Bitcoin Howto

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This is a step-by-step tutorial to help new users start using bitcoin. After you read this page, you'll know the basics of what bitcoin is and how it is structured, how to get and install the bitcoin client, where to get coins, and how to use the client to send and receive transactions.

What is Bitcoin

Basic description of what it is and how it works. With a possible link to a separate page with a more detailed, but still "layperson oriented" explanation.

Getting started

Where to get the client, how to install it on different operating systems. Downloading the block chain.

Download the client

First, download the bitcoin client from Choose the appropriate link depending on your operating system, and install in the usual manner. For Windows, easiest is probably the executable installer. For Linux, note that the tar.gz contains the binary build, in addition to the source, so if you run a recent distribution, you should be able to just run the binary without compiling yourself.

Starting the client and connecting to the network

Bitcoin comes with a GUI client called "bitcoin", and a CLI (text-mode) client called "bitcoind". It is probably more user-friendly to start with the GUI, so launch the bitcoin client. [insert screenshot of client].

When you start for the first time, your bitcoin wallet will be created automatically, and the client will attempt to establish connections to other nodes on the network and start downloading the bitcoin block chain. You must get all of the blocks in the chain before sending/receiving transactions. Click here to see the current number of blocks in the chain. This download may take as long as several hours.

Client features

Bitcoin client screenshot. Click for full size.

Your starting bitcoin address (you can have as many as you want - we'll talk about addresses later) shows in a text box at the top. Right below it is your total bitcoin balance, which, of course, to start with will be zero. There is a list box below it showing all your transactions, which can be variously filtered with tabs, which again will be empty to start with.

The status bar at the bottom will display some important information. If you have bitcoin generation (block hashing) turned on, on the left the client will display your hash rate. To the right of that, you will see the number of bitcoin nodes your client is connected to, then, the number of blocks your client has in its chain, and finally, the number of transactions you have in your wallet.

Using bitcoin

Bitcoin addresses, sending and receiving transactions, the block chain and transaction confirmations, where to get your first bitcoins (faucet), generation. Tips on keeping wallet safe.

Getting your first bitcoins

There are few things more exciting than getting your first bitcoins! So once you have all the blocks downloaded, head on over to the bitcoin faucet, fill out the form and put in your bitcoin address, and receive your free bitcoin! (You can do this before finishing the block chain download, but you won't see the coins in your wallet until you finish downloading the blocks... which would put a damper on the whole excitement bit.) Once you submit the form successfully, you should see a new transaction in your client within seconds.

But it will be grayed out, and have 0/unconfirmed status. What's up with that? Read on.

Transaction confirmations

write about blocks and confirmations here.

Bitcoin addresses

talk about addresses here

Generating bitcoins

talk about generation here