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

#51
trog100
well rtb i recon you picked an odd time to do a piece on "poor mans" mining..

my mining rigs payout (10 x 1070) has dropped from $50 dollars per day to $30 dollars per day over the last three or four days.. its still an unknown as to how low its gonna go.. my rig cost £4000-ish to build about four months back..

trog
Posted on Reply
#52
Hood
And what's up with all these people buying PC hardware just for making money, like all those gamers on youtube, streaming their gameplay and selling ad space, just to make a buck? It should be outlawed, and hardware should only be sold to those with legitimate productivity jobs that benefit the human race somehow. And what about all those grannies who just do email, facebook or Twitter - there's another big waste of hardware that should be banned. And don't get me started all the electronic resources wasted on "smart phones" that are mostly used to take endless "selfies". And I could go on for days, with various scenarios that don't line up with someones idea of "proper use of hardware". Try to get over your narrow viewpoints, people, and accept that perspectives are different for everyone.
Posted on Reply
#53
Briguy2004
"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.
u mad bro? That's the power of the free market dude. You can't complain that demand is far outstripping supply leaving you high and dry because you don't want to pay more for a product.
Posted on Reply
#54
DeOdView
Please stopped the blaming at miners, AMD or even NVidia! Stopped pleaseee! .... while the AIBs with their evil laugh all the way to the bank! And yet, I've seen no finger pointing at them. *sigh*

BOOM! That's day will come soon enough! /Evil_laughs
Posted on Reply
#55
nemesis.ie
... or the retailers for that matter.
Posted on Reply
#56
Prima.Vera
quick lazy question:
What is currently the best coin to mine with an nVidia card? Ex: 1080 gtx

Thank you.
Posted on Reply
#57
R-T-B
"trog100 said:
well rtb i recon you picked an odd time to do a piece on "poor mans" mining..
Intentional. I want to know if you can support oneselves ROI via mining in poor market conditions. Me? I don't care. I can lose 100% of this. But the me I'm pretending to be? He's an idiot. He bet the bank. Will his kids eat lunch tomorrow? Find out next time!

I actually thought the recent price boom was going to ruin my experiment. I timed in a January for a reason, as they tend to perform poorly.

"Briguy2004 said:
u mad bro? That's the power of the free market dude.
Personally, I feel it's more a limit of it it than a boon.

I support order quantity limits.
Posted on Reply
#58
EatingDirt
There is one, very large issue I have with mining that I never see mentioned...

That is how much of a massive waste of energy it is to accomplish almost nothing. Now, if the majority of cryptocurrencies created value in furthering science, I may be okay with that, but the simple fact is they don't. Miners, for the most part, are just burning oil/coal/gas to create these 'coins' that have no backing, and can fluctuate in price by more than 20% in a day, which means the 'coins' are not a viable currency and quite obviously are easily manipulated which makes them all but useless for everyday societal needs.

I don't expect miners care or want to think about this issue, because in reality, mining is easy money.
Posted on Reply
#59
xldeane
Sorry guys I`m not getting something here ? What`s the big deal with the GPU`s, its a free world, the man can purchase as many GPU`s as he wants, he can do whatever he likes with them....



xl...out
Posted on Reply
#60
R-T-B
"EatingDirt said:
There is one, very large issue I have with mining that I never see mentioned...

That is how much of a massive waste of energy it is to accomplish almost nothing.
I hear it mentioned quite frequently. It's certainly a problem, and not one I can really claim to address. As such, I don't really try to answer the whys, but rather the raw numbers of mining.
Posted on Reply
#61
Chloe Price
I rather go outside looking for empty bottles/cans.
Posted on Reply
#62
xldeane
"EatingDirt said:
There is one, very large issue I have with mining that I never see mentioned...

That is how much of a massive waste of energy it is to accomplish almost nothing. Now, if the majority of cryptocurrencies created value in furthering science, I may be okay with that, but the simple fact is they don't. Miners, for the most part, are just burning oil/coal/gas to create these 'coins' that have no backing, and can fluctuate in price by more than 20% in a day, which means the 'coins' are not a viable currency and quite obviously are easily manipulated which makes them all but useless for everyday societal needs.

I don't expect miners care or want to think about this issue, because in reality, mining is easy money.
Have you seen the state this planet is in ? The many wars that are going on around the world !! Now that my friend is a waste of energy, not some guy running his PC 24hrs a day for his own gains/enjoyment.


xl...out
Posted on Reply
#63
theonek
they need to stop selling videocards to everyone, that's why there is no decent cards right now! but everything is made for money so there is no real solution in this case....or the other suggestion is to desvribe for what the cards will be used when buyed, especially when they more than several.....
Posted on Reply
#64
R-T-B
"9700 Pro said:
I rather go outside looking for empty bottles/cans.
You won't make nearly as much. That said, you won't make nearly as much mining as with a good job, either.

Bottle/can hunt->Mining->Job

Fortunately, I have both of the top two, as my employer currently told me mining is my job for the time being. ;)

"theonek said:
they need to stop selling videocards to everyone, that's why there is no decent cards right now! but everything is made for money so there is no real solution in this case....or the other suggestion is to desvribe for what the cards will be used when buyed, especially when they more than several.....
Newegg.com is actually ahead of the curve on this. They instituted a strict 2 card per person policy, and kept prices down longer. Amazon raised prices immediately and had no such quantitity limits in the same timeframe.

We obeyed the quantity limits. That said, they are crazy easy to get around by just having friends/family... and that is part of the problem. But I fully support the concept.

"Prima.Vera said:
quick lazy question:
What is currently the best coin to mine with an nVidia card? Ex: 1080 gtx

Thank you.
Sorry I missed this.

ZCash is the big one that I'd mine right now, not sure if it's the most profitable but it's close and it won't vanish completely on you like some smaller coins potentially could.

I'd mine at the same pool I'm using, it has a fairly reliable pay model. You can get paid feelesssly more or less every other day with a single GTX 1080.
Posted on Reply
#65
nemesis.ie
"R-T-B said:
I hear it mentioned quite frequently. It's certainly a problem, and not one I can really claim to address. As such, I don't really try to answer the whys, but rather the raw numbers of mining.
It's less of an issue if you are off-setting your heating bill with it, it seems more efficient to have 1000W of heat also mining than the same 1000W only heating. :)

My gas bill for the last 2 months was half of last year due to the mining and I got a few coins as a bonus which has more than paid for the remainder and the electricity bill, win, win, win. :)
Posted on Reply
#66
R-T-B
"nemesis.ie said:
It's less of an issue if you are off-setting your heating bill with it, it seems more efficient to have 1000W of heat also mining than the same 1000W only heating. :)

My gas bill for the last 2 months was half of last year due to the mining and I got a few coins as a bonus which has more than paid for the remainder and the electricity bill, win, win, win. :)
My miner doesn't feel like it heats anything at all, honestly. The garage in which it sits is as bone-chilling cold as ever. I don't think I'm even burning 400W.
Posted on Reply
#67
Therion_I
"EatingDirt said:
There is one, very large issue I have with mining that I never see mentioned...

That is how much of a massive waste of energy it is to accomplish almost nothing. Now, if the majority of cryptocurrencies created value in furthering science, I may be okay with that, but the simple fact is they don't. Miners, for the most part, are just burning oil/coal/gas to create these 'coins' that have no backing, and can fluctuate in price by more than 20% in a day, which means the 'coins' are not a viable currency and quite obviously are easily manipulated which makes them all but useless for everyday societal needs.

I don't expect miners care or want to think about this issue, because in reality, mining is easy money.
This! All day long.

You can talk about the damage/threat to the gaming industry, real or imagined, all day long but it's pathetic compared to the ACTUAL threat to the climate. At a time when we should all be looking to reduce our consumption to help make renewables viable we instead have people out there running rigs of, literally, hundreds of GPUs chewing through electricity. To them the increase in their electricity bill is offset by their potential gains but intentionally, or by ignorance, they are in essence screwing over the environment.

I realise you could transpose this onto many aspects of modern life, for example gas guzzling sports cars and oversized trucks, and I'm not saying Cypto mining is the worst offender, but it's a new trend in an age where we should know better.
Posted on Reply
#68
theoneandonlymrk
"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
I do.

But jelousy is bad so i retract any disdain you may have felt initially from this reply.

I too stole no cards during the building of my miners and the argument that mining is killing off the pc market is crazy ,if anything its helped keep up the interest, money and certainly the r and d of all of our fave hardware and associated companies.
Without the demand for GPUs what's on the shelf might get cheaper but the draw to keep pushing the envelope on that shelf has from a marketing Pov been diminished, hence all the diversity going on in gpu land.
Capitalism can at times suck ball's but it's at least a game we all know how to play.

Every time I bought a gpu in the last 12 months , some 25 in total , though not all for me i got them for a reasonable price ish 219-279£ for 480-580s for example , always rising in price but definitely packaged better each time ie cooling.

And every time, every single one theirs loads of people moaning about lack of availability or price , i must be lucky , no it's not that , it's a degree of patience , keeping hold of the cash and actually buying at the right time, like buying a tv in april ish, it just makes sense , and a little more effort.

Oh and to the eco warriors, i get you frustrations but you're wrong, close all banks ,branch offices ,hqs ,even cash machines all the money delivery trucks and the supporting global systems to move paper about and compare that to mining.

If the whole world right now swapped to crypto and moving cash with phones etc all that would happen is we would reduce our emissions though cryptos got some way to go to handle that many transactions ,in this the third world leads the way ,they already use their phones to pay for a lot of day to fay stuff.
Oh and I am never going to cry for the clerk or the manager, will they cry for my engineering ass when Ate testing and robot's kill my job role??.
Posted on Reply
#69
nemesis.ie
My 5 cards + 2 x PCs come to ~1200W, so that in a small room adds up, 26c with door open, 30+ with it closed.

It's a case of how much a room can dissipate through the walls/windows or if it's leaky. I have triple glazing. :)

Oh and everyone could stop eating beef if they want to reduce global warming:

"I'm doing my bit by not eating beef, are YOU? Would you like to know more?" ;)

(Now where did I put that Starship Troopers meme editor).
Posted on Reply
#70
Readlight
0.10 cents per kilowatt-hour.
That's super cheap.
Posted on Reply
#71
yotano211
"theoneandonlymrk said:
I do.

But jelousy is bad so i retract any disdain you may have felt initially from this reply.

I too stole no cards during the building of my miners and the argument that mining is killing off the pc market is crazy ,if anything its helped keep up the interest, money and certainly the r and d of all of our fave hardware and associated companies.
Without the demand for GPUs what's on the shelf might get cheaper but the draw to keep pushing the envelope on that shelf has from a marketing Pov been diminished, hence all the diversity going on in gpu land.
Capitalism can at times suck ball's but it's at least a game we all know how to play.

Every time I bought a gpu in the last 12 months , some 25 in total , though not all for me i got them for a reasonable price ish 219-279£ for 480-580s for example , always rising in price but definitely packaged better each time ie cooling.

And every time, every single one theirs loads of people moaning about lack of availability or price , i must be lucky , no it's not that , it's a degree of patience , keeping hold of the cash and actually buying at the right time, like buying a tv in april ish, it just makes sense , and a little more effort.

Oh and to the eco warriors, i get you frustrations but you're wrong, close all banks ,branch offices ,hqs ,even cash machines all the money delivery trucks and the supporting global systems to move paper about and compare that to mining.

If the whole world right now swapped to crypto and moving cash with phones etc all that would happen is we would reduce our emissions though cryptos got some way to go to handle that many transactions ,in this the third world leads the way ,they already use their phones to pay for a lot of day to fay stuff.
Oh and I am never going to cry for the clerk or the manager, will they cry for my engineering ass when Ate testing and robot's kill my job role??.
I didnt say jealousy, I said "hate" and the person was saying that he hated miners and other bad things. I would never want for people to be jealous of me because everyone has different positions in their life's at different times.
My friend once said that he was jealous of me because of what I do or have, then I told him that he raised 5 boys that I would trust my life with, he stopped being "jealous" of me. Those 5 boys are all almost adults and will continue that with their own kids.

"Prima.Vera said:
quick lazy question:
What is currently the best coin to mine with an nVidia card? Ex: 1080 gtx

Thank you.
I would go over to whattomine.com

You can see what is the best coin to mine with with your current or future hardware. You can make adjustment to fit your hardware.
Posted on Reply
#72
ST.o.CH
Nice thread/topic RTB.

As a builder/gamer/miner ( partially) I can say this is awesomely hilarious and educationally as well.

I simply don´t have much to ad, but I kinda like the route this is taking.

After all " THIS IS MEANT TO BE PLAYED".
Posted on Reply
#73
R-T-B
"Readlight said:
0.10 cents per kilowatt-hour.
That's super cheap.
Pacific Northwest. We have cheap hydro power. It actually gets way cheaper than this.
Posted on Reply
#74
yotano211
"R-T-B said:
Pacific Northwest. We have cheap hydro power. It actually gets way cheaper than this.
If you can look around west part of Washington state you can find power at 2.5-3 cents. My power cost is around 8.5-9 cents in Tulsa, OK, there is a huge dam nearby.
Posted on Reply
#75
silkstone
"Prima.Vera said:
quick lazy question:
What is currently the best coin to mine with an nVidia card? Ex: 1080 gtx

Thank you.
https://whattomine.com
Posted on Reply
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