Mining Cryptocurrency Part 2: CPU Mining

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Now that we’ve had an overview of what cryptocurrency mining is, we’re going to dive deeper into where it all began: CPU Mining. In 2009, Bitcoin became the world’s first cryptocurrency, and the first digital currency mining operation occurred.

Between then and now, crypto mining has undergone many changes. The most significant change has been moving to GPU and ASIC mining and away from mining with the CPU. For many years, mining with a CPU wasn’t very profitable. With projects like Monero and Raptoreum becoming popular recently, we are starting to see CPU mining becoming profitable again, bringing renewed interest from miners.

Hardware Requirements

The most crucial decisions about putting together a CPU mining rig are the choice of hardware and how they will affect hashing performance. Some options, like the CPU, are critical components that should be thoroughly researched before purchasing. Others, such as the storage device, aren’t important at all.

When you decide on the proper hardware, future upgrades are something to consider. If you cannot purchase the top-of-the-line CPU you want, you can always get a lower-end model now and upgrade it in the future. You can also add a video card or two and mine using the CPU and GPU on the same rig.

It is essential to ensure that the parts you purchase are compatible with one another. One of the best sites is PcPartPicker, which helps you build an entire computer and ensures compatibility between the components. 

Mining Profitability Tools

Since purchasing the CPU is such an important decision, miners have put together different tools to show hashrate data by CPU. 

Here are a couple of those tools (As always, please do your research and make sure you’re only making purchases on trusted sites):

CPU

When putting together this type of mining rig, the most critical component is the CPU itself. While individual coins may have some variation as to what the “best” CPU to use would be, the crucial factors appear to be (ranked by importance):

  1. Core count
  2. Clock speed
  3. L3 cache

There are an overwhelming number of CPUs on the market at the moment, and it can be hard to know which would be best for mining by looking at its raw stats. Below, we have compiled a list of the current best CPUs that we’ve found based on consulting various profitability matrices.

Best CPUs For Mining

  1. AMD Threadripper 3990X  Buy On Amazon
  2. AMD EPYC 7742 Buy on Amazon
  3. AMD EPYC 7702 Buy on Amazon
  4. AMD Threadripper 3970X Buy on Amazon

Best Budget CPUs For Mining

  1. AMD RYZEN 9 5950X Buy on Amazon
  2. AMD Ryzen 9 3900X Buy on Amazon
  3. AMD Ryzen 7 3700X Buy on Amazon
  4. AMD Ryzen 7 2700X Buy on Amazon

Motherboard

It may seem counter-intuitive, but the motherboard isn’t as important as the CPU. The motherboard choice is based more on the chosen CPU than its own specs. There are a few things to look out for if you want to eke out the most performance you can. In that case, you want a motherboard with a fast Northbridge connection and good overclocking support. If you’re going to add a few GPUs in the future, you’ll also want one with 5-6 PCIe slots and (preferably) a fast Southbridge connection.

Best Motherboards For Mining

  1. Asus ROG ZENITH II EXTREME ALPHA Buy on Amazon
  2. ASRock Rack ROMED8-2T Single Socket SP3 LGA 4094 (For EPYC processors) Buy on Amazon
  3. Gigabyte TRX40 AORUS MASTER Buy on Amazon

Best Budget Motherboards For Mining

  1. GIGABYTE TRX40 AORUS Master Buy on Amazon
  2. Asus ROG STRIX B550-F GAMING Buy on Amazon
  3. MSI X470 GAMING PLUS Max Buy on Amazon

Random Access Memory (RAM)

The speed and amount of RAM don’t have much of an impact on hashrate performance. You want to make sure that you meet the minimum requirements for the operating system and software used and set it up in a dual-channel configuration. Dual-Channel mode will ensure that the processor and memory have the most available bandwidth to communicate between them. We have seen anecdotal evidence that higher-speed chips can slightly improve hashrate. Still, we haven’t been able to verify if that’s the case long-term or just a short-term anomaly.

The easiest way to ensure that you have the proper RAM setup is to figure out your minimum requirements, then buy a two-chip bundle that adds up to that amount. For example, if you need 8GB RAM, a bundle like G.Skill RipJaws V Series 8GB would be perfect (assuming it’s compatible) because it is inexpensive and contains two 4GB chips.

Storage

The storage medium that you choose (hard drive (HDD), solid-state drive (SSD), USB drive, etc.) for the mining rig has a negligible impact on day-to-day hashrate. The most significant effect on the rig will be in boot speed, update speed, and reliability. While there may be a noticeable difference in boot and update speeds between a slow HDD and a fast SSD, it will have an almost negligible effect on mining income. We recommend buying the least expensive solution with the necessary space without sacrificing reliability, such as Western Digital WD AV-GP 500GB or PNY CS900 120GB. Stay away from cheap, no-name brands, especially if you’re using a USB thumb drive. A 5-pack for $20 may seem like a good deal, but you’re going to have many problems with reliability and data corruption because they’re usually extremely slow and use poor-quality parts.

Power Supply

Essentially, a power supply is a device that converts the energy from the outlet into something usable by the computer. The key takeaways from this process are:

  1. It can only supply as much energy as it is rated for
  2. This conversion process causes some power to be lost as heat

Because of this, a few key things to look for in a power supply:

  • The total power of all connected devices should be 80% or less of the power supply’s maximum rating (example: you should use at most 800W on a 1000W power supply)
  • A power efficiency rating of 80+ Gold or higher

While a power efficiency rating above Gold (such as Platinum or Titanium) is better at minimizing power loss, there are significant diminishing returns. The price will increase substantially, and the additional power savings may never offset that extra cost.

Here are our recommendations for power supplies:

Best Power Supply for CPU Mining only

Best Power Supply for CPU and GPU Mining

Case

The choice of case isn’t significant except that you want to ensure good airflow. Many miners opt to forego the traditional computer case and put it on a shelf with plastic feet or an open-air frame. If you decide not to use a conventional case, you’ll want to pick up a couple of stand-alone PC power switches so you can quickly turn it on.

Using Your Existing Computer

Suppose you already have a computer with a good mining CPU. In that case, you can mine with it when you aren’t actively using it. If you use the computer often, you’ll need to take extra precautions with it. Keep an eye on CPU temperatures to ensure they stay within safe levels. If you use Windows, you can use a program like Core Temp or CPU-Z to monitor it.

Also, when a computer is actively CPU mining, it will be practically unusable. The mining calculations are very CPU-intensive, making using the computer for other tasks sluggish at best. With this in mind, you’ll need to stop the mining software when you’re actively using it if it doesn’t already have a feature to throttle itself automatically.

Power

CPU mining uses the least amount of power out of all the types of cryptocurrency mining. Even so, mining rigs often consume a lot of electricity, and planning for that is an essential part of putting together your mining setup. It’s also a good idea to plan for future expansion. We feel that a basic tutorial on electricity and power is necessary to help you make informed decisions.

Voltage

In general, most power outlets in the Americas (North, Central, and South) use 110-120v as their standard, and most of the rest of the world uses 220-240v. There are many exceptions to this rule, but it is important to mention here because it directly affects the number of devices that can safely run on a line.

The expression for calculating power in a circuit is P=VI. What this means is that Power (P) is equal to Voltage (V) multiplied by Current (I). We measure Power in Watts (W), Voltage in Volts (V), and Current in Amps (A). If we want to figure out how much Current a given device uses, the formula changes to I=P/V.

Why is this important? Let’s use an example:

Let’s say that you’ve decided to put together a mining rig that uses 500W of Power and live in the United States. In the USA, the standard for a power line in your home is 120V and can safely carry 15A. If we plug that into the formula, we would have 500 / 120 = 4.17A. You could run three mining rigs safely off that line (4.17 * 3 = 12.51A). Adding a 4th rig would, at best, trip your breaker. At worst, it could cause an electrical fire.

Now, let’s take that example one step further by converting that line to 220V. With that one change, each mining rig now uses 500 / 220 = 2.27A. It cuts the Current draw almost in half! Now, we can safely run 6 (2.27 * 6 = 13.62A) mining rigs off that one line!

Operating Systems

There is mining software designed for both Windows and Linux and a custom mining OS called HiveOS. You have the option to use the OS you’re most comfortable with or to try something new. While we have seen anecdotal evidence that Linux performs better in some scenarios, Windows is also viable. One of Windows’ most notable benefits is the ease of setup and use for someone who is not already familiar with mining rigs.

HiveOS

HiveOS is an operating system built on Ubuntu and designed specifically for cryptocurrency mining. It is easy to use and has many rich features. If you aren’t familiar with Ubuntu, don’t write this one off: It has a tremendous web-based interface and doesn’t require any knowledge of Linux to use.

It can run any CPU or GPU mining rig and even some ASIC miners. It has built-in drivers, automatic updates, and the most popular mining software built right into it. You can run it out of the box as-is, or you can dive into some of its more in-depth features like custom overclocking and remote monitoring.

Pricing is very reasonable for HiveOS. It is free for the first 4 GPU “workers” (mining rigs), so you can use it from home at no cost indefinitely. CPU mining is only $0.3 per month per rig, and you can even set it up to automatically pay the fees out of any Ethereum you mine with your account.

Software

There are several different programs that you can use to mine cryptocurrency using a CPU. Some are cross-platform, and some require a specific operating system to run. We’ll give you a look at a few different tools, and we encourage you to do your research before choosing.

Nicehash

Nicehash is an excellent place to start mining if you’re using Windows for your operating system. Their QuickMiner option is a simple way to start mining and has some great features like Game Mode if you’re running it on your main computer. It also gives you the option to do both CPU and GPU mining from within the same software. NiceHash Miner gives many more options for dedicated mining rigs, such as choosing which algorithm to mine and changing it on the fly. 

One important thing to note about Nicehash is that all of its payouts are in Bitcoin. Essentially, Nicehash uses your idle resources to mine other cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum, and then pay you out in Bitcoin based on the exchange rate at the time. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s something to consider.

XMRig

XMRig is a cross-platform, open-source software that can mine several different coins. It has official releases for the Windows, Linux, macOS, and FreeBSD operating systems and can do CPU and GPU mining. A nice feature on their website is a configuration wizard that walks you through setting up the software, including mining pool, wallet, and whether you want to mine on CPU or GPU. The configuration can then be saved in JSON format, making the deployment of multiple miners much quicker and easier.

csminer

csminer is an easy-to-use way to mine Monero. It has releases for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It was designed to be inobtrusive and only run when the computer is idle, making it ideal for CPU mining on your main computer. Setup and configuration are simple, and they have easy-to-follow instructions on how to set it up to run during startup. csminer is also powerful enough to be used as the primary software on a dedicated Monero mining rig. Its biggest drawback is that it only supports mining the Monero coin. Still, if that’s what you decide to mine, this is a great option.

Choosing A Coin

There used to be a lot of coins that you could mine using a CPU, but that number has dwindled over time. While there still are a few coins out there, the most common ones at the moment are Monero and Raptoreum. We recommend doing your research to see what coins are profitable. At the moment, our vote goes to Raptoreum as it seems to be the most profitable CPU-minable coin, has an active community, and is easier to determine profitability. 

Here are a few resources to help inform your decision:

  • NiceHash Profitability Calculator – A quick drop-down where you can easily choose a CPU or GPU, and it will tell you the estimated profit and what they determine to be the best algorithm

Monero

Raptoreum

Mining Pools

Choosing a mining pool is a critical decision. It can be daunting to choose the right one for you, and it’s ok to change if you don’t feel that you’re getting a good value from the one you choose. There are multiple payment types, schedules, and minimum payouts so take your time to do your due diligence. Using a mining pool is effectively mandatory, as mining on your own can take a long time to see any payout, if at all.

We recommend starting with this great write-up on what a mining pool is, and then check out MiningPoolStats, which gives a live view of all tracked mining pools and makes it easy to look up pools by coin.

Conclusion

Putting together a CPU mining rig properly takes a lot of research and attention to detail. Still, once it is complete, you can turn it on and let it make money without any further intervention. It can be an excellent starter for your journey to financial independence and a great way to learn how to build a computer if you don’t already know how.

Have you put together a CPU mining rig? Are you planning on putting one together?

Let us know in the comments below!

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