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The Bitcoin logo.
Bitcoin, also known as BTC, is a digital currency released in 2009 by a group of men known as Satoshi Nakamato.

Bitcoins can be traded instantly* by anyone to anyone. The only requirement for using bitcoins is having an address to a wallet. You can acquire such an address through the softare provided by the bitcoin maintainer, other third party wallet software, or multiple online wallet services.

Bitcoins can be acquired through mining with your CPU or GPU (video card), or purchased from dealers and bitcoin exchanges.

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Getting started

The first thing you will have to do in order to enter into the bitcoin world is to get a wallet and bitcoin address. This can be done using an online wallet service or by downloading the official client from the link below.

As of 2013-04-01, the official client requires 7.95GB of hard disk space to start with, and that will grow with time. The reason for this is that the block chain which holds all of the transactions is downloaded and stored locally. The block chain holds the required information for all transactions made on the network. You can use the block chain to verify that transactions are real, and to verify if payments have been sent or received.

Using an online wallet can help avoid storing 8GB+ of data on your local disk drive, but you are also entrusting all of your bitcoins with the online wallet service. For some people, the benefits, such as access to the wallet from anywhere you can get online, might outweight the risks of having to trust the provider and their security.

The following links are the beginners essentials. You can download the official client from the site linked below:

Online wallets

Bellow is a selection of online wallets. In some cases, such as with Coinbase, the account also has other services, such as buying coins for a fee.

Free Bitcoins / Bitcoin Faucets

The following websites either distribute free coins or offer coins as payment for various services such as viewing websites or completing "offers".

Site Description
BitHits Three "tickets" daily.
Bitcoin Addict Once per day.
Bitcoin Faucet Twice per day but takes a minimum of 0.01 BTC accumulated to withdraw.
Bitcoiner Once per day.
Bitcoins 4 me One request every hour.
BitCrate Pretty good payout when it actually has coins; follow its twitter.
Bunny Run Daily requests, from 0.04 mBTC to 0.1 mBTC.
CoinAd Hourly requests if you register, otherwise only once per day. It has a chat page where you can potentially earn 0.01 mBTC with every message - again, only if you register.
Coin Reaper 0.02 mBTC available daily, plus it can provide you a simple way to keep track of other faucets.
Cointicket A news post says it will pay out "later."
Daily Bitcoins 0.01 mBTC is available every hour. It sometimes gives Peerbet vouchers/bonuses.

These sites pay you to view a page. The length of time to leave the page open can range from 10 seconds to 5 minutes. You don't need to be present for the timer to ffinish for most of them.

Site Description
BitBucks I haven't used the site myself, so I can't comment on if it pays out or works.
Bitcoin4you This is another excellent site with high payouts but it's not as popular and so has less advertisers to view.
Bitvisitor The best site I've used so far and it pays out hourly. High payouts, but more importantly, lots of advertisers.
EasyBitcoin / bitcoins easy Very low payouts to view sites or other offers.
I want free Bitcoins This site is pretty broken and I'm not even sure if it actually has any offers or will ever pay out.
BitcoinGet Another site to view videos for BTC. It might be a scam in that it rarely or never says that you viewed the video.
BitcoinReward Another site to view videos for BTC. Tested and pays out every day.

Related articles

Bitcoin image gallery