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I am brand new to Ethereum. I am reading up on the basics on https://ethereum.org. I am still a little confused about the differences between a wallet and an "account." According to this page https://ethereum.org/en/wallets/ a wallet is just a way of interacting with my Ethereum account, and that I can "...swap wallet providers at any time."

But where do I create this Ethereum account? I have installed several wallets. Coinbase, Exodus, and Trust. And in those apps I have an Ethereum address (the long hex string), but they are all different.

I expected to go somewhere and create one Ethereum account, and then access that account using different wallet applications. But that doesn't appear to be how it works.

Have I created 3 different "Ethereum accounts?" I haven't deposited any Ether or any other crypto in any to any of these addresses. So if I did create 3 different accounts I guess its no big deal. Do I just need to pick one and use that for my "main" account?

Obviously I am misunderstanding the fundamentals here. Thanks for any help.

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I expected to go somewhere and create one Ethereum account, and then access that account using different wallet applications.

You can control the same Ethereum account using different wallets. Usually there's a way to export the account's keystore.json or private key from one wallet and import it into the other wallet.

This applies to non-custodial wallets, where you are in control of your private keys, like the ones you mentioned. There are also online wallets, that keep the private key on their side, but they aren't trustless, so let's leave them aside.

A non-custodial wallet will ask you to write down and 12 or 24 seed words and store them in a secure place (never share them, or you risk losing your funds!). The wallet internally uses these words to derive Ethereum accounts, each with its own private key (never share that either!) and public address. The public address is probably what you meant with "long hex string" - that's what you can share with others so that they can send you something. Don't worry, you can create as many of them as you like!

It's common practice to use different addresses for different things, because anyone you share that address with could potentially lookup everything you did with that address on the blockchain (for example on etherscan). IMHO it's not advisable to use one "main account". Feel free to use as many accounts as you wish :)

Hope this helps!

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  • Thank you for the reply. So it sounds like I do have three different accounts. Does account=address in this case?
    – Dbloom
    Apr 8 at 16:54
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    Yes, technically there are two different types of addresses: account addresses and smart contract addresses. So every account has an address, but not every address belongs to an account.
    – pwagner
    Apr 8 at 17:02
  • So is Coinbase also a non-custodial wallet? They asked me to create an account and verify my personal info. Do they not store my private keys for me?
    – Dbloom
    Apr 8 at 17:42
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    There's an app called "Coinbase Wallet", which is a non-custodial wallet. It would have asked you to store 12 seed words. What you said about verifying personal info sounds more like you signed up on a centralized exchange... In this case it's an "online wallet". There they own the private keys, and you have to trust them that they'll let you withdraw your funds one day. Maybe you heard of the saying: "Not your keys, not your crypto" ;)
    – pwagner
    Apr 8 at 17:53

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