Let’s first see how Ethereum works:
Ethash, the mining algorithm
The algorithm used by Ethereum to confirm a proof of work (PoW) is Ethash. While Bitcoin relies on SHA-256 and Litecoin on SCrypt. Estash has the distinction of preventing mining from dedicated ASICs.
The SHA-256 and SCrypt algorithms require a great deal of computation, so the ASICs are much more efficient than the graphics cards and possibly the computer processors. Ethash is more dependent on the power of memory (bandwidth, latency, frequencies). Therefore, graphics cards with their VRAM fast memory are perfect for mining Ethereum.
Epoch, the block level
Ethereum mining consists into the creation of a file called Directed Acyclic Graph (DAG). At each transaction, the ETH blocks accumulate and the file grows. It gains in weight at each level crossed, that is to say every 30,000 blocks. It is called Epoch, this level can take a hundred hours to be reached. This DAG is stored in the VRAM. At a certain time it exceeds 2 GB, which is why graphics cards that do not have enough memory are not enough powerful to mine this digital currency. At the moment the Epoch DAG can reach level 207, graphics cards with 3 GB of VRAM are no longer compatible. The maximum size of the DAG continues to grow. To be able to mine over the next 12 months, it is better to invest in graphics cards that have more than 3 GB of VRAM. You will still be able to put the one with only 3 GB and less to mine other cryptocurrencies based on Ethash with smaller DAGs and the mining will be less greedy.
In practice :
Creating an Ether Portfolio
1. You must first create a wallet, ie an Ether wallet. For this go to Coinbase, create your account, check your identity and address. Then click on Accounts > Wallet in ETH> Receive > Show address, it will display the address of your Ether portfolio.
2. Or if you do not like the previous service, there is one more free, but without conventional access, less secure, it is MyEtherWallet. You must first create a password, then you will receive a public key, a private key that you will have to save on an external hard drive. Then you need to connect through MetaMask, an extension for Chrome, you will be entitled to an address for your wallet (example: 0x20Dba955294Aa5484C0e10b …). You are not forced to log in each time to find out what your balance is. You can go to sites such as EtherChain or EtherScan and enter the wallet address in the search bar.
Difficulty of mining Ether nowadays
You have to know that 27 months ago, it took 3 days to get 1 ETH. 17 months ago, it took 10 days to get a unit. 9 months ago, it took 1 month. 4 months ago, it took 5 months. And now, it takes twelve months! At the moment, the Ether is on the Proof of Work system that requires the GPU; it could soon move to a Proof of Stake system, with other kind blockchains that will further complicate the mining.
You need a computer and as mentioned above at least one graphics card with 4 GB of VRAM. It takes a minimum of finance to be able to pay the annual electricity costs if you have a rig (a computer) on which is plugged 5 or 6 graphics cards, as this can go up to 850-900 dollars per year.
Inherent risks in mining
There are risks on many levels. Already if you have a rig with a multitude of graphics cards, it can catch fire. It’s rare but it’s not impossible. You must have a fire extinguisher nearby. Also always be present on the scene when the rig is active. There is the risk of investing in equipment, in energy costs, which would not bear fruit. Then the risk of having our coins stolen on an exchange platform, on a digital wallet service. To have the blockchain hacked and our tokens go to another address. To be a victim of phishing and also to have our coins stolen. Graphics cards can die as they are constantly on load, they produce constant heat; especially if you have bought them second-handed.
Drivers for graphics cards
Warning, the latest graphics card drivers reduce the performance of mining. It is recommended to uninstall them and replace them with old drivers. For example Catalyst 15.11 for AMD R9, Catalyst 16.12.2 for AMD RX. You can also test the mining drivers developed by AMD, namely the Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition beta drivers for Blockchain Compute. Disabling the SLI / Crossfire helps increase the hashrate.
The software of the moment is Claymore Dual Miner (full name: Claymore’s Dual Ethereum + Decred/Siacoin/Lbry/Pascal AMD+NVIDIA GPU Miner). It allows to mine two blockchains at the same time, namely Ethereum and one of the other blockchains proposed in its title. It is better to only mine the Ethereum.
Then open Notepad and copy paste these lines to mine with all your graphics cards:
cmd /K “start /B EthDcrMiner64.exe -epool URL_POOL:PORT_POOL -ewal YOUR_WALLET -eworker WORKER_NAME -epsw x” pause
Or these if you only want to mine with your second card:
cmd /K “start /B EthDcrMiner64.exe -epool URL_POOL:PORT_POOL -ewal YOUR_WALLET -eworker WORKER_NAME -epsw x -di 1” pause
You will need to replace URL_POOL, PORT_POOL and YOUR_WALLET with your own information (see below for the pool). You can leave WORKER_NAME as it is, it does not matter. Save the file in the Claymore Dual Miner software folder, with the name LAUNCH.bat.
Be part of a pool.
It is necessary to be part of a pool to mine nowadays. Unless you have a giant mining farm. The goal is to find blocks and share them with the pool. No registration is required to enter a pool. In order to participate, all you have to do is to connect to the pool server, identify yourself with your wallet; you will then be able to see the fruits of your work. What you need to consider is what is the remuneration of the pool, how long it takes to access to the statistics. We only get the balance indicated on the pool page when we have reached a certain level and in exchange of a fee.
The biggest pool of the moment is DwarfPool. It pays each actor of the blockchain each hour in their pool with a pro rata of their participation on the blocks found, while taking 1% of payment fees. The mining is done anonymously, no account is necessary. To mine on this pool, we will have to indicate this information URL_POOL = eth-eu.dwarfpool.com, and PORT_POOL = 8008, in the LAUNCH.bat file lines. The stats are updated after a quarter of an hour, we can see them at this address: http://dwarfpool.com/eth/address?wallet=YOUR_WALLET.
There is also Ethermine, with similar functioning and 1% of payment fees. Anonymous mining. Data to enter: URL_POOL = eu1.ethermine.org or eu2.ethermine.org, and PORT_POOL = 4444 or 14444. Statistics address: http://ethermine.org/miners/YOUR_WALLET.
Nanopool, on its side, pays only 4 times a day. Payment fee of 1%. Anonymous mining. Data to specify: URL_POOL = eth-eu1.nanopool.org or eth-eu2.nanopool.org, PORT_POOL = 9999. Address of stats: http://eth.nanopool.org/account/YOUR_WALLET.
Increase the number of hashrates
If your hash rate is abnormally low, you can increase it by modifying the bat file. Just add these lines at the very beginning:
setx GPU_FORCE_64BIT_PTR 0 setx GPU_MAX_HEAP_SIZE 100 setx GPU_USE_SYNC_OBJECTS 1 setx GPU_MAX_ALLOC_PERCENT 100 setx GPU_SINGLE_ALLOC_PERCENT 100
Then after “start”:
This will force the mining on the second core of the graphics card.
Creating a big rig
If you have the means, it may be interesting to invest in a rig with an adapted motherboard that offers several PCI Express 1x slots. The ASRock H81 Pro BTC R2.0 mobo offers 5 additional slots. With a cheap processor such as the Intel Celeron G1840 (only 53W of TDP!), 4 GB of DDR3 memory (example among the least expensive: Corsair CMV4GX3M1A1333C9 Value Select 4GB), a small SSD of 32 GB (the Transcend TS32GSSD370S SSD Internal SATA III 32 GB is affordable, it has good read and write speeds). If you have trouble running more than 3 GPUs on Windows, you can upgrade to Linux. Simplemining OS and ethOS Mining OS have been especially created for mining; the first is free (with fees on your hash), while the second is paid. There are others like NVOC, and KopiemTu, that were produced for NVIDIA cards. It is best to leave the computer equipment outside of a housing because of the heat generated. Especially during summer. During this time, the hashing rate will have to be reduced to increase the life expectancy of GPUs.
On the Internet, we often see graphics cards away from the main part of the computer. They are not directly clipped on the motherboard. In fact, we use PCI-E Risers to put them on metal shelves a little further. Thus the heat dissipates a little more easily.
When choosing the power supply for the rig, you have to know that the computer itself consumes 150W and then you have to add 170W per graphics card. So for 6 graphics cards, that gives us a total of 1170W. The Corsair HX1200 power supply delivers up to 1200W, and has a Platinum certification (it transmits the electricity very well, avoiding too much wastage), it’s perfect. Otherwise, we can work with smaller power supplies (slightly cheaper) with 750W of power supply, like the Corsair TX750M which is Gold (certification similar to Platinum); it will simply require an adapter cable that will activate the second power supply when the computer is running, like this one: Thermaltake Cable Adapter Double 24 Pin Double Power Supply.
Which graphics card?
The most powerful graphics card in terms of Watts per MH/s is the MSI Radeon RX 560 Aero ITX 4G OC. It generates 11 MH/s, which is not terrible, but its power consumption is only 40 Watts once in action. It’s simply a record! This card will be fine if you want to make mining profits as soon as possible.
But the most used card in the cryptocurrency lately is rather the MSI RX 480 GAMING X 8G. It produces on average 27 MH/s with 160W of TDP. It is a much higher power consumption. However miners in cryptocurrency prefer to favour the hasrate. The goal is to cumulate as many coins as possible while the mining is still easy. Electricity consumption is seen as an investment.