Getting Started with Cryptocurrency Mining – Building Your First Rig

This is a post I’ve started three or four times, with different aims and detail, but since I haven’t gotten it posted and people keep asking, I thought I’d start with a simple build plan and some caveats and considerations.

Where I refer to a ‘rig’ here, it’s simply a system dedicated to, or purposed for, mining cryptocurrency of some sort. It might be a single board computer, or a dedicated device, or a PC with one video card (or just a good cpu), or an open frame build with lots of GPUs and a beefy power supply.

Big Hairy Audacious Caveats

The numbers in this article, from prices to currency rates, are based on the time of writing (which may have been a while before the time of posting). They are not guaranteed to last even as long as it takes for this article to post. I am not advising on the value or prospects of any mining or cryptocurrency. You may gain money, lose money, or break even, or your entire city may sink into the ground like a big ole glowing gopher, if you engage in cryptocurrency mining on any level. Do so at your own risk. 

Other Reading

See the sidebar: A note about mining pools

See the other sidebar: Setting up your cryptocurrency wallet

Givens and Druthers

Two ODROID HC1 single board computers, next to a Transporter NAS device.

There are a lot of options out there, from multi-thousand-dollar ASIC miners for Bitcoin to sub-$50 single board computers that can mine Verium or the like. Your budget will determine a lot of the details of your rig, and your power cost may influence it as well. It’s also worth keeping family approval requirements in mind, since an Antminer may be noisy and generate a lot of heat, whereas a Raspberry Pi or ODROID might fit better behind something in your living room.

You can build a starter rig with one GPU, and depending on the GPU, you might be able to bring in $10-20 a week or more from that. Considering that you can do this with an existing PC and operating system, it may be an economical way to get your feet wet, and it won’t require messing with special power supplies, excessive cooling, or riser cards.

If you’re looking to impress people or make a lot of money, well, good luck. But you’ll be looking at open frame systems with riser cables or even multiplexers for PCIe. That’s beyond the scope of this post. Continue reading


Sidebar: Setting up your cryptocurrency wallet


This is a sidebar post; you may wish to read the main mining rig post first.

Depending on the currency you choose to mine, you may need to create a wallet and/or address to receive the proceeds. The way this works will vary across currencies, but they’re very similar.

Wallets are usually a copy of the blockchain for your currency, along with the keys and address for your own “account” in the currency. It’s sort of an odd configuration if you compare to modern banking, but it serves the dual purpose of tracking your own balance and strengthening the security and scalability of the network. Continue reading

Sidebar: A note about mining pools


This is a sidebar post; you may wish to read the main mining rig post here first.

One thing I didn’t cram into my earlier post on getting started on cryptocurrency mining was how you actually make money (or fail to). To figure this out, we will look at the two ways you can mine cryptocurrency.

Drawing the Pool Picture

The “classic” method is what we’ll call solo mining. This means you’re looking for blocks on your own. If you find a block, you get the whole reward for yourself. For Bitcoin, this could be over $100k in one fell swoop. However, unless you have $100k or more in custom mining hardware (ASIC miners like the Antminer S9), your odds of finding a block on your own are miniscule at best.

The more confusing method is called pool mining. This means you contribute the work your miner does to a collective, who share out the rewards when the collective pool finds a block. If you’re the lucky block-finder, you get a LOT less reward than if you solo-mined that block, but the other 99.999999985% of the time (scientifically chosen random nearly 100% number) you’re getting a lot MORE than if you solo-mined and didn’t find anything.

You could think of mining in this situation as similar to taking a metal detector out to the Atlantic or Pacific beach looking for gold or other treasure. There’s a lot of shoreline and beach, and if you go out with one metal detector (or even two, one in each hand), you can only cover so much space. Take 10, 100, or 150,000 friends with their metal detectors and you have a better chance of finding something and sharing the reward. Continue reading