Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third party interference.
Ether is a necessary element- a fuel- for operating the distributed application platform Ethereum.
This guide is not and should not be interpreted as investment advice, a recommendation regarding a course of action or as an endorsement of cryptocurrency or any specific provider, service or offering. It is not a recommendation to trade. Cryptocurrencies are speculative and complex, and they involve significant risks—they are highly volatile and sensitive to secondary activity. Performance is unpredictable, and past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Consider your own circumstances and obtain your own advice before relying on this information. You should also verify the nature of any product or service (including its legal status and relevant regulatory requirements) and consult the relevant regulators' websites before making any decision. The author may have holdings in the cryptocurrencies discussed. All product names, trademarks, brands, photographs and logos are the property of their respective owners.
Note: Images can be clicked to see a larger version. If you're confused by any terms used, a glossary can be found here.
For this guide we'll be using the easiest & most convenient wallet option for storing your Ethereum coins- provided by MyEtherWallet (which can store any coin on the Ethereum blockchain, including Ethereum).
Go to myetherwallet.com and enter a password that would be hard to guess (but which you won't forget!).
Note: if you forget this password you might lose access to your coins.
Press 'Create New Wallet'.
Click 'Download Keystore File'. Be sure to read and understand the warnings.
It's very important that you back this file up somewhere safe (think multiple external hard drives and/or USB drives that you put somewhere safe).
Once you've done that, click 'I understand. Continue.'
Now you will be given a powerful unencrypted private key to your wallet.
Note: Never give your private key to anyone. If you do, they can open your wallet and take your coins.
Consider printing out your private key and storing it somewhere safe- then deleting all references to it from your computer. Why? Because sometime in the future you might get a virus, or malware, or visit a website with an advert that has malicious code.
These things will target a private key, as it's an easy way to open your wallet and steal your coins.
So why print out your private key at all, if it's so insecure? Because it's your last resort. If you lose your keystore file (e.g. your computer gets wiped or damaged), or if you forget your password, with your unencrypted private key you can still access your account as a last resort.
There is also an option to print a paper wallet (which displays everything you'd need to access your wallet).
If you choose to print this, treat it just like the Keystore file you just downloaded- keep it hidden and keep it safe.
Next, click 'Save your address'.
Now we're going to open your new wallet.
Select the 'Keystore File' option, then upload the keystore file you saved in step 2, then enter your password.
Once you're done, scroll down the page to see your opened wallet.
You will see a long string of letters and numbers labelled 'Your Address'.
This is your personal wallet address, and it's where we're going to be sending your Ethereum coins.
Copy this address and keep it somewhere safe as we're going to need it soon.
Choose which Ethereum exchange you'd like to use (by clicking on the logo), and the guide will continue:
If you use this link to sign up to Coinbase we'll both receive ten dollars of free coins when you spend over $100 (or the equivalent in your currency).
Press the 'sign up' button and fill out your name (make sure this is exactly how it's written on your photo ID), email and a password.
Just like a US bank, Coinbase is regulated by the US government, and has to follow strict financial rules. So they take verifying your identity very seriously. It's a pain, but it does give Coinbase a reputation for being the most trusted way to convert fiat currency to cryptocurrency.
To verify your account you must supply a phone number, upload an image of your photo ID and verify a credit/debit card or bank account before you can buy.
Using a credit/debit card on Coinbase means higher fees but offers instant purchasing. Using a bank transfer is cheaper but slower (taking up to a week to get your coins).
Once your payment details are verified, click 'buy/sell' on the top menu.
Select 'Ethereum', and at the bottom of the page choose how much to spend in your local currency / how many coins you want to buy.
Once you're happy with the amount, click the big 'Buy' button.
You'll be asked to confirm your purchase.
Press the 'Confirm Buy' button.
Congratulations! You now own some Ethereum.
Click here to go to Coinmama.
In the sign up form, enter your email address and first and last name (make sure these are exactly the same as on your photo ID).
Enter a strong password (that you won't forget!).
Select your country, tick the box to show you understand their terms and conditions and press 'Register'.
You will be sent an email to confirm your email address.
Go find that email and click the link in it.
You will be informed that your email is now confirmed. Press 'Continue'.
You will be prompted to log in. Enter your email and password and press 'Login'.
You won't be able to buy any Ethereum until you verify your account.
In the left-hand menu, click 'Verify your account'.
You will be asked to fill in your personal details. Once you have, press 'Next'.
Here you need to upload some pictures of your ID.
You're also asked to take a selfie of yourself holding your ID, as well as writing 'Coinmama' on a piece of paper with today's date.
Make sure none of these pictures are blurry, or they will be rejected.
Once you've uploaded the files you'll be informed your documents are under review- unfortunately you'll have to wait until you're verified to continue your purchase.
Click here to go to Cex.io
Click the 'Register' button along the top menu.
Enter your email address and a secure password. Click the checkbox to agree to the terms.
You will now be asked to set up 2-factor authentication for your new account. It is strongly advised not to skip this step, as 2-factor authentication makes your account far more secure.
We recommend using the 'Smartphone App' option.
Once your security has been set up, you'll be taken to your account dashboard.
Before we do anything else, head on over to your personal email account- there will be an email from Cex.io asking you to click a link to verify your account. Click it.
You will be taken to a page telling you your email has been confirmed. Click 'Go back to the site'.
Look for your user ID in the top menu, hover your mouse over it and in the drop down menu click 'Verification'.
Every exchange that lets your buy cryptocurrencies for cash require you to verify your identification before doing so.
Complete the Cex.io verification process by supplying your personal information and uploading your ID.
Once you're verified, click the 'Deposit' button along the top menu.
You now get to choose how you'd like to deposit money:
Via credit/debit card
If you choose credit/debit card you can buy instantly, but you pay commission on the money you deposit.
Via bank transfer
This option takes a few days for the transfer to arrive but has no commission fees.
Choose the method you prefer and follow the instructions to deposit your money.
Once your money is in your account, click 'BUY/SELL' on the top menu.
Choose '' and the currency you'd like to buy it in (Dollars, Euros, Pounds or Rubles).
You will be offered some precalculated amounts of Ethereum, or you can scroll to the bottom of the page and input the amount of Ethereum you'd like to buy in the 'Custom amount' box.
Once you've decided, click 'Buy'.
You'll be asked to confirm your buy.
Check everything looks correct and click 'Confirm the order'.
Congratulations- you now own some Ethereum!
Click 'Accounts' from the top menu, then find your Ethereum wallet listed on the left.
In the 'Recipient' box, paste your personal wallet address we saved earlier from MyEtherWallet in step 5.
In amount, type how much Ethereum you wish to send (there is a 'use max' option if you wish to send it all).
Coinbase may ask you to confirm with your password/phone. Follow the instructions until it confirms the Ethereum are sent.
Go back to Cex.io
Press 'Withdraw' on the top menu.
Under 'Select currency and amount' click 'USD' and select '' in the drop down menu.
Input the amount of Ethereum you're sending.
In the box labelled 'Enter the recipient's address below' paste the Ethereum wallet address we saved earlier from MyEtherWallet in step 5.
Once you've looked everything over, click the check box to confirm you've double checked everything is correct.
You will be asked for a 2-factor authentication number.
Use your selected method of authentication to generate the number and write it in the box. Press 'Confirm'.
You will be sent an email to confirm the withdrawal.
Go to your personal email and click the link Cex.io has sent you. This will send the coins on their way.
After a few minutes you should now see the Ethereum in your wallet at myetherwallet (you may have to refresh the page and log into your wallet again using your keystore file and password or private key).
Note that the amount may be slightly less than what you were told you were getting as exchanges deduct a small amount of coin to pay for the transfer.
While you're waiting, consider sharing this guide with your friends and followers to spread the word about Ethereum, encouraging its popularity and value to grow.
Here's some share buttons for Facebook and Twitter to make it easy:
In the future you may want to move your Eth. Great news- it's easy!
Press 'send ether & tokens', then open your wallet using your keystore file and password or private key. In the 'To address' insert the wallet address you're sending the Ether to (in the below example it's a deposit address for Bittrex).
Now write in how many coins you'd like to send (or press 'send entire balance' to send them all).
You should only need to change the gas limit if you get multiple failed transactions.
Press 'generate transaction'.
The wallet has created the transaction. Double check you entered the wallet address and Ether (ETH) amount correctly and then press 'Send transaction'.
On the following pop-up click 'Yes, I am sure! Make transaction'.
Your transaction has sent. In the green box that appears click 'View TX'. This will take you to a screen where you can make sure that the transaction has confirmed.
As you can see in the example below the transaction has already got 1 block confirmation- it's on it's way!If you transaction fails with an 'out of gas error' repeat the send but increase the gas price (try doubling it).