Like everyone involved in cryptocurrency I know that Bitcoin and other coins are produced through mining:
Bitcoin mining is the process by which transactions are verified and added to the public ledger, known as the block chain, and also the means through which new bitcoin are released. Anyone with access to the internet and suitable hardware can participate in mining. The mining process involves compiling recent transactions into blocks and trying to solve a computationally difficult puzzle. The participant who first solves the puzzle gets to place the next block on the block chain and claim the rewards. The rewards, which incentivize mining, are both the transaction fees associated with the transactions compiled in the block as well as newly released bitcoin.
I also know that in most cases Bitcoin mining is done by big organisations, mostly in China and Eastern Europe, running large farms of mining computers. It’s tough to compete against that.
However, in learning about my current ‘favourite’ coin, Bitcore (BTX), I found out that it can be mined on a home PC with a half-decent graphics card. I decided to give it a go.
The basic process is straightforward:
- You run a dedicated mining app, typically CCMiner, which mines Bitcore by maxing out your graphics card.
- You connect the app to an online mining pool server so your mining power contributes to a pool of other miners’ hardware and you share the coins created. I use Suprnova.cc.
- You connect your mining pool account to your Bitcore wallet so that payouts come to you.
The details are covered well in a YouTube video by Mod Rage, ‘How to Mine Bitcore (BTX) for Beginners (From Scratch)‘, included below. There’s another one that gives some additional useful information by IMineBlocks.
When I initially tried running CCMiner I got the error “qubit_luffa512_cpu_init” each time. I worked out this indicated my graphics card was too old to run the latest version of CCMiner – no great surprise there – so I went back through older versions to find one that worked for me. That turned out to be the x64 version of build CCMiner v2.2.
When you start up the miner, initially not a lot happens – you just get a command window with a basic startup screen:
After a minute or two, however, you will likely become aware of a rising background noise as your graphics card starts to ‘take off’. You may also find your PC’s response becomes a bit ‘sluggish’. Here mine has started – the card temperature has increased from 68C to 88C, and the fan speed from 46% to 67%:
The key thing is the “yes!” message which tells us it has started to mine successfully (failure is indicated by “boo!”). Success seems to improve over time, so initially I only get occasional successes:
But half an hour or so after starting up each time I see screens like this – we’re up and running (the card settles at a temperature of about 95C and a fan speed of about 85%):
In parallel we can monitor the status on the Suprnova website – this shows us in approximate real-time how much solving power (‘hashrate’) we are contributing to the pool, for example:
To monitor the graphics card itself, which of course is now running hot, you can use various utilities. Probably the best known is MSI Afterburner – here it is (with its UI skin set to ‘Default MSI Afterburner v3 – big edition’) showing a real-time display of card temperature and Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) usage:
The GPU usage varies over time, but if I stop using the PC for other things it starts to settle near 100% as you would expect.
So is Bitcore mining profitable with my setup? I decided to work it out over the course of an evening, specifically a 5 hour period.
First I used a watt meter to work out how much energy the PC consumed. This turned out to be about 240W when mining and about 180W when not mining, so about 25% of the electricity used in that period was used for mining.
The watt meter told me I had used 1.25kWh over the period so about 0.3kWh was used for mining. My evening electricity rate is about 14p/kWh so the mining cost me about 4p.
So how much did I earn? Suprnova tells me I mined about 0.0006 BTX, which is worth somewhere around 2p. So no, my setup isn’t profitable as I ran it.
Can Bitcore Mining Be Profitable?
The result is interesting to me because, actually, it’s not as bad as I feared. After all, I am running an old PC with a graphics card that is old enough it can’t run the latest – and presumably most efficient – mining software.
(Tip: you can look up the power, ‘Compute Capability’, of your Nvidia card here. A good value is 6+, mine – a 1Gb NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti – is 2.1).
With the current setup I could:
- Run only at night, leaving the PC mining on Economy 7 electricity and unattended (which should get the efficiency up by 10%-15%). My overnight rate is about half the daytime rate so immediately I would be close to breaking even, and maybe even making a profit.
- Run only during the middle part of the day, with the PC mining just on electricity from my solar panels. It would immediately become profitable, even if only at the rate of a few pence per day. And that’s without even trying overclocking on the card.
Of course, if I really want to mine seriously I would be looking at buying new hardware – specifically a powerful graphics card, as it’s not necessarily an issue if the PC isn’t particularly fast.
Initial research implies that a current top-end graphics card may have enough power (hashrate) to mine at perhaps 30 times the rate of my current card. Suddenly Bitcore mining starts to become a realistic proposition – a profit of £1-2 per day seems achievable – so I’m going to investigate further.