This article explains how to install and work with Geth and Mist, which allow you to mine or develop Ethereum software, and to control your own node and your own wallet’s key, thereby signing your own transactions instead of relying on third party software.
In order to communicate with the Ethereum blockchain, we must use a blockchain client. The client is responsible for broadcasting transactions, mining, signing messages and communicating with smart contracts.
Currently, the most popular clients for Ethereum are Geth and Parity. They both come as command line tools with terminal consoles for blockchain operations.
Since most people aren’t comfortable using command line tools, client extensions like Mist were created. They “wrap” the functionality of the client in a user-friendly interface — enabling people not proficient in command line usage to participate in the network.
What is Mist?
Mist is a program which connects to Geth in the background, and also serves as an interface for the wallet.
When Geth is running, it synchronizes with the public blockchain by downloading all its data. Mist is just a human-friendly interface for talking to Geth. In other words, Geth is both your node and your wallet, but instead of talking to it through obscure commands (such as
web3.fromWei(eth.getBalance(eth.coinbase)) to get an account’s balance), Mist will provide that same information in the UI without you even having to ask for it.
You can download Mist from this link. Download the version called Mist-installer, not the Ethereum-Wallet one.
The difference between Mist-installer and Ethereum-wallet is that Mist is, by itself, a web and Ethereum browser as well as a wallet interface. Ethereum-wallet has the browser functionality removed for safety, and only a single dapp installed — the wallet interface. Hence, they are the same, but the latter is limited in functionality.
The file you pick will depend on your operating system. macOS users will pick the
.dmg file, Windows users will go for the
.exe file, while Linux users will most often go with the
After having downloaded it, run the installation process then run the app. If you’re not sure where it got installed, just enter its name into your operating system’s search bar:
Mist: First Run
After running for the first time, Mist checks whether or not it has the latest Geth installed on the same machine and then checks for contact with the Ethereum network.
Then, Mist looks for peers — nodes it can connect to so it can download blockchain data from them.
Having found them, Mist begins to download the extraordinary amount of required data.
This can take days, depending on the speed of the computer and internet connection. It doesn’t have to finish all at once: you can shut it down and come by later or leave it overnight. You can also launch the app outright and wait for sync in the background while actually using the app.
After syncing is finished, Mist will ask which network to use: Main or Test. Pick any of them. Unless you made an address beforehand in Geth via the
personal.newAccount command (you probably didn’t and that’s fine), it’ll also ask you for a password. That password additionally secures your wallet, but don’t forget it: it cannot be changed and it cannot be restored. Choose wisely. The JSON file that gets generated by this process is then encrypted with this password, and can be imported into various wallet tools like MetaMask, MyEtherWallet, etc. To get to the JSON file(s) (for backup purposes) go to
File -> Backup -> Accounts and Mist will open the folder containing the JSON files of generated addresses.
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