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HD wallets and Derivation paths
HD wallets and Derivation paths
An explanation of HD wallets, default and custom derivation paths.
Brittany avatar
Written by Brittany
Updated over a week ago


When you access your wallet on MEW using a Hardware wallet or Mnemonic phrase, you have the option to interact with a number of different addresses.

A wallet that has the ability to generate a long, nearly infinite list of addresses from a single access method is called an HD wallet (Hierarchical Deterministic wallet). When these wallets are first created, a mnemonic phrase (also known as a seed phrase or a recovery phrase) is generated which serves as the root from which all paths and addresses will stem.

When accessing your HD wallet on MEW, you may have the option to choose different paths. Each path will be accompanied by a list of addresses. These paths are called the Derivation paths. For example, the default derivation path for accessing the Ethereum blockchain looks like m/44’/60’/0’/0.

For derivation paths, the sequence is broken down into sections like:

m’ / purpose’ / coin_type’ / account’ / change / address_index

You don't need to understand the details of each section, but know that each parameter of the path affects which addresses the phrase will generate.

Please note: Choosing a different HD path will lead to a whole different list of addresses, even though it's the same mnemonic phrase. Most users would normally use the default Ethereum path of m/44’/60’/0’/0.

How to use:

Step 1. Head to our website,, and select 'Access my Wallet'. You'll then choose your access method, either 'Hardware wallet' or 'Mnemonic phrase'

Step 2. Proceed with your chosen access method.

  • Recovery phrase: Enter your 12 or 24-word recovery phrase and click 'Access my wallet'. Please make sure to double-check for any error before accessing.

  • Hardware wallet: Follow the prompts provided by the Hardware wallet to initiate access. Make sure that the device is set up, updated, and ready prior to opening MEW.

Step 3. You'll then need to choose the HD path found in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You’ll usually need the default path, but you also have the option to choose others. Just notice that the addresses will change as you switch paths.

  • Note: If you are using a hardware wallet, you will not have as many choices in derivation paths. The following screenshot illustrate access with mnemonic/recovery phrase. Custom derivation paths are only available for phrase access, NOT for hardware wallet access.

  • If you need to choose a custom path, please see the ‘Custom Derivation path’ section of this article below.

Step 4. Choose the address to interact with.

  • If this is the first time accessing, we recommend choosing one of the first 5 addresses on the list. Doing this simplifies things for future access and limits the risks of losing track of your assets. Addresses are always generated in the same order, so if you choose the first address, it will always be first on the list, as long as you are using the same phrase and the same derivation path.

Step 5. Choose your network. MEW is an Ethereum wallet, but you can also select other supported networks from the drop-down menu.

Step 6. Accept the terms (please be sure to read over them) then click 'Access my wallet' and you're all set!

For more information about Mnemonic phrases and addresses, please see our ‘What is a Recovery phrase?’ article.

Custom Derivation Path

When accessing your wallet on MEW, it is best practice to use the default path for familiarity, since each path leads to a list of different addresses. However, if the default path is not showing you the expected address, you can also use custom paths.

Note: This option is ONLY available for access with mnemonic/recovery phrase directly. Custom paths are not supported for hardware wallets.

To add a Custom Derivation path, you'll need to follow the same steps up to step 3, Instead, you'll need to scroll down to the bottom of the list of networks until you see '+ Add Path'.

Click on that and then enter the alias and path sequence for the path you're accessing. When you're done, click 'Add Path' to be directed to the list of different addresses to interact with.

Go ahead and pick the address, network, agree to the terms, then click 'Access my wallet'. (as described in the steps above)

~ If you haven't already, feel free to check us out on Twitter and Reddit ~

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