Using BDK with hardware wallets

By Daniela Brozzoni on 10/28/2022 - Tags: BDK, Development, Hardware Wallets

# Introduction

The bitcoindevkit organization maintains rust-hwi (opens new window), a Rust wrapper around Bitcoin Core's HWI (opens new window). rust-hwi makes it possible to use hardware wallets with BDK, which is exactly what we're going to do in this tutorial.

# Prerequisites

To follow along you'll need the hwi (opens new window) python package installed on your system, and a hardware wallet.

Never use a hardware wallet with real funds for testing! Either buy a separate one to be used only for tests, or use a hardware wallet emulator, such as:

To check if hwi is installed, open a python terminal and try to import it:

$ python3
Python 3.9.13 (main, May 17 2022, 14:19:07) 
[GCC 11.3.0] on linux
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import hwilib

If nothing happens, you're set! Instead, if you get a ModuleNotFoundError, follow the instructions in HWI's (opens new window) for installing.

Warning: if you're using macOS and virtualenv, you may encounter some problems with rust-hwi, as we internally use PyO3:

# Initial setup

Start by creating a new Rust project:

$ cargo init bdk-hwi
     Created binary (application) package
$ cd bdk-hwi

Add bdk with the hardware-signer feature as a dependency in the Cargo.toml:

name = "bdk-hwi"
version = "0.1.0"
edition = "2021"

# See more keys and their definitions at

bdk = { version = "0.24.0", features = [ "hardware-signer", ] }

(bdk re-exports rust-hwi since version 0.24.0 - if you're using bdk <= 0.23.0, you have to separately declare rust-hwi as a dependency)

Now, open src/ and slightly modify the fn main() method to return a Result:

fn main() -> Result<(), Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
    println!("Hello, world!");

and add these imports at the start of the file:

use bdk::bitcoin::{Address, Network};
use bdk::blockchain::{Blockchain, ElectrumBlockchain};
use bdk::database::MemoryDatabase;
use bdk::electrum_client::Client;
use bdk::hwi::{types::HWIChain, HWIClient};
use bdk::signer::SignerOrdering;
use bdk::wallet::{hardwaresigner::HWISigner, AddressIndex};
use bdk::{FeeRate, KeychainKind, SignOptions, SyncOptions, Wallet};
use std::str::FromStr;
use std::sync::Arc;

These little changes will come in handy later, as we won't have to care about imports or error handling.

Build and run the project - if everything goes smoothly it will print some warnings about the unused imports (no worries, we'll use them eventually), and a "Hello, world!".

$ cargo run
warning: unused import: ...
warning: unused import: ...
warning: unused import: ...
Hello, world!

# Finding the hardware wallet

In this step we'll make sure that hwi can see your hardware wallet. If you're using a physical HW, connect it to your laptop; if it's an emulator, start it.

We start by printing all the available hardware wallets:

fn main() -> Result<(), Box<dyn std::error::Error>> {
    // Listing all the available hardware wallet devices...
    let devices = HWIClient::enumerate()?;
    println!("{:?}", &devices);

When run, it should print an array of HWIDevice with one element:

$ cargo run
[HWIDevice { ... }]

If the array is empty instead, hwi is having troubles recognizing your device. Common issues are: the device is locked (unlock with the pin and open the "Bitcoin" app, if needed) or the udev rules aren't set.

# Receiving funds

In order to be able to receive funds we need to create the BDK Wallet using the HW descriptors.

We start by creating a HWIClient from the HWIDevice we found in the last step:

// Listing all the available hardware wallet devices...
let devices = HWIClient::enumerate()?;
let first_device = devices
    .expect("No devices found. Either plug in a hardware wallet, or start a simulator.");
// ...and creating a client out of the first one
let client = HWIClient::get_client(first_device, true, HWIChain::Test)?;
println!("Look what I found, a {}!", first_device.model);

We then use the HWIClient to get the descriptors:

// Getting the HW's public descriptors
let descriptors = client.get_descriptors(None)?;
    "The hardware wallet's descriptor is: {}",

Now that we have the descriptors, we use BDK as we always do: we create a Wallet, we sync it, we check the balance, and if there aren't funds on it, we ask the user to send some:

let mut wallet = Wallet::new(

// create client for Blockstream's testnet electrum server
let blockchain =

println!("Syncing the wallet...");
wallet.sync(&blockchain, SyncOptions::default())?;

// get deposit address
let deposit_address = wallet.get_address(AddressIndex::New)?;

let balance = wallet.get_balance()?;
println!("Wallet balances in SATs: {}", balance);

if balance.get_total() < 10000 {
        "Send some sats from the testnet faucet to address '{addr}'.\nFaucet URL:{addr}",
        addr = deposit_address.address
    return Ok(());

Use a testnet faucet to send funds to the specified address, and then re-run the program to check that they arrived. You don't have to wait for them to be confirmed before going to the next step.

# Spending funds

We're going to send back the sats we just received to the testnet faucet. As always, we need to start by creating the transaction:

let return_address = Address::from_str("tb1ql7w62elx9ucw4pj5lgw4l028hmuw80sndtntxt")?;
let (mut psbt, _details) = {
    let mut builder = wallet.build_tx();

We can't just call sign on the psbt as we'd normally do though, as the Wallet doesn't have any private keys, and doesn't even know that it's supposed to sign with the hardware wallet. (Go on and try to call sign(), if you're curious!)

We need to create a HWISigner object, and then manually add it to the Wallet, using add_signer. add_signer requires a SignerOrdering, which BDK uses to know which signer call first - in this case we just use the default, as we only have one signer.

// Creating a custom signer from the device
let custom_signer = HWISigner::from_device(first_device, HWIChain::Test)?;
// Adding the hardware signer to the BDK wallet

We can now sign and broadcast psbt:

// `sign` will call the hardware wallet asking for a signature
    wallet.sign(&mut psbt, SignOptions::default())?,
    "The hardware wallet couldn't finalize the transaction :("

println!("Let's broadcast your tx...");
let raw_transaction = psbt.extract_tx();
let txid = raw_transaction.txid();

println!("Transaction broadcasted! TXID: {txid}.\nExplorer URL:{txid}", txid = txid);

# Conclusion

We just received coins on a hardware wallet and spent from it - how cool is that?!

See the hardware signer example (opens new window) for the full code, and, if you have any questions or suggestions, head to our Discord (opens new window). See you there!