A User's Guide to the Different Steem Keys or Passwords

in #steemit-guides4 years ago (edited)


Steem keys and passwords

Steem has five different keys or passwords associated with accounts. Four of these are used with typical accounts and the fifth is used by witnesses. They are: owner, active, posting, memo, and signing keys. Each has its own set of functions and limits.


Quick reference table

posting key
active key
owner key
memo key
original 16+ character "master" password
post, comment, vote, follow
transfer funds, make trades, power up/down, change posting/memo/witness/active keys, vote for witnesses
change the owner key
view private messages

Owner key

The owner key gives full control over your Steem account. Its user is able to post, vote, transfer funds, vote for witnesses, and change all keys including being able to change the owner key. Notice I said "its user" and not "you"? Because if someone were to get your account or owner password, they can change all the keys and take your account and whatever it is worth for themselves. The owner key is meant to be used basically only if necessary, and otherwise written down/etched in stone and put into "cold storage," a crypto term for keeping your keys off of running or internet-connected computers. The only thing the owner key can not do is decrypt private messages/memos sent to you, only the memo key can.

Active key

The active key can perform almost all functions for an account except change the owner key. It can change all other keys on an account, including the active key. The active key can do everything the post key can do, plus allows transferring, trading, powering up/powering down Steem Power, and voting for witnesses. It cannot decrypt private messages encrypted to your memo key, though if you log in with the password you made when making an account via fb/reddit (don't, see below for why), both of these will be available simultaneously.

Posting key

The posting key allows accounts to post, comment, vote, and follow other accounts. This is what most users should be logging in to Steemit with every day, only using the active key when something to do with transferring funds or changing keys is necessary. You are more likely to have your password or key compromised the more you use it, so a limited posting key exists to limit the damage that a compromised account key would cause.

Memo key

The memo key is the only key that can decrypt private messages sent to your account. Before you ask, the feature isn't implemented on Steemit yet. :)

Signing key (super secret for witnesses only)

The signing key can be used by witnesses to sign blocks. It's set with the update_witness transaction signed using an active or owner key.

Facebook and Reddit verified account master passwords

You might be asking, "Keys, what keys? I only have the password I made when I signed up." The password you made when signing up via Facebook or Reddit actually generates all four main keys for your account. You can see this by going to your account's permissions page (https://steemit.com/@insertyouraccountname/permissions). You will be able to show any key including the owner key. This means you're logged into all of these keys at once. For daily non-transactional use you should be logging in with your posting key only. See the posting key link below for instructions.

Posts regarding changing keys:

How to login with your posting key (and why this is important)
How to use or make a secure enough posting key and switch to using it to log in.

Your Steem account is worth money! How to secure it with a new owner key to keep it yours forever
How to make a very secure owner key for cold storage.

If you found this or my other posts helpful, click here for my blog page and hit the follow button in the upper right!


It's come to my attention that this post is being misused by @dineroconopcion to justify asking for people's private posting key.

I encourage all users to treat their accounts' permissions and keys with care. This goes for any third party you may provide your posting key to. If their key list is compromised:

  • your posts may be edited, defaced, or replaced with spam
  • someone could post or comment with spam, scams, or resteem anything
  • your vote power may be drained voting on things you don't want to vote on
  • your account may follow people you don't want to follow

Though it limits potential economic damage to your account, the private posting key is still a key that should be kept private.

thank for the advice @pfunk a have seen a lot of third parties asking for the private posting key

So is STEEM different in its block chain implementation as compared to bitcoin? In the sense that I thought once something is on the blockchain it cannot be changed. My question being how is it possible to edit previous posts once they are already a part of the blockchain?

It's true once data is into a blockchain, it's near impossible to change it. Edits are done in Steem by adding new posts or comments to the blockchain that use the same permalink title as the previous post. The edits contain the changes and some special characters that tell the Steem front end how the post is edited by the new edit transaction.

I edited this comment after posting the above paragraph to illustrate. I will edit it again to show you what the edit transaction looks like.

Okay i understand now

Hello pfunk sorry for disturb you on a post that is one year old.

Please I want to ask something.

If I change my password does that change private keys too? I would't really care about them that much, but I have seen that proctologic lost a lot by getting...hacked..probably.

I think a good way is to not risk it.

Thank you.

Yes, changing your password via Steemit will change your account's permission keys essentially. The keys are derived from a combination of your password and your account name.

If you believe your keys or password may be compromised, it is a very good idea to change the password, so long as you back it up and put the backups in secure and safe places, just like your original password.

I think that answers my question too then. There's no way to change the posting key (for example) without changing the password. Thanks.

You can do this with Steem accounts if you're a power-user type and aren't shy of a command line interface. With the steemit.com GUI, it's no longer possible.

Changing one key will make your original master password not function for that particular use, so if you used something other than Steemit to change just your posting key, the password would no longer allow you to post/comment/vote.

Oh thanks... that's interesting. I'll get into more of the details of the CLI and APIs soon I hope.

Thank you very much!

Is it okay to use my owner key to access dlive through steemconnect...I get this message when trying to login dlive.io........"This operation requires your owner, active key or master password."

It's not a good idea to use your owner key anywhere, unless you need to. The active key should be used for anything else if its required. If you verify it's really Steemconnect, the active key should be used if you have it. A lot of people will use their master password but it's pretty insecure because that includes the owner key.

Only the owner key can change the owner key, so if the password were compromised, your account is essentially owned by someone else. This makes getting your account back harder and not guaranteed, as you have to rely on your account's recovery account. Which will be @steem, owned by Steemit, if you used the Steemit faucet to create your account).

Thank you so much, that's what I thought, but everyone seems to use d-live to post videos since dlive has the steem features. So do I just create a dlive account and somehow associate it with my steemit account?
Sorry to be so lame, just being overly careful with my steem credentials, I kinda like steemit and don't want to compromise it.

I haven't used it but it appears the way it works is you use your active key with Steemconnect, which then adds the @dlive.app account to your posting authority. This would in effect make you a Dlive account, and you can use the service using your account through their website.

Hello pfunk - First of all thank you for the post. I am new to Steemit , I dont see an option to see the owner private key. I can I see the owner private key so that I can backup the same. Thank you.

Backup your master password which is used to derive your owner key.

steemit.com no longer shows the owner key.

Which WIF key in permissions used for steem mining ? owner, active which one ??

PoW mining in Steem is no longer possible.

Ohh! Thank you :)

We need to be able to pin posts to the top or create a topic of general user tools and options with only the best mmost straight forward organized posts, so people don't constantly ask about this stuff requiring new posts or to constantly be linking to old ones. Just my thoughts for the record I think this is great for new users and much needed.

So far I've put these into the #steemit-guides tag. There's also #steemhelp.

I generally go to the FAQ section first. It would be great if there was an FAQ section on keys, with links to all the great posts like this one for answering those questions. It seems simple once you know where to look, but at first, it is not so clear. I had to search for "How to create new keys" to find this post. It may be somewhere else, but the FAQ seems like a great place. If it is already there, maybe it should be more obvious - because I was looking for it and missed it.

For instance, here is a link to the FAQ section where I would be great to have an article on how to create them and all the fun bits about changing them, the effect of changing them, etc.


On a side note, it is better to use a password manager like LastPass, then using the default browser solution (remember password) or not using anything at all.

There, you could set on which urls, which keys could be used.

Never enter your password/key manually, only through the manager.

If there comes a place, where that the password manager don't give you the option to input your keys, look carefully why. Is it phishing ? Be skeptical.

And don't forget to backup your password manager's data store (or as it is called for LastPass - Vault), preferably in an encrypted, password protected form, at multiple places, at least one of which is cold storage.

yeah this is very good for beginners, this information is very important that all users can navigate well with the functions of the features on their steemit account

@pfunk, Hi pfunk, can we change the password logging in from Facebook or Reddit? Maybe going through some verification for identity. I am worried what if I forget my password? Then I will lost my money here? Thank you.

Bottom line is, back up your password well. I just wrote a guide going a little more into changing your owner key, and I have an older one about changing and using the posting key. See the bottom of this post for those links.

See also this post: https://steemit.com/bitcoin/@steempower/are-your-bitcoins-and-digital-asset-sufficiently-protected-backup-strategy-to-secure-seeds-databases-and-digital-files

Nice @pfunk. We've got lots of new users who need the 411 on Steem keys.

Have you heard about the Kareo Key?

Good post I had no idea about the keys good information!

This is really good info, thanks for posting.

It should be mandatory reading for any new users!

karnal update account data (show details) 4 minutes ago
69a765ff Karnal karnal update account data (show details) 5 minutes ago
f78d3d7b Karnal karnal update account data (show details) 6 minutes ago
36a1157f Karnal karnal replied to @pfunk/a-user-s-guide-to-the-different-ste… 9 minutes ago

@pfunk Thanks for all this info, I FINALLY understood what all those keys were for :) (I already had a secure password, I'm not that bad :D) Following you!

hey, should i take a screenshot of my keys, print it out then destroy the digital file?
I don't know what to do about this new information...

It create what are the key and password ? Sorry I am new in here

Thank you for informative article.

Login to Active&Owner key are deactivated, Does anyone know why?

This is the most confusing explanation ever.
Tell me - before proceeding, all the key are available by default.
Do I first need to change all the keys, before using or saving them?

This explanation has clearly explained the issue for me. I was also led to this article from a discussion on #teamaustralia Discord channel. Loving the fast response community on Steemit.

Well, that made a light shine. Thanks for the explanation.

You are welcome

I'm totally new, I just got into my account now. Thanks for explaining the keys - who woulda thought we get five for one? I'll go get the other four and store them securely, and log in with the Posting key. Much appreciated.

I dont get it... Where do I find my PRIVATE OWNER KEY? There is just a normal (public??) owner key.

This guide is outdated and the Steemit GUI has changed since I made it. Your account's master password contains your owner key, so be careful with it!

For advanced users who want to get their individual keys to use them individually, use @xeroc's paper wallet generator.

So....know this is old, but still has folks discussing.

I want to transfer SBD from bittrex to my steem account. Not sure which key to use, as it seems I can use several. Then....do I use the standard key on my permissions page or the private key???

Don't wanna send stuff to the wrong place and lose it forever. Any help would be very appreciated fellow steemians.

Enter your Steem account namestuntworksinc into the Address field in a withdrawal from Bittrex or Poloniex or any other exchange. Simple as that :)

Thanks @pfunk (allstars) for the smoking fast reply.

Been looking around and finally found another guide. It mentions using the public memo key in the memo section on bittrex. Is that needed, or at least okay?

I'm not sure where they got that idea. No memo is needed for exchange -> account.

Account -> exchange uses an exchange provided memo key generally.

Thanks again @pfunk. I went ahead and used the memo, just in case. All worked fine.

Hello Pfunk, I'm trying to verify my Steemit account with Streemian so I can use Curie. Is my active private key (wif), the big long password that Steemit generated for me when I first opened my Steemit account? Or is Streemian wanting something else? How do I verify my Steemit account with Streemian so I may use Curie? Thanks!

Excellent explanation of the keys. I was having trouble understanding the use of each key. Thank you

dtube is telling me my private posting key is wrong. what do i do?

I want to example.

Thank you for advice ! ! It' s very useful ! ! :) :) :)

Thanks for the clarification. It’s day one for me so all those keys were mystifying me.

thanks for your info. I'm learning every day. Steemit is really kool . I do have a lot to offer but first I got a lot to learn. Im an old fart figuring shit out.

You're welcome. Welcome to Steem, @basquejohn!

really useful! thanks for sharing!

Great information, both in the post and in the comments, too!

I have go through this post ant it's awesome. The only thing that got me confused is that I couldn't find all other keys except the generated key. Please where can I find it in my account and how do I go about it.

@pfunk, thank you very much for the explanation.

Interesting but I still do not know how to get these different keys. The posting key to start with. How come steemit is not telling this?

thanks pfunk :)

crying for not reading your post 3 months ago. lost my keys and then a newbie back here again.

I lost my master key thinking the it is just the owner key in the other name. I still holds my owner, posting, active and memo key and I wonder if this posting any potential risk on my Steem day? Is losing the Master key hinder my motivation to run a witness node in the future?

With your owner key, you own your account fully. You can use it to create a new randomly generated "master key", the one that starts with P5J or P5K. Or you can continue with the keys you have without issue.

Thx m8, already getting a glimpse on how to use this new social network. Greetings from Mexico!

well, I have a old account with same keys.... why ?