I decided to mine Ethereum, mostly because I saw a friend doing it. Ethereum also had, at the time I started, the best profitability. Finally, unlike Bitcoin, which essentially now requires dedicated machines called ASICs to mine profitably, it is still possible to mine Ethereum on consumer computer hardware.
My home computer, which is actually quite old (I built it 4 years ago in March 2017) has the following specs:
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CPU: Intel Core i5 7600K, $199.99
Motherboard: MSI Z270 SLI Plus ATX, $132.49
GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 1070 8GB OC, $379.99
SSD: Crucial MX300 525GB, $149.99
Memory: 16 GB Corsair DDR4 2400Mhz, $99.99
PSU: Corsair RM650x 650W fully modular, $104.99
Case: Corsair Carbide 400C, $79.99
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Prices were at time of purchase in 2017. Total cost including a few accessories, cables and fans was approximately $1200. It has functioned flawlessly for the past 4 years. Despite its age, even 4 years later, it still performs extremely well and I have no reason to upgrade anytime soon.
For various technical reasons, it turns out that the kind of computation needed for Ethereum mining is best performed by the GPU, or graphics processing unit. My GPU was a GeForce 1070 GTX, which is considered to be an upper-mid tier GPU. The top of the line GPU back then was a GeForce 1080 Ti with MSRP of $699. Top of the line GPUs are incredibly expensive, often costing more than the rest of the computer combined. They are also almost completely unnecessary for regular office work. For any PC gamer, however, the GPU is the single most important component in the entire computer.
Because GPUs are excellent at crypto mining, GPU prices tend to skyrocket when a crypto boom occurs. Right now, computer stores across the country are basically sold out of GPUs, and used GeForce 1070 GPUs like mine are going for between $400 to $500 on eBay, which is more than they originally cost when new. This would otherwise be completely unheard of when it comes to outdated and preowned computer hardware. The newest generation of top tier GPUs, the RTX 3000 series, are currently out of stock almost everywhere and are re-selling with huge markups for thousands of dollars.
This is not a crypto mining guide, so I’ll gloss over some of the details. I found it relatively easy to start mining. It does take a little bit of research, and some familiarity with computers is obviously a plus, including using the command line interface (CLI), but deep technical expertise is not necessary. All in all, it took about 3 hours for me to do all the research and get everything set up, coming from zero prior knowledge. I created a crypto wallet (a place to securely store your cryptocurrency), joined an Ethereum mining pool (a group of miners who combine their computer power to increase the chances of mining successfully), downloaded the appropriate mining software for my GPU, tweaked the right commands, and began mining.
With Ethereum mining, speed is calculated by “hash rate”, which is basically how quickly your hardware can perform the necessary operations. With my GTX 1070 graphics card, I could get a speed of around 26 to 27 million (mega) hashes per second, or MH/s. However, I found that doing so caused the card to get quite hot and the cooling fans to run at 100%, which was loud. So I used widely available free tuning software to “underclock” my card’s core speed by about 10%. I ended up getting a speed of around 23 MH/s.
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