CryptoCurrency Starter Series: Part 1


In Part 1 of our CryptoCurrency Starter Series, we start with an overview of the project, and set our budget. Join us as we begin our journey in to building a mining PC.

Overview

For this project, the writer proposes that you already have an interest in CryptoCurrency, whether it be Bitcoin, Ethereum, LiteCoin, or one or more of the many other options out there.

We presume that you are already familiar with:

  • Coins and Currencies

  • Alt-Coins

  • Wallets

  • Basic Mining methods

  • Mining Exchanges

  • and the basic tenants of wanting to build your own mining PC.

If you weren't aware of those things, then you probably wouldn't be looking at building your own mining PC.

Basic Resources

There are some basic resources required before you start to build your own mining PC. These include, but are not limited to: time, money, patience, a willingness to learn and explore, a desire to build a mining PC, and a basic understanding of assembling computer components.

You'll also need time and money to invest in buying the actual mining PC parts, as well as money to spend on buying a secure storage wallet, and paying your power bill, providing cooling or heat extraction, a link in to your current internet connection; and the patience and perseverance to overcome some technical obstacles and software configuration issues along the way.

Overview of the Computer Components

A mining PC is built from standard computer components, along with some custom components that are especially created for crypto-currency mining.

Standard parts include:

  • Power Supply

  • Motherboard

  • RAM

  • GPU / Graphics Card

  • Hard Drive (HDD) or Solid State Drive (SSD)

  • Wired Network (LAN) or Wireless Network (WLAN)

  • USB drive

  • PC case

  • PC monitor / shared monitor

  • Consider buying a hardware wallet to store your keys and currency

Custom components may be required if you are building a larger mining PC with more than three GPUs, and these custom components may include:

  • Additional power supplies

  • PCIe riser cables

  • PCIe extension cables

  • PCIe add-on cards

  • PCIe converter cards

  • GPU support brackets

  • PC Cooling fans

  • Specialised mining PC motherboards

  • Consider buying a hardware wallet to store your keys and currency

Software that may be required include:

  • Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro

  • Mining software

  • Software wallet for your keys and crypto-things

Other items that will be required, that you may already have, are:

  • an internet connection

  • an email address

  • web browser software such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, FireFox, Chrome, Safari, etc.

  • electricity

  • a screwdriver, small saw, hammer, screws, glue, zip ties,

  • coffee and band aids.

Finally, you'll need a physical location to store your mining PC, such as a benchtop, desk, or cupboard. Bear in mind that you'll need access to the following items from that storage location:

  • electricity

  • wired or wireless internet access

  • heat control or cooling

  • noise management.

Heat

A mining PC will use a bit more electricity than a normal computer, and some of this energy will be converted in to heat. Sources of heat within your mining PC will be the CPU, GPU, power supply, and power cables.

Heat will need to be managed via:

  • heat extraction: fans, extractor fans, vents, tubing, etc

  • cooling: cooling fans, air conditioning, active airflow, etc

Noise

Sources of noise within your mining PC will be power supply, fans, and heat/cooling methods, and your PC speaker (beeping, buzzing, alerts, etc).

Recommended Locations

We recommend locations for the storage of your mining PC as follows:

  • a well-ventilated space with access to electricity and internet

  • a dark, cool, shaded, location, away from windows and heat sources

  • or a cooled location, such as a room with an air vent, air extractor fan, air conditioner, etc.

Types of rooms that generally have all of these features may be locations such as an office, study, bedroom, spare room, garage, kitchen, or hobby room. Remembering that your mining PC will ideally be plugged in to power and running 24 hours a day, you may want to put it somewhere away from interference, where it can't be easily reached by children, pets, visitors, accidental spills, dirt, dust, liquids, and so on.

Some of these risks can be managed by the type of case you choose for your mining PC. If you're using a standard PC case, then everything except your fourth and subsequent GPUs will be contained inside a box. If you're using an open case, or a mining frame, then you'll need to be careful to keep interfering hands and objects away from your miner, including visiting hands, children, pets, flying objects, bugs, falling debris, small metal parts, liquids, and so on.

The ideal location may end up being in an air conditioned room on a high shelf, or in a cupboard in a laundry room, where heat and noise may be less of an issue. If you keep your mining PC in your bedroom, you may find that the 24/7 hum and fan noise may be distracting.

Recommended Mining PC Layout

In this build, we'll be building our recommended layout, which is a medium-sized mining PC with room for easy and rapid expansion.

This will require a moderate budget, and the purchase of middle-range components. We wont be building a cheap PC, and we wont be going way overboard either. We'll be staying in the middle, with a well-specified PC and give ourselves a dedicated mining PC motherboard, so we can rapidly add more GPUs for mining, without having to buy additional motherboards, power supplies, hard drives, and major components over and over again, unnecessarily.

We will start with two GPUs, show you how to add a third and fourth, and then after that, give you a roadmap to a mining PC with up to 13 GPUs and 5 power supplies.

Other Methods

There are of course other roads you could travel.

You could buy a standard PC motherboard that supports one or two GPUs.

You could buy a gaming PC motherboard that can support 1, 2, or 3 GPUs, at a lower cost than our recommended 13 GPU-capable mining motherboard. Depending on the size of your case, a gaming PC motherboard may be able to connect four GPUs.

You could base your mining PC on a TinkerBoard or a PicoPC platform, instead of a full size PC motherboard, by using a motherboard alternative such as the ASUS TinkerBoard, or a LattePanda Board, or a Raspberry Pi Board. The most friendly of these would be the LattePanda board, with the M.2 to PCIe add-on card, which would give you access to a 1x PCI Express slot, doe which you would need another adapter, and a riser cable, to connect a 16x long slot, into which you could host a single GPU. You could add more GPUs by obtaining a multi-1x-slot add-on card, giving you four or more 1x or 16x slots for additional GPUs.

You could also choose to base your mining PC on an old laptop that you may have lying around spare at home, eliminating the cost of buying a new motherboard, power supply, hard drive, RAM, and so on. However, the laptop would likely need one or more the following connections:

  • a USB version 3.0 or 3.1 port to connect an external GPU accessory

  • a Thunderbolt port to connect an external GPU accessory

  • an external graphics amplifier port (found mostly on Alienware brand laptops), or similar ports found on some Dell, HP and Lenovo laptops

  • or, the knowledge and confidence to take apart an old laptop to expose the motherboard, giving you access directly to the motherboard, so you can plug in to the PCIe bus, SATA (for power) and USB bus (for power and control), of some external devices. You may then be able to carefully re-assemble the laptop or modify its case, to allow the connector cords to come out the side of the case where you can plug in to them more easily.

Due to electrical safety concerns, we do not recommend any of the above options.

The Build

Moving forward with our build, in the next article, we'll be selecting our power supply, motherboard, RAM, GPU, HDD/SSD, case, software, and networking options.

We'll move on to assembling the mining PC, getting everything working as a regular Windows 10 PC, then making the changes necessary for a mining-specific PC.

After that, in Part 4, we'll give you a pathway in to adding a third and fourth GPU, increasing your hash rate, and generating more coins in less time. Next on the list, will be the skills required to add your fifth to 13th GPU, and the cabling, routing, power, connecting, and framing/storage required to hold 13 GPUs in place while connected to your mining motherboard.

It's not too hard...

It's really all not that hard, but it does take time, practice, perseverance, and a little luck.

Until next time,

Xavier Zymantas

XYZtech

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