Mining cryptocurrencies may seem out of fashion in 2020, but there's still a lot to be learned (and earned) from the experience of validating blocks in exchange for a reward.
A quick web search will yield several very complete tutorials on how to mine Monero. Our intention in this article is not to be a complete guide, but only to introduce you to the core concepts involved.
In this ELI5 article we'll be as concise as possible to get you going without getting into the more complicated aspects of cryptocurrency mining.
For technical details, I recommend you read the links suggested throughout the text and at the end of this article.
There are 3 main focus areas you need to understand in order to get started mining Monero: hardware, software and know-how. We'll take a look at each one of these in turn and, when done, hopefully you should be able to get started and pursue more advanced topics.
Under hardware there are 2 strategies you need to know about: CPU mining and GPU or ASIC mining.
CPU mining is, of course, the simplest case and most likely not profitable. GPU and ASIC Monero mining is where the money's at. But there are use cases for CPU mining, such as if you're learning about the mining process or developing your own test programs.
So we'll start with CPU mining and then proceed onto GPU / ASIC.
In some websites you'll find Monero CPU mining recommendations.
If you're just interested in learning about mining Monero and wish to experiment with it without purchasing specialized hardware, then CPU mining will work just fine. But it most likely won't be profitable.
This is possible because Monero's cryptographic algorithm, CryptoNight (upgraded to RandomX on November 2019), requires lots of space to run, making it difficult to develop special hardware (ASIC) for it. But as GPU's become as powerful as computers themselves, with gigabytes of memory and ultra powerful processors, GPU mining is still viable for Monero.
The good news about CPU mining is you don't have to build any specialized hardware. It's ready to go! If you've got a PC then you've got a CPU ready to burn cycles solving Monero block challenges.
Here are some tips for Monero CPU mining:
Follow these links and the instructions contained therein to start mining right away. Now let's take a look at the more advanced case: GPU mining.
So, if you wish to actually make $ mining Monero professionally, or as a hobby but aiming for profit, then your first step is to forget CPU mining.
Although Monero aims to make ASIC mining as difficult as possible, GPU mining is still viable. GPU's kill the CPU competition. If you decide to use the CPU to make $ in Monero, you'll be thrashing your CPU at 100% 24x7, making it crank out crypto hashes, while GPU's take a stroll in the park.
The only viable option for mining Monero at home is to use AMD GPU's.
AMD graphics cards have historically been best for cryptocurrency mining, for one reason or another. (Perhaps because mining software creators are best at writing AMD GPU code?)
For GPU mining you'll need to assemble a mining rig, which can range from a very basic one GPU setup to a full size professional rig.
GPU mining is special in the sense that GPU's aren't specialized for Monero.
You can follow any tutorial on how to build a mining rig for Ethereum or other GPU-mineable cryptocurrency and the same techniques apply. Once you have a GPU mining rig built, it can be used for any cryptocurrency.
Here are some resources to help you build your rig (some were originally for Ethereum, but as we said it's the same hardware):
Monero is designed to make ASIC mining impossible. The idea is to avoid the level of centralization found in Bitcoin and other SHA256-based cryptocurrencies.
Since very few people can actually develop and deploy ASICs for every change made to the Monero algorithms, by letting ASICs mining loose the Monero team would be making easy for a hardware elite to dominate the mining scene (which, some may say, is what happened to Bitcoin with enormous concentration of mining power under the control of few).
So what I have to say about Monero ASIC mining is : if you've got the technical means to develop an ASIC solution and you can afford to scrap it and restart when Monero changes again, then by all means go for it!
But since this is an ELI5 introductory article, this is all I'm going to say about Monero ASIC mining for the time being. It's not really accessible to most mortals!
We've briefly mentioned XMRig on the CPU mining section. There are specialized versions of XMRig for GPU's as well:
You can also use XMR-Stak
CudoMiner is proprietary software that pays out in Monero. So it's not actually mining Monero directly, but instead uses your GPU to mine various cryptos (determined by their own algorithm) which instructs your miner to work on a certain coin. You are then paid in XMR.
Claymore's Classic Miner is available for Monero. I don't know how updated this is, since I last used Claymore back when mining Ethereum early on. Listed here for completeness.
This is the toughest part of mining profitably.
Mining cryptocurrencies might seem simple at first sight but it actually involves a lot more discipline and know-how than most people estimate initially.
The most important aspect of mining Monero profitably is to maintain the rig online 24x7 with zero downtime.
This is crucial for profitability because mining is all about being constant. You might have the best mining rig but if it's down 2 to 3 hours a day, it's the same as losing that much percentage in hashrate. If you're down 20% of the day on average, it's technically the same as having a rig 20% slower.
When mining, you want 100% uptime or as close to that as possible.
Tuning GPU's for Monero mining is a black art.
Since experienced miners spend countless hours finding the perfect settings for their rig, they usually will not give this information out to their competition. So finding actual optimal settings for GPU's is going to be extrememly difficult. It's going to end up being a personal endeavor to find the perfect settings.
Every GPU card is different. As you gain mining experience, you'll likely learn this the hard way : by mixing different cards.
If your rig is heterogeneous and you've got all kinds of cards mixed up, prepare for a nightmare in terms of tuning your performance. You will need to direct a different miner with different settings for each card. Thus I recommend you stick to one model of GPU. Before investing, do some research on recent benchmarks, visit friends who mine and ask around on forums - that's how I did it back when mining Ethereum. A good friend had set up a gigantic mining rig, so I visited him and he gave me all sorts of valuable information. I then purchased some of his own GPU's which he offered me when scaling down his own mining operation. Hopefully someone will give you legit advice as well before buying your cards. Then, once you decide on one model, make sure you purchase all identical GPU's. Otherwise you might spend more time tuning your rig than making money. Again: even different series GPU's from same manufacturer will yield wildly different performance. Mining is all about details.
First rule of Monero mining: You don't want anyone to know that you're a cryptocurrency miner.
As I researched this article I found a post by a miner on a popular social network where I was able to locate his mining facilities within minutes. He mentioned he was doing several BTC per day. Cryptocurrency robberies are becoming more and more common - this guy could be the target of specialized crypto thieves gangs.
A good friend of mine had his house broken into, wife and son tied up while robbers cleaned the place. They specifically asked for crypto passwords and keys. No amount of security will help you when your family is under gunpoint.
Practicing proper OPSEC (operational security) is essential to being profitable in crypto mining. The last thing you want is to be greeted by armed thugs at 3 AM. Do not ever mention your mining, your stash or your location in online forums.
When asking questions make sure to be vague about your identity and location. It sounds a bit dramatic but OPSEC is at the heart of anything related to cryptocurrencies. When you become your own bank, you also become your own security staff.
Then, lastly but most importantly perhaps, there's a whole encyclopedia of technical details you need to perfect to take your mining operation to its best performance.
Since this is an introductory text, I'm just going to give you some ideas for research.
Various Cryptonight Mining Software - I haven't tested most of these. Proceed with caution when installing non-open-source mining software. Some of them may carry "surprises".
GPU Mining Resources - Nice and complete tutorial.
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