I started writing this section as part of my So you want to farm Chia post, but that post was getting pretty long. So my hardware suggestions will make their own separate appearance here.
If you found this post first, please read So you think you want to farm chia? first. Then come back here. I’ll be waiting.
As I mentioned in the other post, start with what you have, if at all possible. An underused 2-4 cores of CPU, an extra 4-8GB of RAM, 300GB of temp space and a couple hundred gigabytes of permanent storage will get you going.
If you can’t start with what you already have, you can build a very viable system for around $1000. Since it’s not very specialized, you can reuse it for something else (a desktop, another software project, a VMware home server, etc) when you’re done, or when you outgrow it.
These bills-of-materials will have some pricing and Amazon affiliate links. Prices are current as of the original posting, and will change over time. You can choose to buy them anywhere of course, or change the components up. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’d recommend checking out Central Computer to support one of our few remaining local computer stores, and I’ll mention their advertised prices here as well as Amazon’s. Sign up for their Preferred Customer program and you will probably save a few bucks. I get nothing if you buy from them, except warm fuzzies.
Also be aware that some of these items may be hard to find at times, as Chia is becoming more popular and a lot of popular items are getting bought up.
One last caveat before we get to the configurations:
If you’re using an SSD or NVMe drive for plotting, the plotting process will wear out the SSD eventually. A single plot uses up to 1.8TB of writes. Check your drive specs and figure out what lifespan to expect, and don’t use your boot disk as plotting space. As examples, the 1TB Samsung SSD980 is rated for 600TBW, or 333 plots (including failed ones), for $130. A Seagate Firecuda 520 1TB is rated for 1800TBW, or 1000 plots, for about $180. So spending about 50% more gets you 3x the endurance.
Intel NUC Farming Rig – around $1200 new – 5-6 plots in parallel, 10-12 per day
Update: I built this rig, and wrote up the process pretty much step by step. Check out Building the Intel NUC Chia Plotter for details.
For the Spouse Acceptance Factor, I recommend the following, based on a blog post by storage_jm on ChiaDeCentral.
I’ll be building this version in the next week in fact I built this rig on May 3; see link above. I will be temporarily reusing my 8TB external drive, and using a 250GB SATA SSD that’s already in hand for my boot drive.
Boot drive – Any 2.5″ SATA drive will do. Central has a couple of 250GB drives including the Samsung MX-77E250B/AM for around $50. Amazon has the same one for the same price, albeit out of stock right now. If you get a 1TB drive, you can plot with it as well, but you don’t need to.
Plotting drive – 2TB Inland Premium NVMe is popular, about $240 on Amazon but out of stock. I’ve been melting down a PNY 2TB drive I bought from Dell last year – used 38% of the life in one month. If you watch your drive life, you can use cheaper NVMe or even SATA m.2 storage. But check the TBW (Total Bytes Written, or Terabytes Written) and warranty for your drive and take that into account.
Long-term storage – something big and available will do. Central has the WD MyBook 8TB for $155 and the Seagate Expansion 8TB for $145. I’ve used both, and the Expansion is running on my latest build right now. Amazon has the Seagate Desktop 8TB for $145 and the same WD MyBook for $150 (out of stock).
OS install drive – Anything fresh and USB 3.0 should be good, and if you already have an install drive for Windows or Ubuntu, you can use that. I like the Sandisk Ultra 32GB for price point and quality, $9.95 at Central and about the same at Amazon.
You may want an outlet strip, or a UPS if you don’t already have one, and of course a keyboard and monitor and maybe a mouse to set up your OS. I’d run Ubuntu 20 for this if at all possible, but you can run Windows 10 as well.
Dell Precision T7910 Rig – $1300+ used, 1 plot in parallel/2 per day as shipped
This is a heftier build, and it will cost a bit more. But it will plot more, and has a lot of expansion capability. It’s a lot quieter and power-efficient than some of the cheaper bulky rackmount servers as well. I’ve been plotting on a variation of this for the last six weeks or so.
Base computer, RAM, boot drive – Dell Precision T7910 dual-processor pre-build, $1289 plus shipping on eBay. This item has dual Xeon E5-2698v3 processors (total of 32 cores/64 threads), 32GB RAM, 512GB SSD, and 6GB SAS drive. With this you could plot 1 at a time as it arrives, storing almost 30 plots, or add an NVMe or SSD drive and some additional slow storage.
You could move the boot drive to mSATA and install a plotting NVMe drive on a PCIe card like this one that Central sells for $15 (I’m using one with a 250GB NVMe drive to boot my T7910). There are a number of options on Amazon for a similar price, including this Electop mSATA/NVMe PCIe card for $19.
By moving your boot space off the front 3.5″ bays, you can put SATA or SAS drives in those four bays for your slow storage. I bought a variant of this HGST 8TB SAS drive ($125) for my front bays, giving me a 29TB striped volume for my plot storage and farming.
Adding a 2TB NVMe drive as above ( 2TB Inland Premium NVMe, about $240 on Amazon) would give you the ability to do six plots in parallel. A 1TB drive will do three in parallel.
If you really want to go haywire, this model supports PCIe bifurcation on the first PCIe x16 slot. This means that cards like the Dell Ultra-Speed Quad adapter ($210 on eBay) will let you install four NVMe drives, each with its own 4 PCIe lanes. Use them as individual drives if they’re big enough, or stripe them for some massive performance.
Extreme T7910 Build – From $5900-6400, 44 plots in parallel, 88+ plots a day
A commenter on the main Chia post asked for a maxed out build based on the T7910. This is not for everyone, but it will make the most of your space. And it can support up to 44 parallel plots, for upwards of 8TiB a day.
Note that some of these parts are getting scarce and/or expensive, and prices and availability may change… so if the items linked are out of price range or sold out, search for something similar. Also, the slow storage removes the boot drives that come with the base system. You could put SSDs in the optical bays or on a PCIe card if you like, or work something else out.
I would buy the bigger prebuild, as it includes $600 worth of RAM and will allow troubleshooting and BIOS updates before upgrading the CPUs. But if you already have RAM, video card, or even CPUs, the base model is fine.
E5-2699v4 – $650 each – 22 core 44 thread 2.20-3.60GHz, supports up to 44 plots in parallel
To plot 44 plots in parallel, you need 11TB of SSD, probably either 4x 4TB NVMe on the Quad board, or 4x 2TB plus a PCIe add-in-card or two.
4TB NVMe SSDs at Amazon:
Mushkin Delta Gen 4.0 – $700 – 800 TBW
PNY XLR8 CS3040 – $690 – 900TBW
Sabrent Rocket Q 4TB – $650 – 1040 TBW
Sabrent Rocket 4 Plus – $900 – 2800 TBW
Sabrent Rocket Gen 3 – $800 – 6000 TBW (although some reports say more)
Corsair Force MP510 – $927 – 6280 TBW
2TB NVMe SSDs to pair with an add-in card
Intel P3605 1.6TB add-in PCIe card – $720 on eBay – 8760 TBW
You’re mostly on your own for this, but I use 4 8TB SAS HDDs like these Seagates in the front bays, booting from an NVMe or m.2 SATA drive on a PCIe card inside. This gives me a bit short of 30TB (300 plots worth) before I have to move them to larger external storage.
Seagate ST8000 8TB SAS Enterprise Capacity Drive – $129 or less on eBay
Lots of other options are out there
If you check out Reddit or the other sources I’ve mentioned, you’ll find lots of ideas for builds or reuse. Some people (including me) are using some inexpensive and slightly outdated PCIe flash storage for the plotting space (taking advantage of boards with lots of PCIe slots). Others are building workstations with high power boards like the ASUS P9X79 Pro (my latest build, which I’ve had around for 5 years as a desktop). You can run a Xeon on some of these boards that sold for core i7 processors; more cores, more cache, more raw power.
A Chia rig can be an obsession, and in a way it’s like an adjustable stool or tripod. You can easily paralyze yourself by adjusting the CPU and RAM, adjusting the fast storage, then going back to RAM, and so forth. If you’re going to be serious about Chia, you should build a stable rig first, and then experiment on something else. Keeping as many plots coming in as possible gives you the best chance of scoring XCH, and you miss all of the plots you don’t make.
Where do you go from here?
If you’ve built a Chia rig, let us know in the comments what you’re working with and how it turned out. If you have questions, I’ll try to answer them, but you can also get a lot of feedback on r/chia on Reddit.