DIY : Honestly- What it’s like to mine cryptocurrency – Rob Kirkner – Medium

I was sitting there on my couch one cold Saturday morning in November and thought to myself—

Today you can do nothing, or you can do something!

Stage One: Powercolor RX-580 and MSI Armor RX-470

I had read a few articles, heard a few opinions, and was becoming increasingly curious about mining cryptocurrency. I decided to get up off the couch and make a trip to the local Micro Center. About ten hours and $800, lots of noise, and a pile of aluminum sawdust later,
I had built my first mining rig.

A miner’s frame of mind

Why do miners mine?

To simplify things a bit, consider that Cryptocurrency was created to act as a new form of money, among other things— a medium of exchange for goods and services, a replacement for our coins, dollar bills, and credit cards. But, as you may have heard, the climate of opinions that make up the cryptocurrency environment has encouraged the inverse effect. Cryptocurrency today, actually has little-to-no utility as a currency. We’re far from it because of one word: volatility. 📈

Cryptocurrency’s sudden rise to popularity has caused an explosion of emotions in both directions, like a 21st century Gold Rush on Bitcoin and friends. With its wild ups and downs, cryptocurrency is not spent with any haste [it could be worth double tomorrow], and very few merchants are hungry to accept it [it may be worth half as much on Wednesday]. Today, if you jump in and buy some crypto with your hard earned cash, you’ll forever cling to the original dollar amount you paid as a reference price for counting your losses and celebrating your profits.

Mining cryptocurrency, on the other hand, is a fundamentally different investment from day one. Because mining is an investment in hard assets (top-notch gaming computer hardware), it has the potential to continue growing over time with resistance to fluctuation in the crypto-market. Mining retains its value in the event of a market crash. If the market ever does go down the toilet, or you just need to get out of the game, you can always sell your GPUs and motherboard to recover.

Building your rig

So what does it take to get into mining?

Honestly, the hardest part of the setup was doing the handy-work to build the cage. Getting the system up and running was a cinch: Prior to this project, I had spent time dismantling and repairing countless computers and devices as a hobby. If you’re rather green at this, you may benefit from watching a little YouTube on building basic gaming PCs or mining rigs. You’ll also want to learn how to create a bootable drive for installing your OS of choice.

Sorting through the crowded custom PC market is puzzling at best, but the truth is— There are a million different combinations parts and ways to situate your machine that will do the job just fine. That’s why we call it a rig! Enjoy this part, be creative 💡, be resourceful, and rig it up.

Here’s the bottom line for GPU based mining: Spend the money on your power supply and your GPUs (and GPU risers). The rest of the system can be well…meh. Save some cash by seeking out low cost CPU and RAM chips that fit your motherboard. When you’re putting it all together save yourself from breaking things by exercising patience, being logical, and troubleshooting issues empirically.

Set it and forget it

Up and running? Next, there’s overclocking.

GPU Overclocking means using software to apply new settings to your processors that allow them to perform at a higher rate than what you normally get if you just plug-and-play. Overclocking is important because mining is a profit-seeking business operation. You’ve got to make decisions that maximize money-making-power and reduce costs— we’re talking faster processing (hashrate), and less electricity usage, respectively.

The overclocking process is a unique story for each GPU down to the make and model. When you go down this rabbit hole, be specific enough and you will be able to Google up all the info you need for your specific GPU. Online forums, Reddit included, are a gold mine for finding out what hashrates others are achieving and what settings they are using. Testing out different settings is a pain, but read up, keep good notes on what works for your unique setup, and you’ll get there.

A word about BIOS mods— I strongly recommend that you try to find info a BIOS mod for your GPU (this is a hardcore kind of overclock where you modify and replace your GPU’s firmware to increase performance). Yes, if you mess up the BIOS mod you can destroy your card, but if you’re careful, it’s 100% worth doing!

After all the headaches and hustle… to have a stable autonomous system that makes you money all day and all night is a great feeling, and a serious accomplishment. 🎉 🙌 You’ve set it all up and you can finally say “time is money” with a smile on your face. Now put the rig in the closet, plug it in, and forget it exists.

Drawbacks

Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you it isn’t all Bitcoins and daisies. 🥀

Although I’ve made mining seem like a hoot this far, there are actually many things that about mining that require your attention, and the first one is the heat. Heat means fans, fans mean noise. Anyway, GPUs operate as high as 75˚C (167˚F). They will help keep things toasty for you when it’s cold, but in the summer your rig will join forces with your arch-nemesis and spike your cooling costs.

Speaking of the power bill, get ready to explain to your roommate why you’ve been spending so much time in your room building a super computer and that the result of your effort is that your power bill will be increasing by about $50 starting next month. 💸

But seriously, make sure that you are set up to profit from your efforts by choosing to mine a cryptocurrency that will bring in more than you are spending on power to run the mining. Your first month mining is like a trial run to see if you can achieve satisfyingly sustainable numbers. At first, I remember feeling compelled to check in on the stats multiple times per day 👀. Now after nearly a year of mining, I take a an occasional peek—bi-weekly at most.

Let’s say you’ve worked out a profitable operation and accumulated a fair amount of crypto that you want cash in for USD. This presents another speed bump to overcome. To register for all the accounts you need to make this exchange is honestly more procedural and time-consuming than it is to become an Uber driver 🚗.

It’s best to get ahead of the game early, see what avenues you have available, and try registering for a few accounts as soon as you start mining. The registration process on any of the popular exchanges is going to take a week at minimum. Cryptocurrency exchanges are constantly closing and opening registration, changing rules, and adapting to new regulations, so I won’t recommend any particular one here. If you decide to go looking, don’t stray too far from the beaten path.

Here’s what a standard cryptocurrency to cash flow looks like:

New cryptocurrency is minted by your mining efforts, and sent to your digital wallet. You send your crypto to your account at an online exchange to set things in motion. Then you trade the coin you have for a more popular cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum because others are willing to buy these with their fiat currency. Then you create an order to sell for USD (hopefully on the same exchange). When your order gets filled you recieve USD in your exchange account, and finally you can ACH deposit or wire it in to your normal bank account. 💳

Doubling down

So how did it work out for me?

Luckily, I chose the right time to get into mining, and the rig paid for itself within 6 months. I did what any good miner would do and doubled down, bolting-on three more GPUs. Although the cryptocurrency market has had its hoorahs and hysteria since then, the rig is still pulling in the profits right now as you read this, and will continue to do so as time goes by.

Am I seeking investors and run a warehouse full of them? Nah. Am I ready to quit my job and become a blockchain developer? Definitely not. Would I build 4 rigs if I had a garage? maybe 🙂. What’s important to me is that mining has certainly been a rewarding challenge, an enjoyable adventure in yet-another tech community, and always makes for a good conversation.

The Beast at work—Stage Three: Powercolor RX-580(x3), MSI RX-470, and a Sapphire VEGA 64

But wait…How does mining actually work though?

*In this article, I didn’t go into detail about the What, Why, & How of mining. If you’d like an beginner-friendly overview, I recommend you check out this video.

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