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

#26
W1zzard
"Cybrnook2002 said:
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.
+1 on that
Posted on Reply
#27
_JP_
Thank you R-T-B.
It kinda sends a message that the best choice for the avg. Joe's drill would be a pair of 1080s.
On the other side, picking up the angry replies, since prices have gone up and availability down for the general mass of products, maybe we can start getting optimized games again? :)
Because purchase power is limited in most cases and/or it's just plain hard to find a card. Upgrades for gamers might grind to a slow pace. (even though Steam says the 1060 is everyone's favorite).
Either that or there will be a great exile to consoleville...in fact, I'm surprised no audit/analyst has done a paper on the increase of console sales/use. I know console sales hit records here, in this x-mas.
Posted on Reply
#28
silkstone
What clocks do you have your 1080's at and what TDP?

I have a 1080 (that I bought for gaming, but paid off by mining), but it only does around 520 at +100/+100 85% TDP.
My 1080Ti (again a purchase I made with the intent of gaming and paying for with mining) does around 710 sol/s at +25/+100 90% TDP

I also have a few 1060's (that I just bought to mine with), they are a bit of a mixed bag doing from 280-310 sol/s on +150/+150 85% TDP

Oh and just to add to the crapshoot of a discussion this is becoming. I totally hate people who buy anything. If people didn't buy shit, there would be no demand and everything would be free. I especially hate people who own their own land.

The sense of entitlement here is amazing. Can I say that I hate BMW owners? If people didn't buy so many, they would be so much cheaper? How about damn Levi jeans wearing people? They used to cost nothing! Now all this fashion business means that I can't get my favorite jeans at a price I like. iPhones are pretty cool too. Top end models used to cost 1/2 the price, but now people keep buying them, I can't afford to have one.

The people that think a couple of cards have any sort of affect on the market make me laugh. The card shortage isn't due to people doing this at home with 1 - 100 cards, it's big industry and people with lots of money. Think along the lines of ten's of thousands of cards for the medium sized mining farms.
Posted on Reply
#29
drohm
"yotano211 said:
Miners still play games with their own gpu in some desktop or laptop somewhere. I play games on a laptop with a Nvidia gpu.
It's obviously the hard-core miners that have fu_ked up the video card market, not the casual, part-time miners. Those are the people we should direct our anger at :)
Posted on Reply
#30
silkstone
"drohm said:
It's obviously the hard-core miners that have fu_ked up the video card market, not the casual, part-time miners. Those are the people we should direct our anger at :)
There are a lot more outrageous things going on in the world to direct your anger at. Because building a gaming rig is now more expensive is nothing. First-world problems.
Posted on Reply
#31
CrAsHnBuRnXp
All i know is that mining is ruining the gaming industry because people buy video cards in droves shooting up the prices of GPUs and making it very difficult to purchase to build a new rig or upgrade a part or replace something that has gone bad. This craze is actually HURTING the gaming industry as a whole and I refuse to be a part of it.
Posted on Reply
#32
drohm
"silkstone said:
There are a lot more outrageous things going on in the world to direct your anger at. Because building a gaming rig is now more expensive is nothing. First-world problems.
Agreed. Thankfully my anger isn't at that level yet.
Posted on Reply
#33
CrAsHnBuRnXp
"silkstone said:
There are a lot more outrageous things going on in the world to direct your anger at. Because building a gaming rig is now more expensive is nothing. First-world problems.
My first world problems are indeed my problems. I dont care about anything else going on in the world if it isnt affecting me directly.
Posted on Reply
#34
TheTechGuy1337
The miners are not to be faulted for buying gpu's. At the end of the day, it is a supply and demand issue. The supply could not keep up with the demand and that is and has been a production issue for a while now. No one was prepared for these kinds of waves. Think how much more money Nvidia and AMD could have made if they kept up with demand with the already included price hike? I do not blame crypto for the industry not being able to keep up.
Posted on Reply
#35
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
"ArbitraryAffection said:
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.
Atm, Nvidia and their certified partners are trying to change their warranty policies on gaming GPUs so that miners dont pick them up. Good deterrent but its difficult to detect if a GPU has been used for mining.
Posted on Reply
#36
silkstone
"CrAsHnBuRnXp said:
All i know is that mining is ruining the gaming industry because people buy video cards in droves shooting up the prices of GPUs and making it very difficult to purchase to build a new rig or upgrade a part or replace something that has gone bad. This craze is actually HURTING the gaming industry as a whole and I refuse to be a part of it.
That is fair enough and completely your decision. I don't know anyone that would knock you for it.
People getting so angry about other people home mining though really confuddles me. There are plenty of other things to blame it on. Capitalism, that sucks right? The current duopoly in the GPU market, the lack of foresight by manufacturers, the greedy retailers (and resellers), the big money investors, shareholders, the banking industry, the abolition of the gold standard, console gamers, . . . I guess that people just think that public forums are the best place to vent their frustrations and the current online culture (hiding behind a kb) doesn't help the situation any.
Posted on Reply
#37
iO
"drohm said:
It's obviously the hard-core miners that have fu_ked up the video card market, not the casual, part-time miners. Those are the people we should direct our anger at :)
Nah, home miners are just as bad as they snatch up the rest that somehow slipped through the greedy hands of the big players and ended up in retail.
Posted on Reply
#38
silkstone
"iO said:
Nah, home miners are just as bad as they snatch up the rest that somehow slipped through the greedy hands of the big players and ended up in retail.
Entitlement
Posted on Reply
#39
R-T-B
"Cybrnook2002 said:
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.
"W1zzard said:
+1 on that
Did not know that actually, though it makes sense.

Looks like tonights maintanence window will be for tilt correction and removal of the static bag.

I see all your questions, I honestly think tdp is stock or slightly oc'd, will have to check and get back to you.
Posted on Reply
#40
CrAsHnBuRnXp
"FreedomEclipse said:
difficult to detect if a GPU has been used for mining
Even if it has been used for mining, what impact does that have on the card as far as RMA or even reselling second hand goes?
Posted on Reply
#41
silkstone
"R-T-B said:
Did not know that actually, though it makes sense.

Looks like tonights maintanence window will be for tilt correction and removal of the static bag.

I see all your questions, I honestly think tdp is stock or slightly oc'd, will have to check and get back to you.
The 1080's have one of the best sol/W rate of all the card for ZEC, so you might want to have a play around with frequencies and TDP to lower your power usage for the same hash rate.
Posted on Reply
#42
madness777
Been building since 2015, first for a friend when ETH was only 7$ worth and miners were pumping out 6-7 coins A DAY, now building for much bigger clients. I've had over 300GPUs go through my hands the past 2 years. VEGA cards are on the way as well as 18 1080Ti which will be new for me, been working with AMD only till now. I'm not mining myself, not even planing to invest but this has given me the chance to make some extra money just by doing what I LOVE to do. Work on computers, diagnosing and doing extended tests on them. What I'm trying to say is it's not just ''OMG these dirty miners just think for themselves they don't care'', because of the fact that there's so much work with RIGs is the fact I'm literally enjoying life right now and SO SHOULD YOU! Do your own thing and stop wasting your breath with these degenerates!
Trust me, if you loved computer hardware and someone gave you over 50 RIGS to work with you'd be the happiest chap in the whole freaking world!
Posted on Reply
#43
R-T-B
"silkstone said:
The 1080's have one of the best sol/W rate of all the card for ZEC, so you might want to have a play around with frequencies and TDP to lower your power usage for the same hash rate.
My philosophy is to hold until a peak. In that sense, more coin is almost always better, but when my watt meter finally arrives I may experiment.
Posted on Reply
#44
FreedomEclipse
~Technological Technocrat~
"CrAsHnBuRnXp said:
Even if it has been used for mining, what impact does that have on the card as far as RMA or even reselling second hand goes?
abused to the point of destruction. Gaming GPUs arent made to be under constant 90-100% load 24/7. Im guessing the silicon deteriorates and the VRMs slowly start to die. Even if you game 24/7, that will wont put as much pressure on your card as mining.
Posted on Reply
#45
Tumbler1987
Been a long time lurker of this website, but this thread motivated to post for the first time.

With all due respect to the OP, IMHO, there's no biggest threat to the PC gaming industry than the current cryptomining craze, video cards selling for 2 or 2.5X their price, and out of stock on all major etailers, this will effectively strangle an industry that finally is starting to come back from a low point in history, and rivaling even console gaming for the first time in decades.

Who in his right mind would pay more than $1,300 for a 1080Ti or $1,500 fo a Vega64 to game? I know the OP paid MSRP for his cards, congratulations on that, but cryptominers have driven this market to insane highs, and real gamers will be left with no choice but to buy a PS4 Pro or XBox One X if they wanna play the latest games and not pay an arm and a leg for just a GPU.

Thankfully, cryptocurrencies have lost more than 40% their value in less than a week, and there's no end in sight for the free fall of prices of bitcoin, litecoin, and ethereum, we can only pray this tendency continues, and some sanity can return to the PC GPU market.

I've been a PC gamer for decades, ever since my dad purchased my first 486 PC, and besides putting the power of your GPU and CPU to good use for a great cause like folding at home, gaming specific hardware was never seen as such a high commodity among market speculators looking to make a quick buck at the expense of our passion for gaming.

This is not an "the end is nigh" post, it is no all doom and gloom, like I said, it looks like the bubble finally burst, and we can only hope market tendencies will correct themselves, and prices of GPUs will go down to a more affordable level, among with the apparent correction in the prices of DRAM just looming on the horizon.

To the OP, thanks for documenting your experience on building a mining rig, but, as far as I'm concerned, as an old PC gamer, crypto mining can die a quick death.
Posted on Reply
#46
Reeves81x
"Tumbler1987 said:
Been a long time lurker of this website, but this thread motivated to post for the first time.

With all due respect to the OP, IMHO, there's no biggest threat to the PC gaming industry than the current cryptomining craze, video cards selling for 2 or 2.5X their price, and out of stock on all major etailers, this will effectively strangle an industry that finally is starting to come back from a low point in history, and rivaling even console gaming for the first time in decades.

Who in his right mind would pay more than $1,300 for a 1080Ti or $1,500 fo a Vega64 to game? I know the OP paid MSRP for his cards, congratulations on that, but cryptominers have driven this market to insane highs, and real gamers will be left with no choice but to buy a PS4 Pro or XBox One X if they wanna play the latest games and not pay an arm and a leg for just a GPU.

Thankfully, cryptocurrencies have lost more than 40% their value in less than a week, and there's no end in sight for the free fall of prices of bitcoin, litecoin, and ethereum, we can only pray this tendency continues, and some sanity can return to the PC GPU market.

I've been a PC gamer for decades, ever since my dad purchased my first 486 PC, and besides putting the power of your GPU and CPU to good use for a great cause like folding at home, gaming specific hardware was never seen as such a high commodity among market speculators looking to make a quick buck at the expense of our passion for gaming.

This is not an "the end is nigh" post, it is no all doom and gloom, like I said, it looks like the bubble finally burst, and we can only hope market tendencies will correct themselves, and prices of GPUs will go down to a more affordable level, among with the apparent correction in the prices of DRAM just looming on the horizon.

To the OP, thanks for documenting your experience on building a mining rig, but, as far as I'm concerned, as an old PC gamer, crypto mining can die a quick death.
This^ glad someone else wrote it so I didn't have to. :)
Posted on Reply
#47
nemesis.ie
"FreedomEclipse said:
abused to the point of destruction. Gaming GPUs arent made to be under constant 90-100% load 24/7. Im guessing the silicon deteriorates and the VRMs slowly start to die. Even if you game 24/7, that will wont put as much pressure on your card as mining.
Actually in the case of the Vegas I use, the mining puts them under less stress than gaming - 180W consumption versus maybe 360W and the core at 1000MHz versus 1600MHz.

Less consumption = less strain on the VRMs.
Posted on Reply
#48
R-T-B
"FreedomEclipse said:
abused to the point of destruction. Gaming GPUs arent made to be under constant 90-100% load 24/7. Im guessing the silicon deteriorates and the VRMs slowly start to die. Even if you game 24/7, that will wont put as much pressure on your card as mining.
Look at my load temps and tell me that with a straight face. You can find it in the OS screenshot.

The VRMs are even cooler.

These cards will game fine for many years when all this is said and done. I'll likely sell them to TPU in one of my insane discount sales.

"Tumbler1987 said:
Been a long time lurker of this website, but this thread motivated to post for the first time.

With all due respect to the OP, IMHO, there's no biggest threat to the PC gaming industry than the current cryptomining craze, video cards selling for 2 or 2.5X their price, and out of stock on all major etailers, this will effectively strangle an industry that finally is starting to come back from a low point in history, and rivaling even console gaming for the first time in decades.

Who in his right mind would pay more than $1,300 for a 1080Ti or $1,500 fo a Vega64 to game? I know the OP paid MSRP for his cards, congratulations on that, but cryptominers have driven this market to insane highs, and real gamers will be left with no choice but to buy a PS4 Pro or XBox One X if they wanna play the latest games and not pay an arm and a leg for just a GPU.

Thankfully, cryptocurrencies have lost more than 40% their value in less than a week, and there's no end in sight for the free fall of prices of bitcoin, litecoin, and ethereum, we can only pray this tendency continues, and some sanity can return to the PC GPU market.

I've been a PC gamer for decades, ever since my dad purchased my first 486 PC, and besides putting the power of your GPU and CPU to good use for a great cause like folding at home, gaming specific hardware was never seen as such a high commodity among market speculators looking to make a quick buck at the expense of our passion for gaming.

This is not an "the end is nigh" post, it is no all doom and gloom, like I said, it looks like the bubble finally burst, and we can only hope market tendencies will correct themselves, and prices of GPUs will go down to a more affordable level, among with the apparent correction in the prices of DRAM just looming on the horizon.

To the OP, thanks for documenting your experience on building a mining rig, but, as far as I'm concerned, as an old PC gamer, crypto mining can die a quick death.
Honestly, I am of the same mindset as you. I just like to try to understand all sides of things. The best thing that can happen (and I want this bad) is some kind of forced market segmentation.
Posted on Reply
#49
Tumbler1987
"R-T-B said:
Honestly, I am of the same mindset as you. I just like to try to understand all sides of things. The best thing that can happen (and I want this bad) is some kind of forced market segmentation.
Thank you, I didn’t mean any disrespect to you, I hope you can recoup your investment and then some, but I fully agree with your idea of market segmentation, akin to what happened with mining ASICS just a few years ago.

If this were to happen, then we could all go back to enjoying the reason that brought us together as gamers, and by all means, make money on the side with mining specific hardware, that doesn’t drive the prices of gaming hardware to unattainable levels.
Posted on Reply
#50
sneekypeet
Thread cleansed, and consider this a public warning to all.

If you want to hate on Mining, do so with eloquence and style, not just hate, rude comments, and personal attacks.
Posted on Reply
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