To make a profit mining Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency today requires dedicated hardware. What used to be a straightforward task for anyone with a computer has become harder, more competitive and costlier. But if you’re still keen, here’s how to go about it.
First, you will need at least one graphics card – and, ideally, more than one – to have any success. Known as graphical processing units (GPUs), these are more powerful than the central processing unit (CPU) of your computer. Mining using your CPU is too slow to be profitable.
Second, you’ll need a desktop PC or, alternatively, a dedicated machine called an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC). It’s still possible to mine Ethereum with a desktop setup; Bitcoin is mostly the preserve of ASICs. Though some laptops might be powerful enough for mining, they are likely to overheat and could be damaged.
If you go with a desktop then you needn’t spend much on the machine – a cheap CPU, 8GB RAM and an average hard drive will do fine. You will need enough slots for as many graphics cards as you intend to use – aim for around six. You’ll also need a basic keyboard, mouse, monitor and a 64-bit installation of Windows 10.
Graphics cards can be expensive. At the time of writing, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 is one of the best. They cost between £500-750 each. As mentioned, you want to consider six.
The alternative is an ASIC, which is frowned upon by some in the cryptocurrency world because of its ability to outpace the mining efforts of an ordinary PC. (Ethereum is currently “ASIC-resistant”, for example.) Some are available for a few hundred pounds but the best cost thousands. An Antminer S9, for example, costs around £1,500 at the time of writing, without a power supply and power cables – those add another £200 or so.
Once you have the hardware, you will need a wallet and the appropriate mining software for your chosen currency. Popular choices include CGminer for Bitcoin and Claymore for Ethereum.
Finally, it is important to know that the days of mining solo are over. Trying to mine solo is like having a single lottery ticket: technically you have a chance of winning but in practice it’s always going to be someone else that wins.
Instead you need to join a mining pool – groups of miners who share their resources and their winnings. To continue the lottery analogy, this is like a lottery syndicate who club together to buy several tickets. In both cases, members are giving up a small chance to win a lot in return for a larger chance to win a smaller amount.
Most mining apps and services support specific mining pools. However, if you want to use a different one then it’s usually just a matter of entering the numerical address of that pool into the settings of your mining software.