Find Out Where Your NFT Image Is Stored

    Doesn’t technology ever baffle you? Like how we naturally use our phones and video call with friends a million miles away. For someone from a couple of hundred years ago, it sounds like a miracle or even magic. Ever since the boom of social media, we never question anything. But let me ask you this, have you never wondered about blockchain technology? What exactly is an NFT? An image, a token, or an illusion of something that doesn’t exist? Before we get into where NFT images are stored, let’s refresh some important blockchain mechanics to know why such storage is needed.

    Recap: Blockchain Technology

    The blockchain is a decentralized peer-to-peer network, this means that it’s not governed by a centralized authority. It’s a breakthrough technology that offers safer and more immutable transactions than bank systems. However, the blockchain has a digital storage system for transactions with a simple value and size, like numbers. So, it’s not meant to store actual media files, just a bunch of codes that don’t require more than a few KBs. That’s why when you speak of an NFT, you are talking about three things:

    1. The token ID: Always stored on the blockchain
    2. Metadata: stored off/chain or on/chain 
    3. Media: stored off/chain or on/chain

    If the blockchain was used to send films, multimedia, and pictures, people will have to pay huge gas fees which is simply impractical and unattractive for users. That’s why most NFT collections don’t store their metadata on the blockchain and why there’s an option to store NFTs on or off the blockchain. So yes the NFT image is not stored on the blockchain and that is not what you are buying. You are just buying a code that points to the place where your NFT image exists.

    Steps to Find Where NFT Image Is Stored

    NFT media and metadata are mainly stored on an off-chain server. It’s true that this is a cheaper and more feasible option, but it raises many red flags regarding the permanence and ownership of NFTs. Anyway, the cool thing is that there’s a way to determine where the NFT image is stored from the smart contract. You can even find the actual image’s storage place to know which storage system they are using. So follow along and let me guide you through, it’s really simple.

    Stage 1: Find the Smart Contract and Token ID

    1- Go to OpenSea and find the collection you want to check. 


    2- Choose any NFT from the collection and scroll to the details section. 


    3- Press on the “Contract Address” link to take you to its smart contract. Also, copy the token ID as you will use it later on.


    4- Once you’re on the Etherscan page, scroll down and notice that this ledger is being displayed under the category “Transactions”. On the same bar find and press “Contract” (it has a little green mark on top of it). 


    5- Press “Read Contract” and keep scrolling down until you see tokenURI. When you press the tab it will ask you for a tokenID. 


    Stage 2: Find The NFT Metadata

    6-  Here’s where you paste the token ID into the search bar of TokenURI and then press “Query”. The query string will give you a link that points to where your NFT metadata and image is stored. 


    7- In most cases when the string gives you a link, it indicates that the NFT is stored off-chain. You have to figure out if this link is trustworthy or not. For example, in the case of BAYC, they store their images on IPFS servers, which are considered among the best off-chain storage options till now.


    8- Since the storage system is IPFS, you can’t just press on the link and expect it to take you to the metadata. Instead, copy everything from the string after ( ipfs:// ) then open a new window and type this URL : here what you copied from the string)

    You are looking now at the metadata, it has a link to the place where the NFT image is stored. 

    step 8-min

    9-  Repeat the same process. Open a new window and type the URL : (paste the link from metadata here)

    Here’s where BAYC #8347’s image is hiding.

    step 9-min

    Closing Thoughts 

    The good news is that there is somewhat of a shortcut to finding where your NFT image is stored. Most times OpenSea links the metadata’s storage place to the token ID. So when you press that button, it will save you the trouble of navigating through the smart contract. Also, if you follow these steps on a collection that is stored entirely on-chain, like Autoglyphs, that’s what you get.

    step 8-min autoglyphs

    In brief, if you get a link to IPFS or similar storage servers, the NFT is stored off-chain. If you get a bunch of weird codes then the NFT, its metadata, and the image are stored on the blockchain.


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