There has been a lot of noise, about Bitcoin, Blockchain and Crypto mining technology. This news has focused on the price of Bitcoin. As well as those individuals whom have made a large amount of money, by being early adopters. What is Bitcoin, Block chain and Crypto mining? In this series of posts, we will go on a crypto mining rig building adventure. Hopefully reaching it’s return on investment (ROI). As well as any technical difficulties along the way.
A Quick Introduction
Bitcoin: Peer to Peer Electronic Cash System white paper. Published in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. The paper outlines the fundamentals of block chain technology. The technology theorised a completely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash. Payments immediately sent between users on the network. Without the need for a trusted third party, to oversee this transaction, such as a bank. The main problem which this white paper set out to solve, was about trust. Users need to make sure that this payment isn’t made with coins which have already been used. To avoid double spend. This is where the underlying technology discussed in the white paper comes into play.
Is a distributed ledger shared throughout the network. So that every user on the network can check the entire transaction history of any one on the network. The block chain timestamps all transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain. This hash-based process called proof-of-work forms a record that cannot change. To secure this network all timestamps are hashed using SHA-256. It also proves that the data must have existed at the time, to get into the hash. Each timestamp includes the previous timestamp in its hash. Thus forming a chain, with each timestamp reinforcing the ones before it. This gives the technology its name, Block Chain.
Users of the network provide their compute power to ‘hash’ out the time stamps of each transaction. In a process called mining. There are many different ways to mine crypto currency. From using your computers processor, a graphics card, to the humble Raspberry Pi. Or a specialty microprocessor known as ASIC miner. Mining using any of these methods will consume energy. So part of the white paper describes how to incentivise users to continue mining on the network.
There is two main ways to mine crypto currency. For Bitcoin the main method is using specialist mining machines known as ASIC miners. Computers built for a single task, to mine Bitcoin. They generally cost upwards of £1300, use a lot of electricity while mining and generate tons of heat. Advances in ASIC technology means these miners are out of date, within six months.
The amount of crypto currencies in circulation as of today numbers in the thousands. With new ones created every day. Most of these do not need specialised machines to mine. A standard computer graphics card will surface. It this method I will be focusing on for my mining rig.
Rewards for Crypto Mining
Mining consumes energy. To counter this expense miners are rewarded in tokens, known as coins. As an example the Bitcoin block chain rewards crypto mining with Bitcoins. Though each crypto currency has its own token and reward amount.
We will currently stick with Bitcoin. The reward for finding a block on the Bitcoin block chain was 50 Bitcoins, though currently it is 12.5 Bitcoins. The reason behind this is also explained in the white paper. To create a deflationary currency the supply of the tokens must be controlled. Since the beginning of Bitcoin mining, the reward as per the design, has reduced every 210,000 blocks by 50%. If you would like to know more detail about controlled supply I would suggest reading it up here.
Equipment needed for Crypto Mining
Now that we have a little background to what crypto currencies such as Bitcoin are. How you generate them and what crypto mining is. We need to start looking at the equipment which I have chosen to join this mad gold rush of the 21st century. Below is a list of all the pc components you will need to join in:
Hard drive or Solid State drive. (Solid State is better)
Graphics Card/s. (more the merrier)
Riser Cards. (Depending on how many graphics cards you use and the motherboard layout)
The motherboard, is one of the important components in any pc build. Let alone a crypto mining rig build. It is what all other components of a pc plug into. The main consideration, when mining is how many graphics cards can it hold. My rig utilises the Biostar TB250 BTC pictured below as the main board.
The two reasons I used this for my crypto mining rig are:- it has a total of six graphics card slots. 1 x 16xPCI-e slot and 5 x 1xPCI-e slots, it is also a socket LGA 1151. This means that the motherboard will accept the older generation of Intel processor. Making the over all build somewhat cheaper. Also this board has the added advantage of having an M.2 SSD connector. Although I won’t be using this.
Processor and RAM, are the main areas you can save money in a build of a mining rig. The CPU in this build is the Intel Celeron G3930 Kaby Lake. At the time of this build the CPU cost £40. As all the work on this rig is going to be done by the GPU. The fact that the G3930 is only a dual core, at 2.9GHz is not a problem.
These are the work horse of any GPU mining rig. It is these components which took the most time and research to get the right. What you are looking for is a high hash rate, achieved at the lowest power consumption and purchase price. So lets break down those three main considerations for mining.
This as pointed out earlier on in this post, is the way that the rig will mine. The higher the hash rate of a GPU. The more results accepted and the greater the amount of tokens/coins rewarded. During the research time for this rig the cards of choice for crypto mining were from AMD. Be that the 570/580 or the more recently released RX Vega 56 and 64 GPUs. Though your choices may vary as it depends on what algorithms you decide to mine.
Power consumption depends on your supplier. For this you are looking at your cost per KW hour. This can vary depending on where you live in the world. You can shop around for a the cheapest rates though that is your choice.
Price of purchase
It is my opinion, that this is the most difficult decision to make. Currently due to the increase of interest in GPU mining. Prices have been on the up. Take the Vega 56 for example when these cards launched it retailed for around about £350. Though as of current market (Feb 2018) you’ll be lucky to pick one up for less than £750. This is wide spread across both Nvidia and AMD, with GPUs selling for much more than their MSRP.
Taking these three points into account, the graphics cards I finally decided upon were 2x Gigabyte Vega 56. Thanks to my retailer of choice having a flash sale, I was able to pick them both up for £389.99. Although they are reference style coolers. With increased the noise and reduce cooling ability. This is not too much of a problem as they will be mining cryptonight coins which use more memory than main core.
Everything else (Power Supply, Riser Cards, Hard drive & RAM)
Once I had decided on my motherboard, CPU and Graphic Cards the rest of the rig fell into place. As with any PC build I do, the power supply rating is always 80+ Gold or above. This rating will give you a solid power supply which will be able to survive being on 24/7. I chose a Corsair 1200W. I decided to go with a larger psu than I needed, to provide future expand-ability.
As the mother board only has one 16xPCI-e slot, the rest being 1xPCI-e slots. To fit in all the cards I plan on having in this miner, I would need powered riser cards to plug all the graphics cards into. These are individual PCBs (printed circuit board). Powered from the PSU and emulate 16xPCI-e connections. Next a hard drive is needed. Here I could of gone for a NVMe SSD. Though I decided to save on the cost of this by buying a standard 2.5″ SSD. As for the RAM, most guides on the internet, will state that you only need 4GB, though I brought 8GB to be safe. This is value RAM.