Over 1 million Ledger hardware wallets are sold, what happens when they break?
Not much. Ledger policy will replace the broken Ledger in some cases, but whatever is inside is lost, or is it?
We have encountered several people who had their old Ledger Nano S broken, Mnemonic words long lost, their only hope was their pin. But what should they do once their Ledger is broken? Ledger warranty or support will only send you a new Ledger if you trade in your broken one. They will not fix the screen, nor will they fix your button to enter the pin, or do any other maintenance to your device. They will simply trash your old Ledger in exchange for a few, at the most.
Do not despair, as there is several ways to recover you funds even if you drop your hardware wallet into the water, cracked the screen or accidentally damaged the pin enter button.
It all started in early 2018, when an old friend could not access his Ledger after one of the buttons to enter the pin broke down. After several weeks of mail exchange with the Paris support team, he felt all was lost. A quick call asking us what he should do, we suggested he should simply walk into one of many Apple repair shops (there are plenty everywhere if you Google it) and ask them if they would help fix the damaged device. As its not much different from fixing a damaged Iphone or Ipad.
The Apple support took the Ledger apart, saw what was broken, but did not have spare parts, they were simply Apple agnostic. Anything not Apple they did not support.
The Ledger Nano owner came back and asked for help again. We decided to order a new Ledger from Ebay, took it apart, and simply used good old fashioned hardware reverse engineering to take the parts broken and exchange from the second Ledger. 150 Ethereum saved. (at a time ETH was still above 800 USD…)
What triggered us to reach out to the community was multiple follow up requests from various people that learned their Ledger was not out of reach even if most of the hardware was broken. It was just a matter of patience and hard work, to simply buy a second Ledger and switch parts until the “SECURE ENCLAVE” part of your original Ledger was accessible again.
After switching buttons, fixing broken boards or screen displays, we encountered a case where the Ledger was used to send ETH to an Ethereum Classic wallet.
Luckily, the person involved in the mash up was in possession of the mnemonic phrase. That ended well. You simply convert the ETH private key to and ETC private key, and send the funds back. This will work even if you send BTC to a BCH address, but that will be covered in another write up. ;=)
Disclaimer, this article was written by Robert Rhodin, CEO of KEYCHAINX LLC, a Bitcoin Security and Bitcoin Wallet Recovery company.
To find out more about our work please visit https://keychainx.io