Working with Local Private Keys

Local vs Hosted Nodes

Local Node
A local node is started and controlled by you. It is as safe as you keep it. When you run geth or parity on your machine, you are running a local node.
Hosted Node
A hosted node is controlled by someone else. When you connect to Infura, you are connected to a hosted node.

Local vs Hosted Keys

Local Private Key
A key is 32 bytes of data that you can use to sign transactions and messages, before sending them to your node. You must use sendRawTransaction() when working with local keys, instead of sendTransaction() .
Hosted Private Key
This is a common way to use accounts with local nodes. Each account returned by w3.eth.accounts has a hosted private key stored in your node. This allows you to use sendTransaction().


It is unnacceptable for a hosted node to offer hosted private keys. It gives other people complete control over your account. “Not your keys, not your Ether” in the wise words of Andreas Antonopoulos.

Some Common Uses for Local Private Keys

A very common reason to work with local private keys is to interact with a hosted node.

Some common things you might want to do with a Local Private Key are:

Using private keys usually involves w3.eth.account in one way or another. Read on for more, or see a full list of things you can do in the docs for eth_account.Account.

Extract private key from geth keyfile


The amount of available ram should be greater than 1GB.

with open('~/.ethereum/keystore/UTC--...--5ce9454909639D2D17A3F753ce7d93fa0b9aB12E') as keyfile:
    encrypted_key =
    private_key = w3.eth.account.decrypt(encrypted_key, 'correcthorsebatterystaple')
    # tip: do not save the key or password anywhere, especially into a shared source file

Sign a Message


There is no single message format that is broadly adopted with community consensus. Keep an eye on several options, like EIP-683, EIP-712, and EIP-719. Consider the w3.eth.sign() approach be deprecated.

For this example, we will use the same message hashing mechanism that is provided by w3.eth.sign().

>>> from import w3
>>> from eth_account.messages import defunct_hash_message

>>> msg = "I♥SF"
>>> private_key = b"\xb2\\}\xb3\x1f\xee\xd9\x12''\xbf\t9\xdcv\x9a\x96VK-\xe4\xc4rm\x03[6\xec\xf1\xe5\xb3d"
>>> message_hash = defunct_hash_message(text=msg)
>>> signed_message = w3.eth.account.signHash(message_hash, private_key=private_key)
>>> signed_message
AttrDict({'messageHash': HexBytes('0x1476abb745d423bf09273f1afd887d951181d25adc66c4834a70491911b7f750'),
 'r': 104389933075820307925104709181714897380569894203213074526835978196648170704563,
 's': 28205917190874851400050446352651915501321657673772411533993420917949420456142,
 'v': 28,
 'signature': HexBytes('0xe6ca9bba58c88611fad66a6ce8f996908195593807c4b38bd528d2cff09d4eb33e5bfbbf4d3e39b1a2fd816a7680c19ebebaf3a141b239934ad43cb33fcec8ce1c')})

Verify a Message

With the original message text and a signature:

>>> message_hash = defunct_hash_message(text="I♥SF")
>>> w3.eth.account.recoverHash(message_hash, signature=signed_message.signature)

Verify a Message from message hash

Sometimes you don’t have the original message, all you have is the prefixed & hashed message. To verify it, use:

>>> message_hash = '0x1476abb745d423bf09273f1afd887d951181d25adc66c4834a70491911b7f750'
>>> signature = '0xe6ca9bba58c88611fad66a6ce8f996908195593807c4b38bd528d2cff09d4eb33e5bfbbf4d3e39b1a2fd816a7680c19ebebaf3a141b239934ad43cb33fcec8ce1c'
>>> w3.eth.account.recoverHash(message_hash, signature=signature)

Prepare message for ecrecover in Solidity

Let’s say you want a contract to validate a signed message, like if you’re making payment channels, and you want to validate the value in Remix or web3.js.

You might have produced the signed_message locally, as in Sign a Message. If so, this will prepare it for Solidity:

>>> from web3 import Web3

# ecrecover in Solidity expects v as a native uint8, but r and s as left-padded bytes32
# Remix / web3.js expect r and s to be encoded to hex
# This convenience method will do the pad & hex for us:
>>> def to_32byte_hex(val):
...   return Web3.toHex(Web3.toBytes(val).rjust(32, b'\0'))

>>> ec_recover_args = (msghash, v, r, s) = (
...   Web3.toHex(signed_message.messageHash),
...   signed_message.v,
...   to_32byte_hex(signed_message.r),
...   to_32byte_hex(signed_message.s),
... )
>>> ec_recover_args

Instead, you might have received a message and a signature encoded to hex. Then this will prepare it for Solidity:

>>> from web3 import Web3
>>> from eth_account.messages import defunct_hash_message

>>> hex_message = '0x49e299a55346'
>>> hex_signature = '0xe6ca9bba58c88611fad66a6ce8f996908195593807c4b38bd528d2cff09d4eb33e5bfbbf4d3e39b1a2fd816a7680c19ebebaf3a141b239934ad43cb33fcec8ce1c'

# ecrecover in Solidity expects a prefixed & hashed version of the message
>>> message_hash = defunct_hash_message(hexstr=hex_message)

# Remix / web3.js expect the message hash to be encoded to a hex string
>>> hex_message_hash = Web3.toHex(message_hash)

# ecrecover in Solidity expects the signature to be split into v as a uint8,
#   and r, s as a bytes32
# Remix / web3.js expect r and s to be encoded to hex
>>> sig = Web3.toBytes(hexstr=hex_signature)
>>> v, hex_r, hex_s = Web3.toInt(sig[-1]), Web3.toHex(sig[:32]), Web3.toHex(sig[32:64])

# ecrecover in Solidity takes the arguments in order = (msghash, v, r, s)
>>> ec_recover_args = (hex_message_hash, v, hex_r, hex_s)
>>> ec_recover_args

Verify a message with ecrecover in Solidity

Create a simple ecrecover contract in Remix:

pragma solidity ^0.4.19;

contract Recover {
  function ecr (bytes32 msgh, uint8 v, bytes32 r, bytes32 s) public pure
  returns (address sender) {
    return ecrecover(msgh, v, r, s);

Then call ecr with these arguments from Prepare message for ecrecover in Solidity in Remix, "0x1476abb745d423bf09273f1afd887d951181d25adc66c4834a70491911b7f750", 28, "0xe6ca9bba58c88611fad66a6ce8f996908195593807c4b38bd528d2cff09d4eb3", "0x3e5bfbbf4d3e39b1a2fd816a7680c19ebebaf3a141b239934ad43cb33fcec8ce"

The message is verified, because we get the correct sender of the message back in response: 0x5ce9454909639d2d17a3f753ce7d93fa0b9ab12e.

Sign a Transaction

Create a transaction, sign it locally, and then send it to your node for broadcasting, with sendRawTransaction().

>>> transaction = {
...     'to': '0xF0109fC8DF283027b6285cc889F5aA624EaC1F55',
...     'value': 1000000000,
...     'gas': 2000000,
...     'gasPrice': 234567897654321,
...     'nonce': 0,
...     'chainId': 1
... }
>>> key = '0x4c0883a69102937d6231471b5dbb6204fe5129617082792ae468d01a3f362318'
>>> signed = w3.eth.account.signTransaction(transaction, key)
>>> signed.rawTransaction
>>> signed.hash
>>> signed.r
>>> signed.s
>>> signed.v

# When you run sendRawTransaction, you get back the hash of the transaction:
>>> w3.eth.sendRawTransaction(signed.rawTransaction)  

Sign a Contract Transaction

To sign a transaction locally that will invoke a smart contract:

  1. Initialize your Contract object
  2. Build the transaction
  3. Sign the transaction, with w3.eth.account.signTransaction()
  4. Broadcast the transaction with sendRawTransaction()
>>> from ethtoken.abi import EIP20_ABI
>>> from import w3

>>> unicorns = w3.eth.contract(address="0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359", abi=EIP20_ABI)

>>> nonce = w3.eth.getTransactionCount('0x5ce9454909639D2D17A3F753ce7d93fa0b9aB12E')  

# Build a transaction that invokes this contract's function, called transfer
>>> unicorn_txn = unicorns.functions.transfer(
...     '0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359',
...     1,
... ).buildTransaction({
...     'chainId': 1,
...     'gas': 70000,
...     'gasPrice': w3.toWei('1', 'gwei'),
...     'nonce': nonce,
... })

>>> unicorn_txn
{'value': 0,
 'chainId': 1,
 'gas': 70000,
 'gasPrice': 1000000000,
 'nonce': 0,
 'to': '0xfB6916095ca1df60bB79Ce92cE3Ea74c37c5d359',
 'data': '0xa9059cbb000000000000000000000000fb6916095ca1df60bb79ce92ce3ea74c37c5d3590000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001'}

>>> private_key = b"\xb2\\}\xb3\x1f\xee\xd9\x12''\xbf\t9\xdcv\x9a\x96VK-\xe4\xc4rm\x03[6\xec\xf1\xe5\xb3d"
>>> signed_txn = w3.eth.account.signTransaction(unicorn_txn, private_key=private_key)
>>> signed_txn.hash
>>> signed_txn.rawTransaction
>>> signed_txn.r
>>> signed_txn.s
>>> signed_txn.v

>>> w3.eth.sendRawTransaction(signed_txn.rawTransaction)  

# When you run sendRawTransaction, you get the same result as the hash of the transaction:
>>> w3.toHex(w3.sha3(signed_txn.rawTransaction))