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

#76
trog100
"R-T-B said:
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.
my 8 x 1070 rig is outside in my caravan.. it pulls about 1000 watts from the wall and does act very similar to a 1000 watt fan heater.. the caravan is quit toasty..

and crypto has moved out of the down phase and back on its way to where it should be.. nvidia cards do quite well on eth or zec..

trog
Posted on Reply
#77
moproblems99
"Therion_I said:
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.
Personally, I think humanity is on a downward trend and does not need to worry about the damage climate change will do. We have more pressing matters that will make us wish we were only dealing with climate change.
Posted on Reply
#78
EatingDirt
"moproblems99 said:
Personally, I think humanity is on a downward trend and does not need to worry about the damage climate change will do. We have more pressing matters that will make us wish we were only dealing with climate change.
You mean the downward trend of burning massive amounts of non-renewable resources to do absolutely nothing? Because that's what mining is.

It's not even about climate change, it's the waste of limited resources that adds absolutely no value to... anything.

If the mining was making calculations furthering science with all the power of these PC's, that's another thing altogether.. but it's not. It's a useless drain on limited resources, that's it.
Posted on Reply
#79
cdawall
where the hell are my stars
I actually worked it out the other day and I have more cards than I wish to say. I have a problem. This is a glimpse of what I have running



As of right now I have been doing some pro bono work to get my company up and going to help vets so this pays the bills. People can dislike mining all they want, but the 800 billion USD it is currently evaluated in just currency is not going anywhere. This is here to stay and it is actually doing some good for the tech market. Miners need GPU's that are efficient and fast not to mention long lasting. This is all positive for consumers. When the supply issue is fixed then it is just going to be more cheaper GPU's in the future. Also remember if it was not for mining who really would by AMD cards? Don't want nvidia to get the monopoly. :roll:

"EatingDirt said:
You mean the downward trend of burning massive amounts of non-renewable resources to do absolutely nothing? Because that's what mining is.

It's not even about climate change, it's the waste of limited resources that adds absolutely no value to... anything.

If the mining was making calculations furthering science with all the power of these PC's, that's another thing altogether.. but it's not. It's a useless drain on limited resources, that's it.
There are already coins working on science calculations and coins like RNDR that are trying to do the same thing as XBOX cloud gaming. Just be patient this take off is still new and has led to a lot of good decentralized computing schemes.
Posted on Reply
#80
R-T-B
"EatingDirt said:
It's not even about climate change, it's the waste of limited resources that adds absolutely no value to... anything.
People say going to the moon didn't amount to anything useful, but we got a lot of useful tech from it, and that is factual.

Mining is doing the same thing for decentralized projects, as cdawall notes:

"cdawall said:
There are already coins working on science calculations and coins like RNDR that are trying to do the same thing as XBOX cloud gaming. Just be patient this take off is still new and has led to a lot of good decentralized computing schemes.
I admit, the present tech isn't really that useful and may even be considered wasteful in many ways, but it leads us to interesting roads.
Posted on Reply
#81
Joker
"R-T-B said:
People say going to the moon didn't amount to anything useful, but we got a lot of useful tech from it, and that is factual.

Mining is doing the same thing for decentralized projects, as cdawall notes:



I admit, the present tech isn't really that useful and may even be considered wasteful in many ways, but it leads us to interesting roads.
Mining isn't SETI or Folding at home and don't confuse it as such.
Posted on Reply
#82
Vario
Why do a lot of these cryptominers just throw the cards and motherboard around loose with a big fan on top? Why not instead mount it to something? I understand that everyone is trying to be cheap as possible but while you are sitting back counting those big fat cryptocoins in your free time, why not mount it to a piece of wood or something so atleast it isn't a pile of loose computer hardware.
Posted on Reply
#83
R-T-B
"Vario said:
Why do a lot of these cryptominers just throw the cards and motherboard around loose with a big fan on top? Why not instead mount it to something? I understand that everyone is trying to be cheap as possible but while you are sitting back counting those big fat cryptocoins in your free time, why not mount it to a piece of wood or something so atleast it isn't a pile of loose computer hardware.
Cost and time. Time is money. I need to minimize my effort as between everything wage wise I'm already below minimum. Open air is also best for airflow. I'm doing this precisely as most would.

Didn't stop me from correcting that leaning card last night though.

The fan is also mounted to the wall though with a hook, not just floating.
Posted on Reply
#84
trog100
"R-T-B said:
Cost and time. Time is money. I need to minimize my effort as between everything wage wise I'm already below minimum. Open air is also best for airflow. I'm doing this precisely as most would.

Didn't stop me from correcting that leaning card last night though.

The fan is also mounted to the wall though with a hook, not just floating.
if its a hobby you cant count you time as money.. what you are doing is supposed to be fun.. but in all truth none of that ridiculousness cooling equipment you have rigged up is needed.. have you ever heard of heath robinson..

the current breed of Nvidia card runs quite cool.. more so when set at 75% max power.. overclock the memory and lower the core boost.. i am assuming a 1080 behaves similar to 1070..

https://www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org/williamheathrobinson

trog

"Vario said:
Why do a lot of these cryptominers just throw the cards and motherboard around loose with a big fan on top? Why not instead mount it to something? I understand that everyone is trying to be cheap as possible but while you are sitting back counting those big fat cryptocoins in your free time, why not mount it to a piece of wood or something so atleast it isn't a pile of loose computer hardware.
what they should look like done properly..



that one cost me 4K to build about 4 months back.. three days back it was making 50 dollars per day mining eth on nanopool.. now after the recent price correction its showing 40 dollars per day.. but i expect it to go up again as the price of eth goes up..

trog

ps.. the above rig is showing 60 C temps at 27% fan speed.. its in my caravan.. the temps inside the van are around 20 C.. the rig is the heater..
Posted on Reply
#85
Vario
"trog100 said:
if its a hobby you cant count you time as money.. what you are doing is supposed to be fun.. but in all truth none of that ridiculousness cooling equipment you have rigged up is needed.. have you ever heard of heath robinson..

the current breed of Nvidia card runs quite cool.. more so when set at 75% max power.. overclock the memory and lower the core boost.. i am assuming a 1080 behaves similar to 1070..

https://www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org/williamheathrobinson

trog



what they should look like done properly..



that one cost me 4K to build about 4 months back.. three days back it was making 50 dollars per day mining eth on nanopool.. now after the recent price correction its showing 40 dollars per day.. but i expect it to go up again as the price of eth goes up..

trog
Exactly, it seems to me a proper setup is worth the time investment, the whole time is money argument doesn't make sense when you consider that these jumble of PC parts in a box with a fan aimed it does not mitigate possible Murphy's Law, all you need is a fire hazard or for it could fall from a shelf or otherwise suffer some kind of calamity that could set you back much more money. I see what Trog has and that to me looks like it was worth the hour or two to build it up and the money to make it, as you have the ease of interchanging components, everything is adequately spaced for cooling and ease of access, the wiring is easily traceable, and it shouldn't possibly fall over or otherwise suffer accidental damage. If I were doing it I'd probably atleast mount the motherboard to a wood frame and a wood frame to hold the cards up and a fan, that only takes like 1 hour tops to build.

for example
Posted on Reply
#86
R-T-B
"trog100 said:
if its a hobby you cant count you time as money..
This isn't a hobby for me. At least not in the experiment context.

And it's not a fire hazard. I ran 4 rigs with 3x 7970s like this for years back in the litecoin era. They never even rebooted let alone had an issue. Short of an mega earthquake (in which case, our whole house is dead), they aren't going anywhere either.

I also have limited shelf space that would prevent me from installing a rack regardless.

"trog100 said:
but in all truth none of that ridiculousness cooling equipment you have rigged up is needed
It's a single box fan set to blow on low and only on summer days Trog. It's not even on now. I'm unsure how that qualifies as anything ridiculous. It's mainly there to act as an weighted anchor point for the cards (which it wasn't doing quite so well, hence the leaning card, now fixed).

In the 7970 era I used it a bit more... excessively. Some delta elctronics blower fans may have come to play, too. ;)

It's interesting though you talk about energy efficiency as that's precisely what I am going to play with as soon as my energy watt meter for 240V arrives.
Posted on Reply
#87
CAPSLOCKSTUCK
Spaced Out Lunar Tick
Has anybody out there got an "eco- miner" rigged up to a wind turbine?
Posted on Reply
#88
R-T-B
"CAPSLOCKSTUCK said:
Has anybody out there got an "eco- miner" rigged up to a wind turbine?
I can actually certify that my electric more or less draws from the same grid as the city of Tacoma, which is chiefly powered by the Wynoochee Hydroelectric Project, if I recall, which I used to camp at. My rig is named for it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynoochee_Dam

https://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/about-tacoma-power/dams-power-sources/hydro-power/wynoochee-river-project.htm

EDIT: While my house is probably largely hydro driven, I can't say with honesty the Wynoochee plant is the source, but I like to think it.
Posted on Reply
#89
yotano211
"trog100 said:
if its a hobby you cant count you time as money.. what you are doing is supposed to be fun.. but in all truth none of that ridiculousness cooling equipment you have rigged up is needed.. have you ever heard of heath robinson..

the current breed of Nvidia card runs quite cool.. more so when set at 75% max power.. overclock the memory and lower the core boost.. i am assuming a 1080 behaves similar to 1070..

https://www.heathrobinsonmuseum.org/williamheathrobinson

trog



what they should look like done properly..



that one cost me 4K to build about 4 months back.. three days back it was making 50 dollars per day mining eth on nanopool.. now after the recent price correction its showing 40 dollars per day.. but i expect it to go up again as the price of eth goes up..

trog

ps.. the above rig is showing 60 C temps at 27% fan speed.. its in my caravan.. the temps inside the van are around 20 C.. the rig is the heater..
I throttle my 1080s all the way down to 50% on MSI afterburner and still get the same mining speed with minining ETH. I have 7 1080s that draw 760w at the wall, all at 51%. I know 1080s are not the best to mine ETH but it was all I could get at that time.
Posted on Reply
#90
trog100
"yotano211 said:
I throttle my 1080s all the way down to 50% on MSI afterburner and still get the same mining speed with minining ETH. I have 7 1080s that draw 760w at the wall, all at 51%. I know 1080s are not the best to mine ETH but it was all I could get at that time.
it would seem a high boost core speed aint needed with these cards.. a 1080 and a 1070tI can both be throttled down more than the 1070.. if i go down more then %75 on my 1070 cards i start to see a hash rate drop off..

trog
Posted on Reply
#91
dirtyferret
Thanks for the post, I have no interest in mining but I did enjoy reading about your set up.
Posted on Reply
#92
yotano211
"trog100 said:
it would seem a high boost core speed aint needed with these cards.. a 1080 and a 1070tI can both be throttled down more than the 1070.. if i go down more then %75 on my 1070 cards i start to see a hash rate drop off..

trog
I think the lowest I can get my own 1070ti's is around 62%, any lower results in lower hashing speed. I love the 1070ti's more but hard to find them.
Posted on Reply
#93
trog100
"Vario said:
Exactly, it seems to me a proper setup is worth the time investment, the whole time is money argument doesn't make sense when you consider that these jumble of PC parts in a box with a fan aimed it does not mitigate possible Murphy's Law, all you need is a fire hazard or for it could fall from a shelf or otherwise suffer some kind of calamity that could set you back much more money. I see what Trog has and that to me looks like it was worth the hour or two to build it up and the money to make it, as you have the ease of interchanging components, everything is adequately spaced for cooling and ease of access, the wiring is easily traceable, and it shouldn't possibly fall over or otherwise suffer accidental damage. If I were doing it I'd probably atleast mount the motherboard to a wood frame and a wood frame to hold the cards up and a fan, that only takes like 1 hour tops to build.

for example

it took me ages to fiddle my fancy aluminium one together.. it looks nice though.. :)

but i aint after a quick cheap as chips return on investment.. its more long term for me.. i hold what i mine and get more long term gain from doing that.. or i did during the last quarter of 1017.. until it all got nicked during the nicehash hack.. he he

trog
Posted on Reply
#94
purecain
i think this is brilliant... i might even join you.... I'm going to have a look into it and shall follow your progress with much interest. :toast:
Posted on Reply
#95
verycharbroiled
@trog100

that rig pic.. 5 fans, 4 channel speed controller? hows it all hooked up?

how much power do the fans draw?
Posted on Reply
#96
theoneandonlymrk
i just got an old case , a big one (thermaltake Lcs original, but battered not my main rig one) and mounted a peice of skirting board overhanging the top i just screw cards to it , i can fit 8 i think but 5 on it atm, a pic lurks here somewhere , took maybe an hour but ill give the Op a break ,I have got two, four card rigs elsewhere(to manage(build and run) not own) that are scratchbuilt stlye using mostly double sided tape ,which IS amazeballs carpet type just placed on mobo boxes side by side in the middle shelf of a glass stereo stand , its a furball nightmare but ive a top tip for such shit.

need a prop for a leany gpu use empty but closed thick 5mm+ cable ties to make a loop, squish it to a perfect brace hieght and slide it between mobo and card , might take two with shit cable ties but sooo quick :)
Posted on Reply
#97
cdawall
where the hell are my stars
"trog100 said:
what they should look like done properly..



that one cost me 4K to build about 4 months back.. three days back it was making 50 dollars per day mining eth on nanopool.. now after the recent price correction its showing 40 dollars per day.. but i expect it to go up again as the price of eth goes up..

trog

ps.. the above rig is showing 60 C temps at 27% fan speed.. its in my caravan.. the temps inside the van are around 20 C.. the rig is the heater..
I use these cases. Walked into them for $55 a pop, they have changed in setup a bit as to which cards are where. Both have 12 cards in them now.

Posted on Reply
#98
trog100
"verycharbroiled said:
@trog100

that rig pic.. 5 fans, 4 channel speed controller? hows it all hooked up?

how much power do the fans draw?
the fans draw very little.. four run from a molex the fifth one just plugs into a motherboard socket.. they are all running very slowly.. near silent.. they are corsair case fans.. i got them quite cheaply off ebay about 20 quid for the lot..

they basically help move the heat from between the cards and help stop one cards fans from picking up hot air from the next one to it and so on down the line.. plus they look "cool".. :)

pascal cards really dont generate much heat compared to amd or earlier generation nvidia cards..

trog
Posted on Reply
#99
FordGT90Concept
"I go fast!1!11!1!"
"R-T-B said:
I can actually certify that my electric more or less draws from the same grid as the city of Tacoma, which is chiefly powered by the Wynoochee Hydroelectric Project, if I recall, which I used to camp at. My rig is named for it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynoochee_Dam

https://www.mytpu.org/tacomapower/about-tacoma-power/dams-power-sources/hydro-power/wynoochee-river-project.htm
10,800 kilowatt generator

That's pretty small. It could only power ~1000 homes like mine and I don't do anything extraordinary except being all electric.
Posted on Reply
#100
R-T-B
"FordGT90Concept said:
10,800 kilowatt generator

That's pretty small.
Yeah, I've seen the generator building addon and it is quite small. Obviously does not power the whole city or even 100% of the energy to our house, it's just the nearest hydro plant to us that I am aware of. There are actually several hydroplants around that area, so I may be off in this claim, but having camped there as a kid, I like to picture it that way.

I passed that claim off as more or less factual. It's obviously more fantasy than reality looking at the numbers though, so I recant.
Posted on Reply
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