How You Can Still Make Money Mining Cryptocurrency
If you’re a Bitcoin (BTC) mining veteran sulking about how zillion-dollar, ASIC-based data centers stole the show, you’re probably already well into alternative coins. But maybe you’ve scored a cool new GPU in the Newegg Lottery, or you’ve got one lying around. Or maybe you’re curious if all those hard drives you have in your closet can make you money through Chia. If you’re new to cryptocurrency mining, the good news is that the game isn’t completely over.
We’ll explain how you can start mining (and in Chia’s case, cultivating) using gear you might already own, or in theory you can buy at retail, and we’ll showcase our recent real-world experiences in winning. money from GPUs, CPUs and drives. Note that this is definitely not a guide for enthusiasts who plan to build custom platforms for mining. This is for those looking to see if they can make money without much effort, or who are just curious about how to mine, using gear they may already own or can get hold of.
Bitcoin mining is history
Bitcoin mining is dominated by incredibly huge mining facilities. The largest has over $ 300,000,000 worth of ASIC-powered computers. So I don’t see any way for mere mortals to participate, although if any of our readers are still making it work for them, let us know in the comments. Perhaps luckily, the “Bitcoin bubble” quickly spread beyond BTC.
In particular, there are two pieces that I find interesting because they have a wide support and can be mined with consumer material. Ethereum has an algorithm designed to prevent an ASIC from taking over, so GPUs can dominate its production. In a different vein, the newly launched Chia coins rely on what they call tracing and farming, which is dominated by storage requirements. There are plenty of other coins you can still mine that on any given day may be a little more or a little less profitable, but these two are a good place to start.
Mining Ethereum (ETH) using desktop GPUs
Assuming you have or can find a decent discrete GPU – or ideally several – it’s incredibly easy to start mining Ethereum. When I first wrote about BTC mining years ago, you had to have a full node on the network, your own wallet, and probably establish yourself with a mining pool. Now, if you have an account in a cryptocurrency exchange that accepts ETH, like Coinbase, you can simply use your wallet address from that account with the mining pool software.
Unless you have a large number of GPUs to use, you’ll probably still want to join a mining pool. They will take a fee, but often it’s only 1%. In return, you get a share of the proceeds from a large number of miners, rather than relying on your own, possibly small, chance to mine an entire coin on your own.
For my experience, I joined Nanopool. Well, really, there isn’t really a join, per se. If you are using its open source Nanominer software, you just need to give it your wallet address and launch it. There are versions for Windows and Linux, and it supports AMD and Nvidia GPUs. I found that the CUDA version in particular allowed my RTX 3090 to produce hash rates of around 110Mh / s at full power and 100Mh / s after idling it to keep the memory a little cooler.
My AMD GPUs weren’t competitive until I installed AMD’s custom encryption driver. However, if I was also using the same AMD GPU for games or apps, it would be quite complicated to change the driver all the time. As another experiment, I tried tapping the GPU of my Quadro T2000 laptop. He never managed to exceed 3Mh / s, so it was not an unexpected dead end.
If you’re up for a little more work, mining applications like Claymore, Ethminer, and Phoenix miner give you more control and increased flexibility in choosing which pools and coins to mine. ETHPool and Ethermine are two other more established pool options. The parts you extract will determine how much GPU memory you need and tend to increase over time. Ideally, an 8GB or larger GPU will give you the most flexibility. One big change is that next year ETH plans to switch to a proof-of-stake mining method to save energy. If this happens, GPU mining will not work for Ethereum beyond this point, and you will need to change the currency.
While the invention of ETH helped neutralize the power of multi-millionaire ASIC miners, it did not solve another major problem for cryptocurrency. Creating new parts usually required energy consumption. And the more effort you put into mining, the more energy it took. Ultimately, Bitcoin could both consume most of the energy available in the world, but it could also accelerate climate change, and perhaps accelerate end of life as we know it. Melodramatic, of course, but not impossible. ETH moved computing to conventional GPUs, but that didn’t reduce power requirements. While Ethereum’s move to proof of stake in 2022 will resolve the issue, another approach has emerged in the meantime.
Tuning Your System For Optimal Results
So far, other than spending a lot of hours on your GPU, we haven’t done anything that could destabilize your system or make it unsuitable for other applications. For an occasional miner, this is probably sufficient. But there is certainly a lot of room to go further. AMD, for example, offers a driver (beta) suitable for mining but not graphics. And changing a GPU’s power and voltage settings can also help improve performance and cooling, as can the risk of flashing a custom BIOS. There are plenty of sites to walk you through each of these, but my advice is to keep careful notes on what you change and understand the possible consequences of each step.
Enter Chia: An Attempt to Make Crypto Sustainable
The inventors of Chia claim they wanted to shake up the basket of apples that drains energy, but creating a cryptocurrency that relied on “farmers” (it seems so much more organic than miners) to create plots on disks and leave those disks attached as firm. Simplistically, if you think of your farm plots as bingo cards, then the more you have, the more likely you are to get BINGO! If you could just sign up to receive bingo cards to park on your hard drives, there wouldn’t be much not to like. Unfortunately, you have to generate your own bingo cards, which takes an impressive amount of disk activity. So, to owners of the largest and fastest SSDs, the likely loot. And if you’re using a standard consumer drive (or worse, your system drive), you really risk wearing it out.
In practice, the price of XCH has collapsed to the point that for every terabyte dedicated to growing Chia, you can theoretically expect around $ 1 per month. So unless the currency picks up, that’s not exciting for most people. On the bright side, once the plots are created, actual farming takes up almost no resources other than disk space. Currently there are no secure Chia pool protocols, so you are on your own. For every 20TB at the current difficulty level, you can expect to farm a full coin (around $ 300 currently) about once a year.
Extraction of multiple currencies
If you are ready to dedicate an entire machine, you can mine multiple currencies at once, each using a different resource. For example, it is easy to trace and cultivate Chia while mining Ethereum, as one uses part of the CPU and disk bandwidth while the other uses GPUs. I also found that as long as I don’t need to use a specific application on a GPU, I can easily mine Chia and mine Ethereum in parallel. The only downside is that the initial plotting process for Chia also takes up CPU, so don’t give her too many cores if you want to use the computer for other tasks.
So, is the occasional cryptocurrency mining worth it?
Unsurprisingly, a lot depends on your energy costs. Where I live in Northern California, we have some of the highest electricity rates in the country. So my Nvidia RTX 3090, at around 100 Mh / s, could make around $ 5 per day mining Ethereum. But it uses around 270-300 watts of power to do so. Over the course of a day, that’s over $ 2 in electricity alone. Now the 3090 isn’t the top performer when it comes to horsepower, and the graph above shows better options. But this is an example that even with the hardware you already own, mining cryptocurrency can be more of a fun hobby than a profitable business.
Enthusiasts are also expressing concern about reducing the useful life of your GPU. As long as you don’t let it overheat and your power system is up to par, the consensus seems to be that the additional risk is low. Of course, these days if you are frying one it can be difficult to replace it.
Featured Image By Jernej Furman/ CC BY 2.0