How Long Does it Take For a Bitcoin Transaction to be Confirmed?
Have you tried to make a transaction with Bitcoin and had to wait hours for it to confirm? Why is that and how long do Bitcoin confirmations take?
Bitcoin was supposed to offer fast and inexpensive transactions for its users. In fact, this was one of the main selling points Bitcoin advocates used to promote the cryptocurrency. However, over time Bitcoin has become much more popular and the once speedy network has become congested and sluggish, struggling to keep pace with growing demand.
With transaction times getting seemingly longer and longer, lots of people want to know. How long does a Bitcoin transaction take? Before we answer that question we need a basic understanding of how transactions and confirmations work.
A distinction is often made between “confirmed” and “unconfirmed” transactions. What is the difference?
A transaction is only confirmed when it is permanently added to the Bitcoin blockchain. The blockchain is a decentralized, public, ledger of all transactions in the history of Bitcoin. New data can be added to the end of the ledger, but data can never be removed once included. This is necessary to prevent double-spending.
The Bitcoin network is maintained and secured by individuals called miners. Miners verify transactions and generate what’s called a block reward. This block reward contains newly created Bitcoin. Once the transactions are verified, they are recorded in a distributed, public, ledger. This technology is called blockchain.
The blockchain is a series of blocks and at any given time the most recent several blocks are not guaranteed to be permanently included. It is possible for the blockchain to “fork” by having multiple potential blocks which claim to be the last block in the chain.
Eventually one of these blocks will win and be permanently added, but it isn’t always immediately clear which block this is. When a seemingly valid block is replaced by a competing block, this is called a blockchain reorganization and the replaced block is called an orphan block.
This is why we can never say with certainty that a transaction is “confirmed” because it is always possible that a transaction will be included in the blockchain but be replaced by a large reorganization later on.
The Bitcoin community has adopted 6 blocks as a standard confirmation period. Once a transaction is included in a block in the blockchain and is followed up by at least 6 additional blocks, the transaction is called “confirmed.”
How Long Does 6 Blocks Take?
Blocks are found by a random process, we cannot precisely determine how long it will take for 6 blocks to be found. The average is about 10 minutes to find each block. The average block time can be slightly shorter or longer depending on the total hash power of the Bitcoin network. (Hash Rate is the speed at which a computer is completing an operation in the Bitcoin code.)
This is why 6 confirmations take about 1 hour on average. However, the block-creation (or mining) process is random and block time may vary.
What You Need To Know!
So how long does a Bitcoin confirmation take? Well we can’t give an exact answer but in the current format one hour is the average.
- 6 blocks is the standard confirmation period
- It takes about 10 minutes to find each block.
- Confirmation times can vary due to factors such as hash power or block inconsistency.
If you want to learn more about Bitcoin confirmations check out the Bitcoin wiki here
You can also read this in depth article by Stanford researcher Dr. Joseph Bonneau