Bitcoins can be obtained in numerous ways, each of which are entirely different from one another. It is important to note that bitcoins are incredibly easy to send. As a result, they take the form of a highly transferable commodity. This is important because, although this guide will walk through the common ways to get bitcoins, there are actually countless ways to get them as they can be sent in exchange for anything the other party is willing to accept.
Investing in cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein. As of the date this article was written, the author owns no crypto.
Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer payment network established in 2009 that uses a virtual currency, the bitcoin, to conduct transactions. Unlike currencies issued by nations, Bitcoin is independent of any country or stock exchange and is entirely digital, with no ties to a central bank, company, or organization.[1][2] It is used as an investment and medium of exchange by all members of its network. Getting bitcoins of your own is thus a matter of becoming a part of the Bitcoin network by setting up a bitcoin account and wallet.
Although transactions are publicly recorded on the blockchain, user data is not — or, at least not in full. In order to conduct transactions on the Bitcoin network, participants must run a program called a “wallet.” Each wallet consists of two unique and distinct cryptographic keys: a public key and a private key. The public key is the location where transactions are deposited to and withdrawn from. This is also the key that appears on the blockchain ledger as the user’s digital signature.
Evolving beyond the complex world of cryptocurrencies, blockchain applications are now showing enormous potential for many key industries. Industry analyst, Gartner, predicts that blockchain's business value-add will grow to US$176 billion by 2025.1 Although in its nascent stages and not without challenges, the technology is poised to revolutionize how consumers and businesses interact with data. Blockchain has the potential to redefine how we manage supply chains, maintain transactions and exchange assets.
Because blockchain transactions are free, you can charge minuscule amounts, say 1/100 of a cent for a video view or article read. Why should I pay The Economist or National Geographic an annual subscription fee if I can pay per article on Facebook or my favorite chat app. Again, remember that blockchain transactions carry no transaction cost. You can charge for anything in any amount without worrying about third parties cutting into your profits.
After a block has been added to the end of the blockchain, it is very difficult to go back and alter the contents of the block. That’s because each block contains its own hash, along with the hash of the block before it. Hash codes are created by a math function that turns digital information into a string of numbers and letters. If that information is edited in any way, the hash code changes as well.
The proof-of-work system, alongside the chaining of blocks, makes modifications of the blockchain extremely hard, as an attacker must modify all subsequent blocks in order for the modifications of one block to be accepted.[85] As new blocks are mined all the time, the difficulty of modifying a block increases as time passes and the number of subsequent blocks (also called confirmations of the given block) increases.[67]
An online wallet is highly convenient in that your bitcoins can be accessed from anywhere and you can use your bitcoins for a variety of online purchases. However, online wallets are susceptible to hackers. Also, the organization you go through to set up your wallet will have access to your account and there have been cases of bitcoins getting stolen by private organizations. For example, the bitcoin exchange Mt Gox was discovered to have been manipulating prices and committing fraud, stealing large numbers of exchange users' bitcoins.[6][7] Make sure you choose a reputable provider if you set up a bitcoin account online.[8]
Legal Gray Area. Major governments have largely remained on the sidelines, and this has created both a sense of potential and apprehension for Bitcoin proponents and critics respectively. Bitcoin isn’t backed by a regulatory agency and a government would technically be ceding power by supporting a decentralized currency. This has been largely officially unaddressed. Bitcoin’s price, however, tends to be very sensitive to any news concerning the US government’s opinion of cryptocurrencies. For example, when the SEC denied the approval of bitcoin-based exchange-traded-products—essentially bitcoin-backed assets on the stock market—in 2017, Bitcoin’s price dropped 18%. Yet while the price and adoption of Bitcoin would be affected by government action, governments are unable to criminalize Bitcoin. In fact, governments such as the United States and China have invested in it at some capacity.
Blockchain is the underlying technology for digital currency like Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum and other digital properties. The technology records every transaction of a digital currency or property in a database or digital ledger. It also copies and distributes the database to a network of computers to validate each transaction. This decentralizes, secures, and publicizes each digital currency’s or property’s database of transactions.

Though each bitcoin transaction is recorded in a public log, names of buyers and sellers are never revealed – only their wallet IDs. While that keeps bitcoin users’ transactions private, it also lets them buy or sell anything without easily tracing it back to them. That’s why it has become the currency of choice for people online buying drugs or other illicit activities.
Inter Planetary File System (IPFS) makes it easy to conceptualize how a distributed web might operate. Similar to the way a BitTorrent moves data around the internet, IPFS gets rid of the need for centralized client-server relationships (i.e., the current web). An internet made up of completely decentralized websites has the potential to speed up file transfer and streaming times. Such an improvement is not only convenient. It’s a necessary upgrade to the web’s currently overloaded content-delivery systems.
Blockchain technology helps counter issues like double spending.  The simplest way to think of blockchain is as a large distributed ledger of sorts that stores records of transactions. This “ledger” is replicated hundreds of times throughout the public network so it is available to everyone. Every time a transaction occurs, it is updated in ALL of these replicated ledgers, so everyone can see it.
“Unlike traditional currencies, which are issued by central banks, Bitcoin has no central monetary authority. Instead it is underpinned by a peer-to-peer computer network made up of its users’ machines, akin to the networks that underpin BitTorrent, a file-sharing system, and Skype, an audio, video and chat service. Bitcoins are mathematically generated as the computers in this network execute difficult number-crunching tasks, a procedure known as Bitcoin “mining”. The mathematics of the Bitcoin system were set up so that it becomes progressively more difficult to “mine” Bitcoins over time, and the total number that can ever be mined is limited to around 21 million. There is therefore no way for a central bank to issue a flood of new Bitcoins and devalue those already in circulation.”
Even if a user receives a payment in Bitcoins to their public key, they will not be able to withdraw them with the private counterpart. A user’s public key is a shortened version of their private key, created through a complicated mathematical algorithm. However, due to the complexity of this equation, it is almost impossible to reverse the process and generate a private key from a public key. For this reason, blockchain technology is considered confidential.
Platforms such as LocalBitcoins will help you to find individuals near you who are willing to exchange bitcoin for cash. Also, LibertyX lists retail outlets across the United States at which you can exchange cash for bitcoin. And WallofCoins, Paxful and BitQuick will direct you to a bank branch near you that will allow you to make a cash deposit and receive bitcoin a few hours later.
The unit of account of the bitcoin system is a bitcoin. Ticker symbols used to represent bitcoin are BTC[b] and XBT.[c][74]:2 Small amounts of bitcoin used as alternative units are millibitcoin (mBTC), and satoshi (sat). Named in homage to bitcoin's creator, a satoshi is the smallest amount within bitcoin representing 0.00000001 bitcoins, one hundred millionth of a bitcoin.[2] A millibitcoin equals 0.001 bitcoins, one thousandth of a bitcoin or 100000 satoshis.[75] Its Unicode character is ₿.[1]