Let’s be honest: mining Bitcoin is not straightforward. If you jumped into this article hoping to find the right ASIC-miner to buy, it will be here, but only with some huge caveats. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s start in the beginning.
How does one mine Bitcoin? Bitcoin is mined by doing lots of calculations on a computer. Bitcoin is susceptible to a device called an ASIC, meaning Application Specific Integrated Circuit. This means that from a relatively early point in Bitcoin’s history, it could only be effectively mined by using these specialized devices. ASIC miners are the best bitcoin miner because they are dedicated to exclusively this purpose.
Why is the best way to mine Bitcoin not the best way to get Bitcoin?
ASIC-miners mine Bitcoin faster than any other kind of mining rig. These devices can be had for prices as low as $186.19 (4TH AntMiner). They will mine Bitcoin more effectively than any other cryptocurrency rig. However, because Bitcoin mining is so popular and specialized, it is very hard to make money with it. Check out this profitability calculator; it reveals that the $186.19 AntMiner will actually lose you money just to run, about $47 a month. On the other hand, the 13TH model will earn you a mere $13 a month. The calculator says you can break even 80 months later as a best case scenario. A more likely scenario is that difficulty will increase as new miners and mining technology enter the picture. Hence, mining Bitcoin directly is a difficult path to profit.
This leaves two options: cloud mining, and mining other coins & trading into Bitcoin. Cloud mining is risky business and generally not celebrated by the community as they against the decentralized tenets of cryptocurrency. Most people feel that cloud mining is at worst unprofitable and at best, completely fraudulent. Here’s the basic critique of cloud mining: “If I have a magic money-making machine, why would I let you rent it from me at a price less than the amount of money produced?” There’s at least one good argument against this and it’s that contracting out with investors means less risk (since fiat is more stable than crypto), but the question then becomes: less risk for who? It is less risk for the miners to take your money, but it’s not less risk for you. Now you’re out money and waiting on a service to deliver your crypto. What if they don’t?
Mining other alternative cryptocurrencies and then trading into Bitcoin is the only real option. For some, alternative cryptocurrencies are worth holding in their own right. Personally, I discovered the new memecoin, Garlicoin, and have found mining it to be fun. I was around (and am in fact, cited on Wikipedia) when Dogecoin came into existence so there is some financial promise in mining a memecoin. Had I held my 200,000 dogecoin, they would’ve reached a peak value of around $2,000. Not too shabby for what I pulled off just using my CPU.
All that out of the way, here’s five solutions that may help you on your way to mining alternative currencies and trading them into Bitcoin, something you can do automatically using Nicehash, an app that figures out the best crypto to mine and mines it for you. The thesis of this post is simple: the best bitcoin miner doesn’t mine Bitcoin at all.
Disclaimer: Cryptocurrency mining and investing is very risky.
1. Install a Graphics Card in Your Current Desktop
If you’re reading this and you’re not on a phone, chances are you already have the requisite machine to host a graphics card. The good news is that installing a graphics card isn’t particularly expensive to have done nor very difficult to do yourself (depending on your PC’s case). The problem with this option, however, is that graphics cards are in extremely short supply, the aforementioned drought. Be sure to check out Amazon for GTX 1060s, 1070s, and 1080s. That said, in recent history, Amazon has had very few of these cards available. Be wary of the prices of cards that are available. A GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080 normally go for around $400, $500 and $600 respectively. The more you pay, the more time for you to get your return on investment.
Here’s some information on how to install a graphics card.
2. Get an External GPU
IF your laptop or desktop has a Thunderbolt 3 port, you can install an external graphics card. These cards work just the same as internal cards and are effortless to install. The Aorus 1070 EGPU is one of the best deals because it’s around $600 and that’s about the price of a GTX 1070, which it includes inside. As a mild disclaimer, in theory, one could find a GTX 1070 for as low as $450, but this is rare given the high demand.
Therefore, this is the easiest way to add a lot of mining power to your setup with minimal technical difficulty. Here’s how you can check to see if you have Thunderbolt 3.
3. Buy a New Desktop With a Graphics Card (or Two)
In terms of return on investment, this option clearly has a serious disadvantage: significantly higher cost. That said, if you happen to be in the market for a new PC, this is a good way to get the graphics card itself at a normal price. You can check out our full article about this topic here, The Top 5 Best Desktops For Mining Cryptocurrency.
4. Install an Additional Graphics Card in Your Desktop (Sometimes possible, but not always)
If you have a large desktop case, you can look into throwing a second graphics card into your machine. For instance, my computer allows for the installation of a second “mini” graphics card. It’s possible that yours allows for a second card or a second mini card; the mini cards are said to perform comparably to the full size cards, perhaps 5% slower or so. In terms of size, they are about half as big and only have one fan. If your PC allows for it, you can install this card fairly easy, but again, you will be faced with the problem of actually acquiring a graphics card at a reasonable price, which is difficult. Still, in terms of efficiency, this is the cheapest way to go, and thus the best bitcoin miner indirectly.
Check out the available mini graphics cards here.
5. CPU Mining Because Why Not (Get started now!)
Mining from your CPU is possible though it isn’t necessarily profitable. In fact, it’s almost certain to be less profitable than just investing money into crypto. For instance, I have an i7-7700K processor, close to the top of the line for four core processors, maybe about 30% less fast than similar models (I’m dreaming of the 8700K obviously). It mines Garlicoin at 30 kilohashes a second. My GTX 1070, however, mines at over 300 kilohashes a second. You don’t need to know what a hash is to know that that’s 10 times faster. Because of this, CPU mining simply isn’t effective. Still, if you want to try it, here’s a guide to doing it with Garlicoin (though you can CPU mine many cryptocurrencies). CPU mining is largely an exercise in “hey, I technically mined,” but as I said before, I mined some Dogecoin successfully with my CPU (though I likely had an integrated graphics card of some sort) so it may be possible to come out on top.
Another reason to CPU-mine is well, if it’s your only option. Some people are extremely hesitant (or unable) to use cryptocurrency exchanges to buy crypto. In this case, taking a loss on profit (due to electricity costs) may be the best way to access obtain any cryptocurrency at all. After all, mined coins appreciate just the same as coins one buys on an exchange; it’s just much harder to accrue a sizable investment. If you’re someone who’s interested, check out this forum post which lists some other coins that may be worth it for CPU mining.