Ethereum on your wallet.
As long as you submit the JSON file and enter the correct password to decrypt your presale wallet’s private key, you should have access to the Ethereum your account. You’re now free to transfer your ETH to a different wallet, use it in DeFi, or send it to an exchange.
Try Guessing Your ETH Presale Wallet’s Password
If you’re missing the password for your wallet, consider manually trying a few of your most common passwords and writing down each failed attempt. Remember that the original Ethereum presale wallet had a few notable restrictions:
Include upper and lowercase letters
Screened against frequently used and insecure passwords
If you’re not having luck manually trying passwords, you could consider brute forcing it. Just be sure to include the above restrictions to ensure every attempt meets the guidelines for the Ethereum wallet passwords.
Seek Professional Help From Crypto Wallet Recovery Experts
For those still struggling with Ethereum presale wallet recovery, consider contacting a professional crypto recovery service with experience with this particular issue. Even if you don’t have all the information on your password or JSON file, there’s a chance an expert wallet recovery service can figure out the issue and regain access to your account. Before you rule out getting back into your Ethereum presale wallet, send an email to ReWallet’s team for assistance.
Safety Strategies to Protect Your Ethereum Presale Wallet
As you try to recover the ETH stuck in your presale Ethereum wallet, it’s essential to put as many safety measures in place to prevent critical pieces of data from slipping out of your hands. Even if you only have partial info on your JSON file or password, please take proactive steps to safeguard this data and increase the odds of a successful recovery.
Create multiple backups for passwords and store them in separate, secret, and secure areas. For more info on the best practices for backing up your passwords, check out ReWallet’s previous guide on “Secure Passwords and Backups”.
Be sure to only keep your JSON file on a computer you’re sure isn’t compromised with viruses, malware, or other issues. Also, it’s best to create a local offline copy of the JSON backup or put it in an encrypted flash drive before deleting the email with this information. Keeping this sensitive file in your mailbox puts you at a greater risk of a hack.
Be extra cautious when researching solutions for Ethereum presale wallets. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams in the crypto space, especially surrounding valuable Ethereum presale wallets. Only work with professional crypto recovery services with a transparent and proven track record for helping clients struggling with wallet recovery.
Contact ReWallet For More Info On Ethereum Presale Wallet Recovery
Although the design of the Ethereum presale wallets can be challenging, there are ways crypto wallet experts can securely open these accounts—even if you’ve forgotten your password. If you have ETH locked in a presale wallet, please reach out to ReWallet for a free professional evaluation.
Yes, it’s possible to recover your Ethereum presale wallet without the password, but not without the JSON file. For instance, there are ways to guess your password even if you don’t have this information. You could work with a professional crypto recovery service or manually test multiple passwords to unlock your JSON file. Although you need both of these elements to get into a presale ETH wallet, there are techniques crypto recovery experts can use to get into a blocked account.
It’s always best practice to link your software wallets with compatible hardware devices like Trezor, Ledger or KeepKey to reduce the odds of hackers breaking into your accounts. It’s also important to keep crucial information like your password and JSON file secret and secure, and be wary of lending a computer with this information to friends or family.
If you have your backup JSON file on an email address, consider putting it on an encrypted flash drive or in some form of offline storage before deleting this message. To avoid becoming a victim, you should also pay attention to news of the latest hacks or phishing scams from credible sources like the Ethereum Foundation.
Yes, even with the highest-reviewed third-party wallet recovery tools, there are inherent risks with using programs or solutions from centralised companies. In worst-case scenarios, people could be offering a malicious third-party “tool” to drain victims of their crypto. In other cases, unforeseen glitches or bugs can put your Ethereum presale wallet at risk. Always consider these potential issues when reviewing a third-party wallet recovery solution.
If you’re afraid your Ethereum presale wallet is compromised, it’s best to reach out to a professional wallet recovery service that can run tests on your account. Crypto wallet experts have the skills, experience and software tools to accurately diagnose potential issues with your Ethereum presale wallet and suggest the best solution.
Co-founder and CTO Bruno is a crypto native. Long before the public hype around Bitcoin, Ethereum & Co, Bruno was already active in the crypto field. The idea for ReWallet came to him a few years ago when he lost access to his own wallet.