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How long do Monero transactions take?

Typical timeline during testing:

1 second: Remote wallet can see the transaction has been initiated
3 minutes 46 seconds: Remote wallet displays first confirmation of transaction appearing in the blockchain
26 minutes: Remote wallet receives 10 confirmations of the transaction and considers the funds fully confirmed and unlocked for spending

When you send a Monero payment, it will be announced to the Monero network instantly. In our tests, in about 1 second, a Monero wallet on the other side of the planet will be able to see that the transaction has been announced. (Because the transaction is not yet confirmed, this requires use of the show_transfers pool command - see our tutorial)

However, it is not enough to rely on that announcement, because the sender could make multiple such announcements in an attempt to 'double spend' their funds. This is why the annoucement of the transaction needs to be 'mined' into a block by the network of Monero nodes. This mining is a means by which the nodes come to a consensus among themselves that the transaction is legitimate and not a 'double spend'.

On average, Monero blocks are mined every 2 minutes. This means that after announcing a transaction, your transaction will wait for the next block to be mined, and then it will take around 2 minutes to be mined into that new block.

For example, in our test transaction, it took 3 minutes and 46 seconds after initiating a transaction before the remote wallet first became aware of the transaction as part of a Monero block on the blockchain.

It is at this point that the remote wallet will display a notification that funds have been received. The funds will show in your balance but will not yet be 'unlocked' for spending. After about 26 minutes, the wallet will have received 10 confirmations of the transaction and consider the funds fully confirmed and unlocked for spending.

Comparison with Bitcoin:

Monero Bitcoin
Initial waiting time for next block to be mined Up to 2 minutes, average 1 minute Up to 10 minutes, average 5 minutes
Time for first block to be confirmed Average 2 minutes Average 10 minutes
Time for transaction to be fully confirmed 10 confirmations * 2 minutes = 20 minutes 6 confirmations * 10 minutes = 1 hour
Total time 21 minutes 1 hour 5 minutes

Block size limits and transaction priority

Blocks have a maximum size, so if there is no room then your transaction will be delayed. If you are desperate to have your transaction included in a block promptly, you will have to increase the transaction fees that you pay to the network.

Bitcoin is in turmoil at the time of writing over an argument about whether to increase the Bitcoin block size. Bitcoin blocks are frequently completely full, causing transactions to be delayed and fees to increase. For more information, see this article: Bitcoin's Block Size Debate is Back (And It Might Be Worse Than Ever)

Monero has been designed from the beginning to have an automatically adaptive block size limit, which means it will automatically be able to handle future increases in transaction volume without this argument arising.

Variation in block confirmation times

Because of the nature of the computation required to generate each block, the average time required is 2 minutes but the actual time observed could be less or more. Therefore, don't panic if your transaction takes a few more minutes than usual - this is normal. For mathematicians reading this, block computation times follow the 'Poisson distribution'.
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