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The World’s Most Pitiful Mining Rig

Originally written in January 2018 and reposted here.

This was my first ever hardware build of any kind and was a great learning experience.

Purpose

Last year I considered mining but felt like it was “too late”. I deeply regret that decision and this past month I decided to rectify my mistake. I have never put together a computer before and to be frank, I was very intimidated by all the odd combinations of letters and numbers in the names of the GPUs. But with the help of some friends and after doing a lot of research I was able to get started. I have learned so many things building this rig and I want to share what I have learned with other people who may also be interested in building a rig but don’t know where to start.

This post will go into detail about what you need in order to build a rig and will go into particular detail about what you need to know about GPUs and how to pick them out to suit your needs.

After everything was said and done, I looked at my mining rig and deemed it the World’s Most Pitiful Mining Rig because it looked so sad with only two GPUs zip tied to the shelf and the motherboard “mounted” on the box it came in. But even though it is pitiful, it has brought me an immense amount of joy.

What You Need For A Rig

It is important to keep your initial costs as low as possible so that you can make back a return sooner.

Motherboard
The motherboard is what connects everything together. It has several PCIe slots. These are the connection between the GPU and motherboard, so the number of PCIe slots equates to the number of GPUs you can connect to the board. I got a motherboard with 12 PCIe slots so I don’t have to deal with buying another motherboard and essentially another system for as long as possible.

I am using the Gigabyte GA-B250-FinTech LGA 1151 Intel ATX Cryptocurrency Mining 12PCIE 3.0 DDR4 Motherboard, $194.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)
Arguably, PSUs are becoming harder to find than GPUs. There are two things to take into consideration when buying a PSU: wattage and efficiency.

PSUs come in several wattages that they can support. For mining I would look for anything between 850W and up. The highest I have seen out there is 1500W.

An 850W PSU can support 4 GPUs whereas a 1200W PSU can support 6GPUs. So if you get a 12 slot PCie motherboard, you will need two 1200W PSUs to power the rig or three 850W PSUs. Two 1200W PSUs will take up less space and be cheaper than three 850W PSUs. The problem is that it is very hard to find any 1200W PSUs in stock at the time of writing this article.

You want to get one that is as efficient as possible (obviously), especially if you live in an area with high electricity costs. The efficiency of a PSU is indicated by a metal grading system. A Platinum 80 PLUS rating is very good, followed by gold, silver, and bronze. The efficiency difference between each of these is between 1.5–2% which may not seem like a lot, but when you are running a rig 24/7 those percentage points do add up. Also, make sure the power supply is the “80 PLUS”.

There is also titanium, which is even better than platinum but very hard to find in stock.

Corsair is a very good brand. Both the HXi and AX series are great choices for mining.

If you buy a Corsair PSU one more feature you will encounter is LINK compatibility. LINK compatibility is a Corsair feature that lets you tap directly into the PSU to see measurements like voltages and its current specifications. It sounds like a neat feature, but from people I have talked to it is an unnecessary one and no one really uses it even if they have it. It usually jacks up the PSU cost by around $20.

Ideally I would prefer two 1200W Platinum 80+ PSUs with no LINK compatibility, but sadly that is not going to happen with my first rig because I could not find one in stock.

I am using the 850W Corsair Platinum 80+ PSU with LINK capability, $190.

Central Processing Unit (CPU)
You don’t need a top of the line CPU.
I am using the Intel Core-i3–7100 7th Gen Core Desktop Processor 3M Cache, 3.90GHz, $115.

Random Access Memory (RAM)
8GB or 16GB is required. Make sure your motherboard memory matches your RAM. So if your motherboard is DDR4, your RAM must be as well.

I went with only 8GB of RAM knowing that as my rig grows I will need to upgrade eventually to 16GB. I just wanted to cut initial costs where I could.

I am using the Corsair LPX 8GB DDR4 DRAM 2133MHz C13, $106.

PCIe Risers
This is what your GPU sits on and then gets connected to the motherboard. If you just have 1 GPU you don’t need this because you can connect the single GPU directly to the board.

You can get two PCIe risers for around $20.

Solid State Drive (SSD)
I got a 60GB (yes, 60. I don’t know why 60 instead of 64 but it was 5 bucks cheaper so I didn’t ask any further questions) because I chose a light weight operating system. Lots of people mine with Windows 10 which is a great option. If you choose Windows 10 get at least a 128 GB SSD.

The 60GB SSD was $30.

Operating System
I chose ethOS, the light weight linux-based operating system. You can find out where to buy it from their website:
http://ethosdistro.com/
It is $39 and you can do a direct download on a separate hard drive and then put it on your SSD that will be used for mining, or you can pay $39 and get a USB with the distro shipped to your house.
Alternatively, it is open source so I am sure you can probably to find it for free somewhere.

Lots of people choose to mine on Windows 10 which is a very good choice because it is convenient and it is the only OS that allows you to easily mix AMD and NVIDIA GPUs which is awesome.

Personally, I just like Linux so that is a big factor as to why I am using ethOS.

Frame
For my janky rig I zip tied my GPUs on a $19 shelf from Home Depot, set the motherboard on top of the box it came in, and precariously placed the power supply on the lowest shelf wherever there was room. This really is not smart and is in no way a long term solution, but it works for now until I acquire what I need for the frame design I currently have floating around in my head.

You can buy fancy mining rig frames, they are usually a couple hundred bucks. Or you can make your own. Don’t use a classic computer chassis though, the GPUs will get too hot. The one exception would be if you have a single GPU and you take all the sides off the chassis to prevent overheating.

Ethernet Cable
An Ethernet cable is needed to connect your motherboard to your internet router.

Extension Cord (optional)
An extension cord is needed if the PSU cord is not long enough for your needs.

… and lastly …

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs)!!!

GPU Basics

There are two kinds of GPUs used for mining: AMD and NVIDIA. Several manufacturers produce these GPUs. Some of the best manufacturers are ASUS, EVGA, MSI, and Sapphire.

Only buy your GPUs from a well known sellers like Amazon or NewEgg. Do not buy from a third party seller on those sites and do not buy from eBay.

The GPU manufacturer’s tend to not like people using their GPUs to mine. This surprised me at first, but it does make sense because the GPUs see a lot of wear and tear because they are ran 24/7. Most GPUs are warrantied for 4 years in the US and the GPU is more liable to break in that time period under these conditions in comparison to being used for traditional gaming purposes. In China, they no longer warranty GPUs for this reason so those of us in the US should take advantage of the long warranty period while we can.

Not All GPUs Are Created Equal

Before mining, the largest application for GPUs was for gaming. There are features that are good for gaming but not needed for mining that a GPU can make it expensive. There are several generations of GPUs, but not all are good for mining. One of the main thing a miner cares about is the hash rate.

You can get more hashing power out of a GPU if you over clock it (denoted as OC in table below). Overclocking essentially means you are making the GPU output more hashing power than it was originally designed to do. To over clock a GPU you need to modify its BiOS. You do not want to overclock it too much though because it can overheat and break.

The following GPUs are usually the ones used for mining:

The other very important thing is that the GPU should be 6GB or higher. Avoid getting 4GB in most cases.

GPUs In Relation To Mining

The type of coin you want to mine determines which type of GPU you want to buy. To mine ETH you just want the cheapest GPU with the highest hash rate and the lowest power consumption. So given the above table, the 1070s and 580s are the best for ETH. If you want to mine Monero or ZCash, the 1080s and 1080TIs are actually the best. Different GPUs are better for different coins because of the differences in each coin’s algorithm. This is something that I am still learning about and cannot speak to in detail yet.

As previously stated, you cannot easily mix AMD’s and NVIDIA’s unless you are using Windows 10 for your OS. I am mining ETH and I chose to go with AMD because at the current moment the RX580s are much easier to get than the 1070s. There is usually at least one 580 model in stock on https://www.newegg.com/. This could change though because NVIDIA is coming out with a new generation in March. Depending if this new line is good or bad for mining it could create a higher demand for 580s. No one knows.

I currently have two RX580 GPUs. One is ASUS that I bought from a friend for $420, the other is MSI that I bought from NewEgg for $400. They are both 8GB.

A great resource to determine which coin is optimal to mine with a specific mix of GPUs is https://whattomine.com/. In the top two rows just enter the number of which ever GPU models you want to use, then your kWh electricity cost, and it will give you a fairly good estimate of how much you will net for a specific coin.

Final Product

Here it is again in all its glory.

Here is the very first picture of it (poor quality because it was late at night and my tiny apartment is very badly lit).

And here is a picture of it with one of my cats for scale.

2019 Update

Over the course of a year, I ended up adding 5 GPUs total to the rig and named her Miney. Unfortunately, because of different life circumstances, I had to give Miney up to my old roommate. But it is a happy story, because she is being very nicely taken care of and I hear she is getting quite the makeover.

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