Cryptocurrency has been — and continues to be — a wild ride.
I’m old enough to remember being given a couple of bitcoins when they were worth next to nothing. Needless to say, I don’t have them anymore. Now, with bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices skyrocketing again, there’s renewed interest in cryptomining, which is a way to accumulate cryptocurrency without having to pay for it.
Let’s take a look at what makes a good cryptomining rig, and what hardware it takes if you want to be serious about mining.
What is cryptomining?
In the most basic terms, you are using a computer (or computers) to solve cryptographic equations and record that data to a blockchain. Taking this a bit deeper, miners verify the hashes of unconfirmed blocks and receive a reward for every hash that is verified. The process is computationally intensive, requiring state-of-the-art hardware if you are planning on making much headway with mining. Mining, as it was back in the days of the gold rush, is not for the faint of heart.
And as with all high-end systems, it’s less a case of how much do you want to spend, and more a case of how fast do you want to spend. So, what hardware do you need to mine cryptocurrency?
What is a cryptomining rig?
OK, the “rig” is essentially a customized PC. It has all the common elements of a PC: CPU, motherboard, RAM, and storage. Where things deviate from the norm is when it comes to the graphics cards. It’s the GPU that’s doing that hard work when it comes to mining cryptocurrency, and not the CPU. You’re going to need quite a powerful GPU for mining, and likely you are going to be buying more than one. A lot more.
In fact, you can think of a mining rig as a relatively cheap PC with one or more high-performance GPUs attached. You need to connect multiple graphics cards to a single system, which means you also need a motherboard to handle that. You’ll also be looking at more than one power supply unit (PSU) if you’re planning to push things to the extremes.
There are also some other mining-specific items you’ll need to make the mining rig ready for mining.
Mining rig considerations
Here are a few considerations to bear in mind when building a mining rig:
- It’s not going to be cheap!
- You need to factor power consumption in your mining equation because that can eat into your earnings.
- You’re not building a regular PC, and getting everything to work can become a game of trial and error and a lot of fiddling with drivers. Be patient!
Why are graphics cards prices so astronomical?
Prices are being driven high by two factors:
- Supply chain issues causing backlogs
- In order to prevent high demand from miners causing even more issues, most cards now feature LHR (Lite Hash Rate) to limit mining speeds, making them less desirable for cryptomining. The card listed below is not limited, so the price making it perfect for mining.
Asus B250 Mining Expert
OK, let’s start with the motherboard. The Asus B250 Mining Expert is a beast of a motherboard, capable of having 19 graphics cards connected to it. That’s a lot. The board isn’t new — it was released in 2017 — and it is finicky when it comes to setting up (it needs a specific layout of AMD and Nvidia graphics cards),
Asus has published recommend GPU layouts for 19-, 13-, and 11-card for this board, and while other layouts might work, I recommend staying with what the manufacturer suggests, as veering away from this is a recipe for a serious — not to mention expensive — headaches.
Yes, prices are soaring for this motherboard, but that’s part and parcel of bitcoin mining. If you want something priced a little more reasonably, then you could take a look at the Monland B250C BTC Mining Motherboard. A lot less powerful, but a fraction of the price.
Note: Asus recommends running Windows 10 with this motherboard.
Intel Core i5-6500
There’s no real point in overspending on a CPU for a mining rig since it’s the GPU’s that are doing the hard work. This quad-core Core i5 is perfect for this setup and works great with the motherboard chosen above.
G.SKILL Aegis 16GB (2 x 8GB)
You’re not going to overspend on RAM either. The motherboard supports DDR4 2400, and this 2x8GB kit from G.SKILL fits the bill.
SanDisk SSD Plus 1TB
I’d install a couple of these 1TB SSDs. At under $100 each, they’re perfect for this kind of application. You could go with HDDs, but I prefer going with SSDs nowadays.
Segotep 850W Full-Modular PSU