Watch the Mining Rig Tour Video
Tour of My Mining Rig
So lets move on with the tour of my cryptocurrency mining rig. After the tour, we will run through some of the ins and outs of mining in general, so read to the end if you want to know more (or skip there now if you don’t intend to build a rig). As always, I’ll provide a link to all of the components at the end of the article if you’d like to build this rig.
The Mining Rig Case
For my case I chose an open-air or open-frame case. This type of case is very popular with both home hobbyists and mining farms pros. There are several reasons for this, but at the top of the list is cooling. It’s super easy to keep all of those hot GPUs cool with this type of setup. The second reason is maintenance. It really just can’t get any easier than this to replace a failed component. No covers to remove, no cramped places to contort your hands into. It’s just super easy to replace any component in just a few seconds. The last reason, is that it is almost the perfect design to allow the use of risers.
About the only downside to this style of case is space. It takes up a lot more space than a traditional PC case would, or a rack mount mining case would.
I chose the Minercase V3 for my rig. It was affordable and super easy to put together. What you need to know is that all of these open-frame cases for mining are all made from off-the-shelf aluminum extrusions. Some people call it MakerSlide or MakerBeam. The fan clips can be 3D printed from free plans. You can most definitely build this case from parts cheaper than you can buy it on Amazon. But you need to think hard about doing that. It would take all day measuring, cutting, drilling holes, etc. to build this case from scratch. All to save about $40. What is your time worth? That’s an entire day your rig could be mining Ethereum. You’re probably better just buying the case. That’s the route I went.
To keep the GPUs cool, I bought these awesome Rosewill silent 120mm fans.
One last cool feature of this case. They’re stackable and come with bonding clips to connect them together. You can stack these things floor to ceiling if you so desire!
The Mining Motherboard
I bought the Biostar TB250-BTC motherboard for my mining rig build. This motherboard is designed specifically for mining rigs. The truth is, almost any motherboard will be suitable for mining. What Biostar has done here is make a motherboard that has six PCIe slots, some extra power options, and made the guarantee that their machine will work with PCIe USB risers that are commonly used on mining rigs. They even have a BIOS setting specifically called “Mining Mode” that will set the board up for you.
The PCIe USB Risers
This is the one that always throws new miners for a loop. What the heck are these risers and why do you need them!?! Well its pretty simple and really not complicated at all.
PCie Risers are designed simply to allow you to move the cards up and away from the motherboard. This allows you to properly cool the cards, something that is much harder to do when they’re all ingesting each others hot air. Just as important, these risers allow you to actually fit six (or even more) cards on a single motherboard. Most video cards take up two slots due to their size. Meaning you’d only be able to get two or three on most boards.
Additionally, most video cards need x16 slots, and most motherboards don’t have six of those! These risers convert X1 PCIe slots to X16 slots, albeit at X1 speeds. Which is fine, since for mining we’re doing all the work on the card’s GPU and memory and the system bus speed isn’t too important. These would not be suitable for a gaming rig.
The Power Supply
I did a lot of reading in forums and asked a lot of questions before I built this mining rig. The overwhelming consensus was that a 1200 watt power supply was absolutely critical to building a rig like this. The math just wasn’t working for me and I couldn’t find a 1200 watt supply that was affordable. I gambled a little and grabbed a 1000 watt power supply. I picked the Corsair HX1000i for a few reasons.
The HX1000i has a protocol known as LINK. This allows me to connect the power supply to the motherboard via USB. From that connection the power supply will transmit all kinds of useful information to the operating system including fan speed, voltage, wattage load, and a lot more. This was incredibly helpful for me with this build. As I added video cards to the stack, I could tell immediately what the draw of each card would be. My findings? Most of the people on the forums are bullshitters and have no idea what they are talking about. With six cards, overclocked +500 Mhz I am pulling an average of 516 watts. I could have used an 800 watt supply with no issues whatsoever. Don’t fall for the hype Dale.
The CPU and Memory
This is another area that often surprises new miners. You don’t need a lot of memory or a powerful CPU to mine cryptocurrency. In a mining rig the main CPU is just a traffic director and doesn’t do any of the heavy lifting. It’s all done on the video card GPUs! That being the case you can go with bare minimum amounts. In my case a cheap Celeron processor and 4GB of RAM. I highly recommend getting a Noctua silent cooler. This machine will be almost silent after that.
The Video Cards (Mining GPUs)
The video cards are the heart and soul of your GPU based mining rig. This is where all of the real work happens. The GPUs are the actual “miners”.
There’s a lot of debate on which video cards are the right choice. So you’ll likely want to do some research before deciding on your cards. It also greatly depends on what your goals are. If this is just a hobby and you’re not strictly doing it for profit, then it might make sense to pick better, faster cards than these. If you’re doing it to make a profit as your primary goal you’ll want to weigh your card costs and look at your ROI. In my case these cards costs $250 each. If the machine makes $300 a month it will take 5 months to pay for itself. You could put GTX 1080ti cards in your machine at mine about 20% faster. However, you’d spend almost four times the money making your payback time several years. For a hobby that doesn’t matter, for a business it is critical.
I landed on the NVIDIA GTX 1060 cards from EVGA as a compromise. They’re affordable, use very little power compared to other GPU choices, and have a great hashrate when overclocked between +500 and +800 Mhz.
Complete Parts List for this Mining Rig Build:
- Minercase V3: http://amzn.to/2kg2qL0
- Rosewill Silent 120mm fans: http://amzn.to/2ATSD7p
- Biostar TB250-BTC: http://amzn.to/2iOp10S
- PCIe USB Risers: http://amzn.to/2AUdnvR
- Corsair HX1000i PSU: http://amzn.to/2iPDsBL
- Intel Celeron CPU: http://amzn.to/2BSgrG5
- Noctua Silent CPU Cooler: http://amzn.to/2yMTfXN
- Ballistix 4GB RAM: http://amzn.to/2kPF5Uw
- 160GB 5400 RPM Drive: http://amzn.to/2iLJcfZ
- EVGA NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU: http://amzn.to/2kQ4pd5
Is Mining Even Profitable Anymore?
Well that totally depends! If you want to mine Bitcoins, you’ll need a purpose build hardware ASIC miner. This machine will be a big time money loser for Bitcoin. However, there are plenty of cryptocurrencies that can be profitably mined using GPU based miners. My personal favorite choice is Ethereum. This machine will make about $10-$12 dollars a day mining Ethereum at the current Ether price of $450. An Ether is just what Ethereum calls their coins. Of course, the price could go to $2000 tomorrow making it wildly profitable, or it could go bust making it worthless. That’s the nature of this new and emerging market. It could be the next Apple or the next bubble that pops. There’s a lot of opinions, but no one can tell the future even if they claim they can.
The Reasons I Built a Mining Rig
- Knowledge and Learning
- Maybe make some cash
Learning is Something I Enjoy
Seriously. I know we live in a world today where people expect their ignorance to be taken as seriously as someone else’s knowledge, and where school children actually despise the education they are receiving. For me however, I want to learn something new every day. Sometimes it is something small, sometimes it is something bigger.
So the main reason I built this rig was to learn the ins and outs of cryptocurrency. Not just to understand how to mine it, but to truly understand how it works and why it is an important new technology. So the money I spent on this machine was a cheap education in the end.
Maybe I Can Make Some Cold Hard Cash
If something new I learn makes me some cash then that’s just fantastic. Since I started The Geek Pub almost 10 years ago, I have done a lot of experiments with how to make money. Some of them failed. Some of them worked beyond my expectations. In fact, some of them I didn’t even expect to work and took off like wildfire. I’ve made a lot of money on my experiments, and to this day I have not ever lost anything of significance on a failure. The reason why is two fold. First, I never “invest” anything I can’t afford to lose if it flops. There’s big difference between losing your lunch money for a week and losing your home. Invest wisely.
The second reason is that I always invest in a way that reduces or mitigates my risk. In the case of this mining rig, if the market for cryptocurrency pops like an overinflated balloon tomorrow I will have lost nothing but my time at the end of the day. If I had spend $1500 buying Bitcoin that money would just disappear. It would be gone in an instant. By putting that money into this rig instead, if the market pops I still have the rig. I can break the machine down and sell it, or repurpose it for something else like a PLEX media box or a PC for my kids. I still have an asset. Remember, invest wisely!
Where I Stand and the Future
Where I stand right now is interesting. I’ve made about $3000 cold hard cash in my cryptocurrency adventures. Some of it from mining, some of it from buying some, holding it and then selling it off. I’ve ordered an ASIC miner for mining Bitcoins using some of the profit. We will see where that goes!
Bookmark this page and check back in a year to see if I went bust or not!
Cryptocurrency/Bitcoin/Ethereum Mining FAQ
Q: Why does mining use GPUs instead of CPUs?
A: Think of it like this analogy. If you had four really smart scientists and put them in the desert with nothing but hammers and shovels, and then put a big brute with a whip behind them and told them to build a pyramid. How fast would these office worker guys get the job done? Not very fast. Their intelligence doesn’t really matter. Those four scientists make up the modern quad-core CPU. GPUs on the other hand have thousands of cores. They’re not very smart, but really good at one job: math. So in our same analogy if you take thousands of dumb guys and put whips behind them your pyramid will get built much faster. You just need brute force laborers to get the job done.
Q. What if the bottom falls out of this tomorrow?
A: It might. But read above. I’ll still own the hardware and will have lost nothing but my time. There are risks in every investment. Mitigate your risk as much as possible and dive in. Those who take no risk in life won’t ever win. Some level of risk is unavoidable if you want to rise above.
Q: What if Ethereum moves to Proof of Stake?
A: If the change eliminates miners (which is still unknown), then I will move to mining another coin. There are plenty of cryptocurrencies that can be mined by a GPU. Moving to Proof of Stake is a bad move for them in my opinion. I understand the reason why, but the community is what keeps a coin moving forward. If all the miners jump ship and get pissed off, then no one will invest in Ethereum and it will tank. The developers better be sure they know what they are doing before they do it (if it even ever happens).
Q: Where are you keeping your miner?
A: Well, since my wife won’t let me keep it on display in the kitchen, I currently have it sitting in the garage. When I am making a bunch of dust out there I move it inside the house to my office for a while. I just don’t like it in the office due to the noise.
A friend of mine is considering getting a warehouse/shop. If he does that I will move it to his facility and pay him some sort of rent.
Q: How many hashes per second can your machine do?
A: My current Ethereum hash rate is averaging 133.7 MH/s. I suspect I could get another 3-4 MH/s by upping my overclock. I’m just not willing to risk stability of the system right now. I know its 100% stable at this rate.
Q: Are you going to build a second machine?
A: Maybe. But not anytime soon. I don’t have a place to put it. And since I have an Antminer S9 on the way already that sort of counts as my second machine anyway. We shall see. Check back in a year! 😉
Q.: Would you use all the same parts again?
A: Probably pretty close. I’d definitely look at a less expensive power supply. But you have to be careful with that. Cheaper power supplies also tend to be less efficient. You might wind up saving $50 only to pay it back in electricity over just a few months. I’d probably get whatever the cheapest CPU is at the time. It’s almost irrelevant. I’d also cheap out big time on the hard drive. Like this $19 one on Amazon. Hell, you could even boot off a USB stick.
Q: Why did you go with Windows instead of Linux?
A: Well, first of all I didn’t feel like dicking with drivers and configuration files for hours on end getting it setup. Additionally, it is well known that the GPU drivers for Windows are fare better, more stable, and better optimized. Windows was just a safe bet. I love Linux though. All of my server gear runs Linux. Maybe someday I will switch. Who knows.
Q: Seriously, you should switch to Linux?!
A: Go away troll.
Q: How much heat does it put off? How loud is it?
A: Not as much as you would think. But it will keep a room nice and toasty if you shut the door. According to my infrared the cards put out about 94 degrees at the back side. As for noise the noisiest part of the rig is the stock cooler on the CPU. If I replaced that with something quieter I could seriously cut the noise levels. Right now it shows around 50-53 decibels on my decibel meter.
Update: After living with the noise for a couple of weeks I upgrade the CPU cooler to a Noctua Silent Cooler. The entire machine is basically silent now.
Q: How much power does this miner use? What’s your electricity cost to run it?
A: About 520 watts. We’re at 0.065 Kwh here in Texas.
Q: What did you say that case is made from again if I wanted to build instead of buy?
A: It is nothing more than extruded aluminum beams. Sometimes referred to as MakerBeam or MakerSlide. You can buy kits of it on Amazon to make all sorts of things from: http://amzn.to/2iNgtas