Starting this personal project of learning more about crypto mining I have documented in a couple of Medium articles to highlight factors to consider if you’re interested to get started. Having cool ideas and taking them to fruition and actually doing them is always hard. I try to highlight the pros and cons in the below article, hopefully getting you over the hump.
This second article is more about the different aspects of building the rig an what is important in building your part list and things to consider. Scalability, multi-purpose, etc… Since there is a heavy upfront cost (the computer/machine) you want to plan carefully to maximize your returns on it.
On to the Build
Building my mining rig, I’ll admit, was one of the more enjoyable things I have done in this COVID era of time. I did not have any previous experience building a computer and that didn’t really hurt me in any way, but I did a ton of research to ensure that all the pieces would fit and/or were compatible. Hunting for the best parts at the best price is the key since this will be a capital investment to mine coins and make money. Avoiding unnecessary costs or understanding what is truly necessary will help lower the breakeven time for your rig. The breakeven cost is the amount of time it will take for the money earned to pay off the hardware and machinery.
I heavily relied on a rig build for a functional miner from one of the more popular YouTube-based crypto mining channels. The concept behind this rig was to spend a minimal amount of money and get a small, compact rig that runs. In hindsight, with the prices of Ethereum and cryptos still skyrocketing I would have likely leaned on building a rig that was more scalable to increase the number of cards that I could run. Below are all the parts that I used in my rig build:
- Motherboard — Gigabyte B450 DS3H —$88 — A modest and relatively cheap motherboard that has just enough features to run and get you mining. Note, this motherboard has three PCIe slots meaning that at most (depending on the CPU used it could support 3 cards at most).
- CPU — AMD Ryzen 5 2600 — $191 — A solid, reliable, and ‘cheaper’ CPU that I chose. Again the most important thing is that the motherboard is compatible with the chipset and that it has enough juice to run your rig and equipment. This one includes a CPU fan cooler so that was a plus.
- GPU — ASUS TUF Gaming RTX 3070 —$760 — The crown jewel of my rig and so lucky to have been able to score it. I connected to a Discord chat that post updates of GPU drops from various online stores and scored on a random Best Buy drop. The GPU will dictate how much money you make.
- Hard Drive — Kingston 480 GB SSD — $50 — A key piece for hard drive storage and I chose a relatively cheap SSD option that gets the job done.
- PSU — Thermaltake 850W 80+ Gold — $150 — Choosing a reliable and satisfactory PSU was a key for me and this handles the task being asked. Also checking that the cables to plug everything up is key as well.
- RAM — Corsair Vengeance LPX 16 GB (2x 8GB) —$93 — Probably more than I needed to get by but RAM is relatively cheap and I rounded up with this purchase.
- OS — Windows 10 Home — $110 — Probably will get crap for people to install a Windows-based system but I’m not a Linux pro and wanted to make something that I could do without too much extra work. Also, I read that some mining programs run relatively smoother on Windows although I cannot confirm that
- Case — Thermaltake Core V21 — $72 — This case is a cool, modular case but hindsight for what it costs and wanting to scale up this case’s compactness doesn’t lend to that. The case does have a large air intake fan (200 mm), wiring, and USB/start button as well a visible wall with a transparent window made of plastic.
- PCIe Risers — Generic 6-pack — $60 — These are necessary if you’re space confined to connect your GPUs in the build. You won’t necessarily need to have the cards plugged into the motherboard but extended through the riser card and a combo of a USB and power cable.
TOTAL COST: $1699
A little pricier than originally planned, but a build of the cost is for the massive GPU card that I found. At the time of building my rig in early March, I was expecting the single RTX-3070 tuned to be making around $7 per day by mining. My ROI on all the equipment spent would be 242 days, which is a long time, but if the price of Ethereum held steady I’m basically getting a free computer out of this.
Spoiler Alert — Ethereum prices more than doubled in this time and the current mining rate of my card is $12+ per day which would change my ROI breakeven date to 140 days…. A drastic improvement.
Assembly was pretty straightforward with most pieces and really only required a screwdriver to connect the necessary components. The boxy case made it a little unforgiving at times with some awkward angles, but it all worked out.
I started by building out all the pieces on the motherboard and installing what was necessary on it to then place them in the case. This included installing the CPU, CPU fan cooler, RAM, and identifying the required sockets for cable management. Once that was put together, securing the motherboard in the case was the next step as well as preparing the PSU to be installed in it’s space under where the motherboard sits. There is plenty of room between where the motherboard is placed and the PSU is underneath to help hide cables.
With both the Motherboard and PSU in place doing the wiring of power cables was next ensuring that I had all the cables out that I needed and connected into the Power Supply and the proper sockets on the motherboard securely.
The last two things were getting the GPU installed onto the motherboard and then installed the OS system. Note if you buy the OS and get a CD, you’ll need to go on another computer and install on a USB drive (with at least 8 GB of space) the Windows installation kit. Otherwise, people have gone to buy an unnecessary optical drive for just installing the CD. After that, it’s booting up the rig and getting it fired up.
Mining Software and Specifics:
I found and used T-Rex as the mining software of choice. I did some researching and it’s a sliding scale of the easier it is to use the larger the fee’s that they charge on your mining goods. T-Rex used to be hosted on GitHub to download, but they moved to a Discord channel since their code isn’t really Open Source. A keynote is once you get your mining software installed make sure you update your .bat (for windows) or .sh file (for Linux) with your wallet address, otherwise, you’ll be mining for someone else.
Typically (especially with this setup) you won’t have enough raw power to compete and win the rewards for your own block, so joining a mining pool is essential. Find one that fits your needs is important. Note that they charge a flat fee and usually a more power pool wins more often, so things to consider.
Overclocking Your GPUs:
This will take some research for anyone who hasn’t done this before, but overclocking is adjusting the settings that the GPU was preset to optimize mining. Standard practice is that for mining it’s a memory-intensive operation so the memory clock is usually maxed out as much as possible while still being operational. The other key aspect of overclocking is reducing the voltage and core clock since they aren’t quite as necessary for mining and you can reduce the power and heat that the cards generate. Overclocking can get you anywhere from a 1% to 7% increase in the hash rate your GPU can produce, ultimately making your rig make you more money.
At this point, if you followed along the computer is up and running and you're ready to mine. Like I said the fun in doing all this was a pretty enjoyable experience and has sort of hooked me at how easy it is to make money at home pretty passively. To note, from start to finish or assembly to mining it took me about 3.5 hours for all the assembly (with a lunch break) and about another 1.5 hours to get the software and GPU overclocking setup to be mining. If you have the capital or money to do this I’d highly suggest it.