This article was adapted from our blog post, here.
MetaMask is a flexible tool that can be used in numerous ways. One facet of this is that there's nothing stopping you from using MetaMask on multiple devices, with multiple Secret Recovery Phrases and private keys.
Since web3 has a fundamentally different user account structure to the traditional/web2 username + password combination we're all familiar with, it's useful for us to define what 'wallet' does and does not describe:
- Your wallet should be thought of as the software through which you manage your accounts and assets: in other words, MetaMask.
- MetaMask can import one Secret Recovery Phrase, and any number of private keys. It cannot, however, hold more than one Secret Recovery Phrase at a time.
- Your account(s) are not the same thing as your SRP. They have a complex cryptographic relationship you can read more about here, though you don't need to understand it. What you do need to understand is that your accounts are controlled and created by your Secret Recovery Phrase.
- Each account is represented by a public address. Each account you create in MetaMask is derived from your Secret Recovery Phrase; therefore, your wallet contains one or more accounts.
- Your wallet does not have a public address. What it does have, though, is one or more accounts derived from it (starting with 'Account 1', named so by default), each of which has its own public address (and corresponding private key).
In summary: each MetaMask address you have (which leads to an account) is derived from a Secret Recovery Phrase (which you import into your wallet).
Why would I need multiple SRPs?
- Security. Even if one of your SRPs is compromised, you haven't lost all of your accounts. You haven't placed all your eggs in one basket, as the saying goes.
- Privacy. Even though you can derive multiple accounts from one Secret Recovery Phrase, you might want to further 'sandbox' your digital identities by creating an entirely new SRP. This way you can almost completely anonymize your activity (assuming the addresses have not been linked to you through KYC, somewhere).
- Professional use cases. Maybe you use one wallet for professional purposes — e.g. as a developer, or part of an organisation with web3 involvement — and another for personal use. It's wise to keep these separate. Equally, separating wallets could be useful for tax purposes, if, for whatever reason, you need to report different holdings and activity to different tax authorities.
- Using different types of MetaMask. MetaMask comes in three flavors: regular (orange fox), Flask (purple, and for developers), and Institutional (blue). Each wallet variety requires installing a separate extension in your browser. It's possible that you want to use a combination of two (or even three?!) of MetaMask's different types concurrently — for that, you'd need to have multiple instances of MetaMask.
Can I have multiple types of MetaMask installed in the same browser?
No — you can only have one.
Having more than one type of MetaMask — and, typically, any other wallet extension — active in your browser simultaneously will cause problems, and none of them will work correctly. To address this problem, either deactivate (or turn 'off') the additional extensions until you only have one remaining, or, as we're about to discuss, use multiple browsers or browser profiles to access them separately.
How to manage multiple wallets or SRPs
There are two ways you can approach this: the first is by using different browsers, and the second involves using different browser profiles. Let's take a look:
This option is as straightforward as it sounds: if you’ve only got two or three SRPs, then you can simply install MetaMask in several different browsers, and use a different browser for each one.
Given the open-source nature of the modern web, there’s not a definitive listing of browsers that MetaMask will or won’t work in. The browsers officially supported by MetaMask are:
The easiest way to manage multiple wallets or SRPs is by using browser profiles. Let’s take a look at how these work with MetaMask in Chrome, as so many browsers are based on it. Chrome’s canonical instructions are available here, and the steps are fairly simple:
- In the top-right corner of your browser, click the profile image (it will have your Google profile image, or if you haven’t logged in, it will have a placeholder image)
Under that menu, at the bottom, click on ‘add’:
Walk through the prompts to create the new profile; you probably don’t need to associate it with another email account, so you can just click ‘Continue without an account’:
Choose a color scheme, give your profile a name that reminds you which wallet you’re going to use with it, and hit 'Done':
Now all that’s left to do is to open a browser window in that new profile, install MetaMask from our downloads page like you normally would, and follow these instructions to restore from your SRP — or create a new one.