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Creating a developer account

Getting started


On ICP developers accounts, or identities, use a private/public key pair for authentication. Accounts are identified by a principal which is a generic identifier value that is used for users, canisters, and potentially other future concepts. Each developer account's principal value is derived from the account's public key from the private/public key pair.

ICP developer accounts can be compared to a Bitcoin or Ethereum wallet address. One primary difference, however, is that ICP accounts do not have an initial balance.

ICP identity terms

Other ICP identity-related terms you may come across include:

  • Ledger account identifier: The identifier associated with your ICP ledger account.

  • Wallets: Used to store forms of currency. Developers can use a cycles wallet to send cycles to and from canisters, however the cycles ledger is the most optimal way for using and managing cycles.

  • Internet Identity: ICP's native authentication service. Internet Identity doesn't use usernames and passwords; instead it uses a passkey that is stored in your local device's hardware.

Difference between a ledger and a wallet

On ICP, a ledger is a system canister used to store accounts and their transactions. Users have a ledger account identifier. Ledger accounts are used to hold ICP tokens. To get information on your ledger account, you need to query the ledger system canister.

A wallet on ICP is used to store cycles that can be sent to canisters to pay for their consumed resources.

In a typical developer workflow, a developer will receive ICP tokens to their ledger account, then convert those tokens into cycles.

Creating your account

To create a new developer account, use the IC SDK tool dfx:

dfx identity new <identity_name>

Identities created with dfx are global; they are not confined to a specific project's context. Identity names must use the characters ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz.-_@0123456789.

Getting your account principal

To obtain the principal identifier for your account, use the commands:

dfx identity use <identity_name>
dfx identity get-principal

The principal will look something like this:


You can also inspect the corresponding private key by running:

dfx identity export default

The result may look something like this:


Storing the account's keys

When a new identity is created with dfx, the private key is stored in the ~/.config/dfx/identity/<identity_name>/identity.pem file. This file should be backed up to a secure location.

The --storage-mode flag is available, which can be used to create a password-protected or plaintext PEM file instead. These flags can be used such as:

dfx identity new <identity_name> --storage-mode password-protected


dfx identity new <identity_name> --storage-mode plaintext

Import an existing account

To import an existing PEM file to be used for your identity, use the command:

dfx identity import <identity_name> pem_file-name

This command supports the --storage-mode flag as well, allowing for importing password-protected or plaintext PEM files.

How to top up the ICP balance of your account

Once you have a developer account, you will need to top up the account with ICP. First, get your account's ledger account id:

dfx identity use <identity_name>
dfx ledger account-id

This will return your account number on the ICP ledger:


This account id is where you will need to send ICP tokens. To obtain ICP tokens, you can use several methods:

  • Purchase ICP tokens directly through an exchange.

  • Receive tokens as rewards for participating in the governance of the Internet Computer.

  • Receive a grant of tokens through the Internet Computer Association (ICA) or the DFINITY Foundation.

  • Receive tokens as remuneration for providing computing capacity as a node provider.

Once you have received ICP tokens into your account, you can see the balance using this command:

dfx ledger --network ic balance

This will output something like this:

19.420000 ICP

Next steps

Next, learn about cycles and how to acquire them.