What is Bitcoin Core? A simple guide

Author: Peter Henn

You might have heard about Bitcoin Core but are not been sure what it is. Here is a simple guide.

What is Bitcoin Core?
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Contents

Bitcoin Core is the client software for the Bitcoin network, released by Bitcoin itself. It includes a wallet and you can use it to mine bitcoins. Let’s take a closer look. 

When it comes to cryptocurrency, nothing is bigger than Bitcoin. Both the organisational structure behind the coin and the currency itself have become synonymous with the world of crypto, so much so that any crypto coin that isn’t bitcoin is defined as an altcoin. 

In fact, no one individual or company actually owns Bitcoin – according to its website, “Bitcoin is controlled by all Bitcoin users around the world. Developers are improving the software but they can't force a change in the rules of the Bitcoin protocol.”

If you’re interested in cryptocurrency, then what BTC is doing and what is happening to the ‘organisation’ behind it is going to be of interest – although even ‘organisation’ isn’t quite the right word for the decentralised framework of individuals that runs it. It’s a totally new concept.

There’s a very real chance, though, that you’ve heard about something called Bitcoin Core. There’s also a chance that you don’t know too much about it, or you’ve been given some information about it that’s incorrect. If you want to know what it really is and how to use Bitcoin Core, we’ve got it covered – read on.

What Bitcoin Core isn't 

First, let’s get some common misconceptions out of the way. Bitcoin Core isn’t any kind of cryptocurrency. You might have heard proponents of coins that formed as software ‘forks’ off bitcoin calling the original coin Bitcoin Core. That isn’t what Bitcoin Core is, and it’s misleading to call it that, for reasons we’ll explain later. 

Secondly, you might hear people saying that Bitcoin Core doesn’t really exist. Well, those people are wrong – it does exist. 

Thirdly, you might have heard it used to refer to a team of developers. Again, that isn’t really true, although it is more true than the other two misconceptions.

With that out of the way, let’s have a look at what Bitcoin Core really is. It’s probably worth taking a look at the history of Bitcoin Core and how it relates to bitcoin itself. 

Bitcoin, bitcoin and Bitcoin Core

First, let’s clarify something. When we talk about Bitcoin with a capital B, we are referring to the organisation and the blockchain software behind bitcoin. When we use bitcoin with a lowercase b, we are talking about the cryptocurrency itself that people buy and sell. The software and the currency both made their debuts in the late 2000s, but while the currency is still basically the same thing, the software has changed, much as you might expect it to do. 

The network protocol behind it was published in 2008. This protocol, known as Bitcoin 0.1, was put into practice in 2009. However, in the years immediately afterwards, many different programmers got involved with Bitcoin. 

If you go back to our two definitions, you’ll notice that Bitcoin with a capital B can be used to refer to both the organisation or network, and the blockchain software, or client. There’s also bitcoin with a lowercase b, of course – the currency, which starts to get confusing. 

So, to make things a little clearer for everyone involved, lead software developer Gavin Andresen accepted proposals to name the client software Bitcoin Core, on account of it being Bitcoin’s core for bitcoin. With that out of the way, we’ve hopefully explained what Bitcoin Core is and how it got its name. However, how does Bitcoin Core work? Let’s take a look.

How to run Bitcoin Core

Basically put, Bitcoin Core is a client that runs on the Bitcoin protocol. You don’t have to use it to send or receive bitcoins, you could use other software, but it is an option. Talking of sending and receiving, there is an integrated Bitcoin Core wallet in the client. You can use this to transfer bitcoins as well as store them. 

However, there are some things worth noting about the wallet. First, it is pretty large, around 340 gigabytes, so you will need to have a PC or Mac with plenty of storage space. Secondly, you will need to synchronise your wallet to the network, and this can take a long time. You are probably going to have to wait for at least two days for it to match up. The good news is that the synchronisation process only needs to take place once and when that is done, you are good to go. 

Mining with Bitcoin Core

You can also use your Bitcoin Core wallet to mine bitcoin, which can be a profitable, if highly energy and time consuming, activity. The steps to doing this are as follows.

Bitcoin Core Bitcoin Core

However, you will need to make sure that you have a very powerful computer. It used to be the case that you could use a regular home PC to mine bitcoin but, as more and more of the coin has come into circulation, the necessary calculations have become harder and need more power, and miners now use specialised computers for the task, often racked up in huge mining factories. 

Indeed, this is where a lot of concerns over the environmental impact of bitcoin mining have come from. That said, it is worth noting that you can use Bitcoin Core to mine as well as store and send your bitcoin.

Security

We should look at how secure Bitcoin Core is. Ultimately, the system and the wallet are as secure as the computer that is being used to run them. While you can only link one address to the wallet, you should make sure you take the usual anti-hacking steps to safeguard your computer. 

The Bitcoin website says people should back up their keys, make sure their wallet is secure and set up an offline wallet for significant amounts of bitcoins, watch for security notifications and allow their heirs to receive their bitcoins if they die or become incapacitated. Users also need to comply with computer system requirements, too. 

The people behind it

One final thing to add. Do you remember that we said some people use Bitcoin Core to refer to a team of developers and, while this isn’t entirely accurate, it isn’t totally untrue either? Well, that’s because there is a loosely linked team of developers, programmers and other tech-orientated people on the GitHub software development hosting site who devote themselves to working with Bitcoin Core. 

While it isn’t really anything official and it isn’t really anything properly organised, the community exists and its presence, as well as the work people put in on the site, means people have started using Bitcoin Core to refer to the community. This isn’t the real meaning of the term Bitcoin Core, but it’s easy to see why people use the phrase. So it’s important to know what context Bitcoin Core is being used in.

FAQs

If your computer is safe and secure, then your Bitcoin Core should be, too. You have to take all necessary precautions when working with the software. 

Also, you need to remember that Bitcoin can be volatile and you should never invest more money than you can afford to lose. Always remember your decision to trade depends on your attitude to risk, your expertise in this market, the spread of your investment portfolio and how comfortable you feel about losing money.

No, it isn’t. Bitcoin Core is the software, Bitcoin is the network. And just to remind you, bitcoin (with a lowercase b) is the cryptocurrency.

Assuming you have a powerful enough computer, you enter the wallet’s Console tab, type setgenerate true 1, and then you will start mining on one of your computer’s cores.

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