Learn how to install MetaMask, the most popular crypto wallet.
What is MetaMask?
MetaMask is a “self-custody” software wallet used primarily to transact on the Ethereum blockchain.
Note: MetaMask can be used to transact on other blockchains, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
Can you “store” crypto and NFTs on MetaMask?
You can buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies and NFTs with MetaMask.
Although, loosely speaking, you can say that these assets are “stored” on MetaMask, that is not entirely accurate.
Cryptocurrencies and NFTs are “stored” (or maybe it is better to say ownership is recorded) on the blockchain.
A wallet such as MetaMask allows you to “prove” that you own those assets on the blockchain by managing your “keys” to those assets.
MetaMask is a Software Wallet
MetaMask is a “software wallet”, also sometimes called a “hot wallet”, as your private keys are stored on the computer MetaMask is installed on.
This is different from a “hardware wallet” (such as a Ledger) which stores your private keys on a separate device (usually a small USB device).
With a hardware wallet, you need to have the device plugged into your computer to complete (sign) a blockchain transaction.
Therefore, although a software wallet such as MetaMask is less secure than a hardware wallet, it offers more convenience in making quick transactions.
Note: It is possible to use a hardware wallet such as a Ledger in conjunction with MetaMask. In this case, you still need to have the hardware wallet plugged into your computer in order to sign a blockchain transaction. In other words, you can use the MetaMask interface, in conjunction with the hardware wallet, to complete your transaction.
MetaMask is a Self-Custody Wallet
MetaMask is a self-custody wallet.
Self custody means that you actually own the cryptocurrency and digital assets in your wallet since you hold the keys.
This is different from having crypto on a centralized exchange such as Coinbase where your crypto is held by the exchange itself (your crypto is essentially an entry in the exchange’s database showing what is owed to you).
I make this distinction because by using MetaMask you are actually taking ownership over your digital assets.
And with ownership comes responsibility for keeping your digital assets secure.
How to Install MetaMask
Currently (December 2021), you can install MetaMask on the following browsers: Chrome, FireFox, Opera, Brave, and Edge.
There is also a MetaMask mobile app available for both iPhone and Android:
The video at the top of the article walks you through installing MetaMask on Chrome.
The video at the top of this page is the best place to start, but here are the installation notes you can use as an additional reference:
In Chrome, navigate to the official MetaMask website and click on Download Now
Make sure Chrome is selected and click on Install MetaMask for Chrome
Click on Add to Chrome and then Add Extension
Click on Get Started
Click on Create a Wallet (this creates a new wallet)
On the “Help Us Improve MetaMask” screen you can click on “I Agree” or “No Thanks” (either is fine depending on your preference to share usage data with MetaMask)
Create Your Password
Follow the prompts to Reveal your Secret Recovery Phrase (12 words). Write these words down in order and don’t lose them and don’t share them! See additional tips below.
Confirm your Secret Recovery Phrase words (they need to be in order)
Congratulations! You have installed MetaMask!
Is MetaMask safe to install?
There is a general agreement in the market that the MetaMask wallet is safe to install for the following reasons:
MetaMask has been downloaded millions of times and is used very widely by people in the crypto space.
The code is available for anyone to audit as it is freely viewable on github.
MetaMask was developed and is actively maintained and updated by a reputable company, ConsenSys.
However, that is not to say that people haven’t run into issues using MetaMask.
For example, the computer you have MetaMask installed on could get hacked. If a hacker can get into your computer, they may be able to take control of your wallet.
Also, you may unwittingly connect your wallet to a nefarious website and sign a transaction that allows someone to drain your funds.
Another major issue is people sharing their Seed Recovery Phrase (never do that!) which would allow someone else to take control of a wallet.
The point is that while the MetaMask wallet itself is safe, it is important to be cautious when using MetaMask.
Remember that with a self-custody wallet like MetaMask, you are the owner of your assets and it is your responsibility to keep your assets safe.
Tips on installing MetaMask
Make Sure You are Installing MetaMask from the official website
Make sure that you are downloading MetaMask from the official website. There are a lot of scams out there so double check that you are on the correct website.
(even when following this link, you should double check you are on the correct website :))
Make sure you have a plan on how you want to store your Seed Recovery Phrase
The 12-word Seed Recovery Phrase is even more important than your password since these 12 words are essentially your private keys - which means that anyone who has these 12 words basically has the keys to your crypto assets. Therefore you should carefully consider how many copies and where to store these 12 words.
I do recommend writing them down on a physical paper (and making multiple copies). I do NOT recommend keeping them electronically (in a text file or something) on your computer. The reason is that if a hacker finds their way to your computer, they may find these 12 words.
That said, it also means that you need to consider where to store these words physically. For high value wallets, some people use multiple safety deposit boxes (but if it is very high value you should probably consider using a hardware wallet such as a Ledger).
Even the paper you write these words on can be considered - Is it durable? Will it smudge? Will I spill coffee on it? There are even metal based mediums that you can “store” your seed words on, if you feel you want that extra level of durability.
Be vigilant with the use of your computer and MetaMask
Using a software wallet is convenient, but it is not as secure as a hardware wallet since your private keys are stored on the computer you have MetaMask installed on. Since, unfortunately, there are so many scams in the crypto space, you do have to be extra vigilant on what you are clicking on.
Understand that you are the owner of your assets
This last point is more of a mindset shift. In the web 2.0 world, we are so used to companies being in the middle of our transactions, that we sometimes don’t even realize that we are operating through “renting” - we don’t actually own our Twitter accounts, for example.
However, in the new web3 world, we have the opportunity to take ownership.
It is a freeing feeling, but one that comes with the responsibility to secure our assets ourselves.
Although there are other crypto wallets out there, MetaMask is the most popular crypto wallet and is widely used by both crypto and NFT enthusiasts.
If you are new to crypto and NFTs, it can seem a bit scary to dip your toes into these waters, but as long as you remain vigilant, it is definitely worthwhile.
Welcome to the world of crypto and NFTs!
About the Author
Ed is NFTska’s lead Editor and Author based in the Los Angeles area. He fell deep down the crypto rabbit hole starting in 2017. Ed actively participates in and follows the fast changing NFT scene. Learn more about Ed.
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