Wednesday, January 17th 2018

Confessions of a Crypto Miner: The Setup

As I have mentioned on the forums here at TechPowerUp a few times, I was an active crypto-miner during one of the most tumultuous times in crypto history: The period between 2013 and 2015. Rather than tell you a long and sad story, I will say just this: I ended up with a net loss by the end of this era, and it wasn't a good time to be an investor if you didn't like roller coaster rides. The reasons I lost money are many, but I think I can attribute them to primarily a lack of experience, a lack of written records, and really, a complete lack of a plan.

My New Plan
Yes, I'm planning on mining again. I've always been drawn to the tech, and I am in a much better position to do so now. Ironically, this time around, I'm not really in it for the money. I've already been there, done that, and it's too stressful for me. Having no end goal of riches doesn't set me up for failure. I think it is a more realistic mindset for taking on this project. It also gives me a chance to document my endeavor to the world, and to you, dear reader. I hope we all learn something here.
First off, a piece of advice: Personally, I would never really consider getting back into crypto mining for money's sake. But if you have the money available and want to do this as a side operation for some fun and the possibility of making some money while you are at it, it might be for you. The aim of this column is to show you what the life of a crypto-miner is like, by becoming one, and to keep you updated with the things that concern miners these days. It will show you the work that goes into producing that "magic Internet money" that a lot of people claim "grows on trees" and show you that it is indeed an occupation in its own right… or so I hope. If I get rich off this, I really won't mind per se, but my assumption is I'll probably end up making below minimum wage at the end of the day, as has happened in the past.

Also, this article is meant to educate you, the reader. It is meant to be a piece for those considering getting into crypto-currency mining, to help them know what they are diving into. The reason I have no problem with doing this series is, the outcome doesn't matter. If I break even, I'm happy. I still get to tell a story, even if I basically worked as a miner for free for a year. The math now indicates I'll be more than breaking even in that timeframe, so I'm comfortable with this, even if the math ends up being somewhat horribly off.

The Math
Yes, the math. Unlike my prior endeavors into crypto, I did some homework first. I found that due to the GPU shortage, I could only easily get my hands on NVIDIA GTX 1080 cards. So, I bought two of those and the cheapest modern motherboard and CPU money could buy. The complete build, for the curious, may be viewed in Newegg receipt form here (Note I supplied the HDD, though a prospective miner could easily boot from USB as well):
So, I decided from the beginning that to minimize risk, I would mine a somewhat mainstream coin rather than go for some higher risk options. That basically means ZCash or Ethereum (I eliminated Monero as an option because some exchanges are beginning to flag this relatively anonymous coin as "high risk" transactions, and I want my liquidity to be high). Of the two, GTX 1080s do significantly better in ZCash than Ethereum, making about $300 per month over my electricity cost (I pay roughly 0.10 cents per kilowatt-hour, for reference).

The whole setup will draw less than 650W. It must, because that's the max rating of the PSU it's being supplied with. I went with a Titanium Seasonic Prime PSU both for their excellent quality/efficiency and for the fact that it may be usable after the mining is done.

The whole setup cost around $1,640. At $300 per month, it will be paid off in a little under six months, so it's not too difficult to get to a profitable point if you can spend the money upfront. From there, the setup can be sold or you can mine further, so you have more than surpassed your "Return on Investment." But you need to account for hours of your time spent, if you want to ask if it's really worth it. I'll be reporting hours throughout this build.

The Build
The Build is of the open-air type and minimalist in all regards, except for cooling. I designed this setup (which may be a generous term) some time ago back in the Litecoin GPU-mining era with Radeon 7970s, back when things were much hotter, much nosier, and much harder to keep cool. Basically, the concept is simple. Use the motherboard box as a makeshift breadboard case and splay the innards of the PC around it on a shelf. Mount a big house fan on top of the GPUs to hold them in place (It will also provide cooling on hotter days, of course.) The result is pictured below, ready to mine. All in all, the assembly probably took two hours, but the install and setup of the OS (I went with Windows, but Linux options are available), various updates, and ZCash mining and wallet software probably took me another four hours. It really was a whole day of work, truth be told. I am listing seven hours of work for the moment on my chart. All for this:
The rig is mining right now (has been since the 8th of January, actually) and producing as expected from the looks of it. Expect a report in approximately two weeks and a biweekly column from this adventure. It should be an interesting ride.

You can track the stats of how TPU's new mining project is doing at anytime here.
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161 Comments on Confessions of a Crypto Miner: The Setup

#2
ArbitraryAffection
Not blaming you or anything, but to be honest I am sick and tired of this mining stuff. It's really not fair on people who want to buy video cards for gaming and can't. This insane GPU shortage and overpriced BS is going to kill PC gaming. All for people to just get a bit of "free" money. I am 100% in favour of introducing a 'one per customer' rule for video cards except dedicated mining cards that can be bought in bulk.
Posted on Reply
#3
Chaitanya
expecting a lot angry comments on this thread from gamers. mining has certainly become a scourge for pc builders.
Posted on Reply
#4
R-T-B
You don't need to blame me, nor do I need forgivness. I did not steal your video cards, I bought two to show you the other side for journalism.

Honestly, I do not have high expectations, and I don't care about that, either. This is not going to be a "meta" build where I go nuts and try and do everything perfect.

This is more a look at how average joe would mine, and if average joe can really just plug it in and make money.

Chaitanya said:
expecting a lot angry comments on this thread from gamers. mining has certainly become a scourge for pc builders.
People need to remember that miners and gamers both frequent TPU. I believe from this series both may have something to learn.

Do not mistake this for a pro-mining work. It aims for a neutral look. I personally do not see mining as it exists presently as sustainable... but I do wish to help others understand it.
Posted on Reply
#5
CAPSLOCKSTUCK
Spaced Out Lunar Tick
I dont agree with crypto currency and especially mining for it. However, I am grateful to RTB for providing such an interesting and informative thread.
Posted on Reply
#6
dorsetknob
"YOUR RMA REQUEST IS CON-REFUSED"
Subscribed and stocked up on popcorn and pop tarts
Its going to be an interesting thread comment wise ( Hope it stays Civilized )
Posted on Reply
#7
R-T-B
CAPSLOCKSTUCK said:
I dont agree with crypto currency and especially mining for it. However, I am grateful to RTB for providing such an interesting and informative thread.
It's not really something I ever thought I would do again myself, frankly, but I thought there might be a learning opportunity.

They will be used as gaming cards when the blog is done if that makes everyone feel better. I'm doing this to both enlighten myself a bit, and hopefully you.

I do not expect to make anything significant beyond ROI on it, but perhaps I will be wrong. I have been out of the game a long time... all the better for the experiment! :lovetpu:

ArbitraryAffection said:
I am 100% in favour of introducing a 'one per customer' rule for video cards except dedicated mining cards that can be bought in bulk.
I agree.

For everyones info, these cards were purchased with a strict newegg quantity limit of "2" which I intentionally did not breach.
Posted on Reply
#8
CAPSLOCKSTUCK
Spaced Out Lunar Tick
Kudos for having a 6 HP cooling system attached to the rig............:D
Posted on Reply
#9
R-T-B
CAPSLOCKSTUCK said:
Kudos for having a 6 HP cooling system attached to the rig............:D
That's actually a cheap china import air compressor. I swear one day that thing is going to explode on refill, but my dad loves it (or did when he could work). Shakes the whole shelf when the motor kicks in. :laugh:
Posted on Reply
#11
R-T-B
CAPSLOCKSTUCK said:

Actually, I don't plan on holding much zcash, I convert it to bitcoin cash about at every 0.1 earned, and then wait to cash out at strategic highs, ideally. ZCash and anon coins make me nervous frankly, even if zcash has a togglable way to stay on the record.

What I have right now in BCH (USD exchange sucks now):



I'll outline my exchange practices later on. More to come of course...
Posted on Reply
#12
yotano211
R-T-B said:
You don't need to blame me, nor do I need forgivness. I did not steal your video cards, I bought two to show you the other side for journalism.

Honestly, I do not have high expectations, and I don't care about that, either. This is not going to be a "meta" build where I go nuts and try and do everything perfect.

This is more a look at how average joe would mine, and if average joe can really just plug it in and make money.




People need to remember that miners and gamers both frequent TPU. I believe from this series both may have something to learn.

Do not mistake this for a pro-mining work. It aims for a neutral look. I personally do not see mining as it exists presently as sustainable... but I do wish to help others understand it.
I also didnt steal any of my graphics cards. I got most of my cards almost 1 year ago right before it started to go mainstream. I paid for my cards with cash in hand or debit card, I did get 5 cards with trading for other things that I paid cash for and earned it from my own business.
There is many ways to earn or get into mining without evening mining 1 coin and that includes just building the mining rigs for miners and make some extra funds on the side. But it seems lots of people dont want to learn and try something new.
Posted on Reply
#13
R-T-B
yotano211 said:
I also didnt steal any of my graphics cards. I got most of my cards almost 1 year ago right before it started to go mainstream. I paid for my cards with cash in hand or debit card, I did get 5 cards with trading for other things that I paid cash for and earned it from my business.
There is many ways to earn or get into mining without evening mining 1 coin and that includes just building the mining rigs for miners and make some extra funds on the side. But it seems lots of people dont want to learn and try something new.
I don't believe anyone who pays for the cards should be accused of theft.

But there is a supply drain to factor in, and I tried carefully here to not cross any rules there, given this articles timing. Yes, my father probably could've netter me another card, or my mother... but I play by the rules.

Strange how I'd probably make more money just turning around and selling the cards now... When I bought these they were nearly reasonable.
Posted on Reply
#14
R-T-B
Needless to say, this is not encouraging anyone to get on any bandwagon. Actually, I repeatedly advise against it unless the tech somehow is fun to you (and how is that different than gaming, honestly?). If you read you might have sensed a theme that I'm hardly expecting amazing results... but science will show true colors I suppose. Current numbers suggest 12 month ROI is feasibile, but that's about it.

I actually have a job that produces more than my little mining rig thus far, but thanks for the feedback. :laugh:
Posted on Reply
#15
yotano211
The Quim Reaper said:
comment removed from view.
Why dont you be nice to people that havent done anything to you. If you really hate miners then this is the list of cards that I mine with, do you hate me now.

Nvidia
#1 7x 1070
#5 2x 1080 x5 1070
#21 5x 1070 2x 1080
#13 7x 1070
#16 1x 1080ti 6x 1080
#22 7x 1070ti
#25 5x 1070ti 2x 1070
#14 4x 1070 x3 1080
#15 2x 1080ti 3x 1080 2x 1070
#10 5x 1070 2x 1080

AMD

#20 7x rx470

And I have another 50 or so more cards that are not doing anything and waiting for me to build more wooden air open case to start more mining. That includes
AMD
30x rx470 4gb
6x rx580 8gb
Nvidia
10-12 1060 3gb
Posted on Reply
#16
R-T-B
yotano211 said:
Why dont you be nice to people that havent done anything to you. If you really hate miners then this is the list of cards that I mine with, do you hate me now.

Nvidia
#1 7x 1070
#5 2x 1080 x5 1070
#21 5x 1070 2x 1080
#13 7x 1070
#16 1x 1080ti 6x 1080
#22 7x 1070ti
#25 5x 1070ti 2x 1070
#14 4x 1070 x3 1080
#15 2x 1080ti 3x 1080 2x 1070
#10 5x 1070 2x 1080

AMD

#20 7x rx470

And I have another 50 or so more cards that are not doing anything and waiting for me to build more wooden air open case to start more mining. That includes
AMD
30x rx470 4gb
6x rx580 8gb
Nvidia
10-12 1060 3gb
You devil.

I prefer the Jesus approach: Turn the other cheek and love everybody. You just throw GPUs at people. :laugh:
Posted on Reply
#17
Katanai
One of the video cards sits really crooked in that picture. I don't know if it's such a good idea to put a big object on them. The outer video card seems bent in it's socket under the weight of that fan/bucket, whatever it is...
Posted on Reply
#18
punani
A nice read, thanks for this! Pretty much in the same boat. Got a PC togheter with old parts i had collecting dust + 2 brand new RX580s munching on ethereum atm.

In it mostly for fun, but my "math" behind it was that ROI on the 2 RX580 will be ~3-4 months and any gains after that will most likely be invested in components so I may build 2 decent gaming rigs with those RX580s for my 2 sons that are ALWAYS F***ING OCCUPYING my dear gaming PC.
Posted on Reply
#19
yotano211
R-T-B said:
You devil.

I prefer the Jesus approach: Turn the other cheek and love everybody. You just throw GPUs at people. :laugh:
I tried to go that route, the nice route but it doesn't work, so I just go the "shut my mouth" route.
I once helped people out getting started on Facebook but that went sour so I stopped helping anyone. One of the most common things that I have called wasnt names or "die die miner", I was called that I was some kind of "elite person" or some rich guy. I guess people hate rich folks. I am not rich, I started my own business 10 years ago with a few hundred bucks while making $7.50/hour working as a cashier at a pizzeria place.
I was happy for the job while I tried to get my life in order and while Las Vegas was inploding from the real estate crash.
Posted on Reply
#20
Liviu Cojocaru
Nice article @R-T-B I will keep an eye on this for updates, I don't hate miners or have anything against them. It is not the miners who raised the GPU prices...it's the system.
Posted on Reply
#21
R-T-B
Katanai said:
One of the video cards sits really crooked in that picture. I don't know if it's such a good idea to put a big object on them. The outer video card seems bent in it's socket under the weight of that fan/bucket, whatever it is...
Believe it or not, somewhat intentional due to a deadzone in the fans hub. It has to be tilted slightly to get a good flow of air. It's certainly not something I would do in a standard build though, and I'll probably revisit that later, as it does look worse than I remember.
Posted on Reply
#22
yotano211
R-T-B said:
Believe it or not, somewhat intentional due to a deadzone in the fans hub. It has to be tilted slightly to get a good flow of air. It's certainly not something I would do in a standard build though, and I'll probably revisit that later, as it does look worse than I remember.
Can you put a box fan at an angle instead of a fan on top.
Posted on Reply
#23
Cybrnook2002
I see your MB sitting on top of the anti static bag, not sure if you know they are slightly conductive. Would be better just on cardboard.
Posted on Reply
#24
Katanai
R-T-B said:
Believe it or not, somewhat intentional due to a deadzone in the fans hub. It has to be tilted slightly to get a good flow of air. It's certainly not something I would do in a standard build though, and I'll probably revisit that later, as it does look worse than I remember.
I dunno, I wouldn't leave it like that. The PCIE slot might get too loose over time and not make proper contact anymore. Try to put the fan so it covers the video cards perfectly, the CPU doesn't really need that much cooling anyway...
Posted on Reply
#25
Upgrayedd
I see a lot of comments here hating on crypto but seemingly ok with having their hard work valued on how much gold your particular country posseses. More gold, your work is worth more, less gold, your same work is worth less.
People talking about mining needs to die will just love being told by the gold owners they're getting paid less because of some shiny metal that loves to be hoarded isn't as abundant.
What's even funnier is people think crypto is only worth what it costs to mine, if that is the case then you should only be paying for manufacturing costs of your car, house and everything inside too.
Posted on Reply
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