So, several people have asked me for the basics on building a GPU based crypto currency miner (more specifically for Ethereum, or ETH). Previously I outlined how to setup up an Ubuntu one for the very, very basics with existing home PC hardware, but they’ve wanted more details for a full fledged setup. Now that I have mine in a happy place, tweaking-wise, I think I’m ready to share my findings. Please do note I am not a complete expert, and you might find better advise elsewhere or additional tweaks I didn’t suggest. I’m not saying this is perfect guidance, but I will stand by it being good. 😀 Additionally, I’m going to make some assumptions to avoid bringing too much into-scope on this write-up, and expect that you already have an Ethereum wallet setup, and have chosen a mining pool to join mining within.
(Oh and to answer the question that comes up a lot: Yes, mining ETH is still practical. ETH was specially designed that custom mining hardware like ASICs will never be a thing like they were with BTC. It’s designed to always live on GPUs. Eventually the difficulty will curve enough that you need tons to do it practically, but right now my 5 GPU rig brings in 3.9 ETH (or $700 after power costs). Investing and buying it might still be better for the average Joe, but if you are a tinkerer and tech guy, this is just plain fun to do!)
First off, if you want to build a solid, full fledged rig, there’s a few things to keep in mind before you set down this path.
It won’t be cheap. You are going to want to max out at 5-6 GPUs and a quality power supply. My rig was $2400 all-in.
It needs to live somewhere. It will produce continuous fan noise, and you want it to sit where that won’t be an issue. (though quality fans, like Frozrs or the stock MSI Gaming X’s are very quiet. Mine are near silent and sit at 30% at load!)
It needs internet. You’ll need a constant connection, though wireless will do just fine.
It’s going to produce heat. My cards are air-cooled and hover around 70c. This causes my open floor-plan condo to kick over the AC every 2 hours or so for 10 minutes to keep it around 74f. By comparison, last year our AC turned on for 20 minutes once a day, this does have a $$ cost for me here in SoCal!
So first off, let’s talk parts. You’re going to need to get all this stuff gathered from a few places on the internet before you get rolling. The majority can be bought at Frys, Amazon, etc, but some of the parts, specifically the case and risers, may require some extra leg work depending on availability.
Motherboard: any board that supports 5-6 GPUs will do. Asrock makes a miner-specific “BTC” series boards for hella-cheap in the 60$ range, but mining-whales grab up the market every time they ship and flip them for $300, so good luck. I just went with an MSI gaming series. Do note that bus speed bandwidth is important with this many video cards, so try to avoid specifically the z170 line of boards due to their bus low bandwidth.
CPU: go cheap here. A Celereon will be *too* cheap, but an i3 is plenty power and cheap. If you go with an older board then you can probably get an older i5 or i7 for cheap as well, up to you. In either case, you are *not* going to be CPU mining, it is a complete money sink to try, just don’t do it okay?
Ram: you want 16gb min, but you don’t need high end gaming shit. Quantity not quality here. (Generally speaking you want 3x the number of GPUs in RAM or 12gb, whichever is larger.. but RAM is cheap so just go all the way now if you can.)
GPUs: you are going to want anywhere from 1 to 6 GPUs, the more the better. AMD is light years ahead of Nvidia in this space due to complex technical reasons I won’t get into. If you have some old 7990’s dust those babies off because they are KING, but impossible to find anymore (we’re talking 75% faster than an RX 4/5xx series!). Other wise you want RX 470/480/570/580s. As of right now, 5xx’s run roughly the same hashrate as 4xx’s. but might be improved over time with new BIOS tweaks. However, they use morepower and produce more heat so if you can get some 470/80’s still at this time (it’s hard), go for it. In either case, the only difference between a 70 and 80 is about 1.5 mh/s hashing power and a 70 will use 45% less power, so aim for a 70. Also an 8GB card will get you 1.5 mh/s more than a 4gb, not because of the memory size but due to the types of chips used being better quality on the 8GB resulting in better hashing. In short, get what you can within your budget from the above, aiming at 7990, 470, 480, 570, 580 in that order.
An SSD: doesn’t matter what size, just big enough for the OS and some other stuff, anything over 126gb will do.
Power supply: this is important! There is where those “gold” and “platinum” ratings actually matter. We’re going to put 60%-80% load 24/7 on this supply so the quality does matter here for longevity. You want a gold or higher, and the power output should be relevant to how many cards you have. For a full on 6-GPU rig you can get by with 1100w but 1300w is better.
Case: Obviously you cant fit 6 GPUs in a tower. Additionally, air flow is hella key. That’s why you work with open framed cases for this, meant specifically for mining. I use this one.
HDMI Emulator: You are going to run a headless windows system, and when you remote in with something like Teamviewer, you will be stuck with a desktop resolution matching that of the monitor attached, or a tiny ass 400×600 pixel view otherwise. Plugging in a little 7$ HDMI emulator dongle will trick the system into thinking a full res display is attached instead!
USB Wi-Fi adapter: Pretty straightforward… your miner will need to phone home to it’s pool every 5-20 seconds, and I doubt you will want wires running to wherever it lives.