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How To Mine Ethereum Now

The Components You Need To Build A Low-Cost Ethereum Mining Rig

Nothing was purchased for this article. Everything comes from either my old test benches or my personal stock. As such, calling this "part selection" isn't terribly accurate. Admittedly my old parts might be slightly higher quality and faster than the spare parts of the average computer enthusiast. However, this miner is not stored away at the Tom's Hardware offices. It's running in my own home. Using power I pay for. Dumping heat into rooms I sleep in. Making noise I have to listen to. In other words, it's not a purely hypothetical thought experiment. I can report on what it's like to actually live with one of these systems.

Configuration

Intel Pentium G3258View Deal

Cooler Master HAF XB EVOView Deal

GPUs – PowerColor 290X

I have two R9 290X GPUs from past Z97 and X99 test beds. This may seem like something of a cheat, but it's perfectly plausible that someone would have upgraded a CrossFire 290X setup to a 1070 or 1080 last year. The fact that one of them is liquid cooled is also not far-fetched. I'm simply building a rig with what I have on my shelf. I'll discus overall performance and profitability later. For simplicity, I'll refer to the liquid-cooled 290X as GPU 1 and the air-cooled model as GPU 2.

CPU – Intel Pentium G3258

Mining CPU overhead is quite low, so a weaker CPU is perfectly adequate. For miners buying new rigs, the cheaper CPUs not only save on initial costs, they also save on power draw, thus lowering the power bill. In my case, I have the G3258 I used in my H81 and B85 motherboard reviews. It's actually a little more powerful than is strictly necessary.

Motherboard – Asus Maximus VII Gene

This board is, at once, both overkill and a poor performer for a miner. As a microATX board, it lacks the extra card slots most miners want. It's also far more expensive and performance oriented than any miner would want. However, since I'm not using any PCIe riser cables, it's just fine for my two GPUs. The single spacing for double-slot cards would normally be a problem for adequately cooling the dual 290X graphics card setup. However since GPU 1 is liquid cooled, it has no problem being squished behind GPU 2. The air-cooled card will be on the bottom in an open case, giving it plenty of breathing room. The only other motherboards I have on hand are X99 and the Z68 in my personal machine, so this one is the best choice.

RAM – Patriot Viper DDR3 16GB

This is one of the leftover kits from the Z97 motherboard reviews. It's far more RAM than needed, but again, I'm using parts already on hand. If you wanted to be really strict on power consumption, you could use a single module. For this guide and the mining software we used, you'll need 4GB of RAM bare minimum. If you want to mine long term, 8GB is recommended.

"Hard Drive" – Adata 32GB USB 3.0 Drive

Strangely enough--or perhaps not--spare hard drives are one of the few things I don't have in abundance. The old system drive on one computer tends to get converted to a storage drive when I upgrade. I do have an abundance of portable flash drives, however. I have plenty of SD cards, but all my reader adapters are USB 2.0 only. Clearing off a rarely used USB 3.0 drive gives me a little extra read and write speed and also some extra space to experiment. Still, even a 16GB drive is more than big enough for the end product.

Power Supply – Antec HCP 1200W

Here's the sticky bit. While you may upgrade your motherboard, CPU, GPU, and storage, quality power supplies are something we all tend to carry over between builds. Even if you do have a good PSU available, it's unlikely to be capable of running multiple GPUs at full tilt. The 1200W model here comes from the X99 test bed. While it's just under half load with this particular system, even hobbyist miners can easily pull 600W – 800W from the wall. Of all the parts used in my "free" miner, this is the most unrealistic.

Case – HAF xB Evo

Mining systems consume lots of power and put off just as much heat. Most are not in an enclosure of any kind, but are instead on open beds or even custom made frames. I didn't want to buy anything new, and didn't feel like exercising my carpentry and fabrication skills. I run my xB Evo case without any panels on it, so airflow isn't an issue. It also makes things easy since the X99 cooling loop, which includes GPU 1, is already mounted to the case.

Cooling – Custom liquid loop and various fans

As previously mentioned, I'm using the same case and liquid loop used for X99 reviews. This is for convenience and speed, not because it's necessary for the whole build. GPU 1 came with a water block direct from the manufacturer; I don't have an air cooler to mount on it. I'm also using an mATX motherboard, which wouldn't accommodate two regular 290X cards because the coolers on them tend to be 2.5 slots thick.

Because I already have to use liquid cooling, I decided to save the time and not break the loop apart. This means the lowly 53W TDP Pentium is being cooled with an EKWB Supremacy Evo water block and two radiators (one dual 140mm, one triple 120mm, both 40mm thick). Ridiculous, I know. Had I a larger motherboard for better GPU spacing and two air-cooled GPUs, I could have easily gotten away with a stock Intel heatsink alone for the CPU.

OS – Lubuntu 16.04 LTS

Extra hardware may be common on parts shelves, but it's not fair to expect anyone to have an extra copy of Windows on hand. Since I'm going for a "free" mining rig, using a truly free operating system seemed like the way to go. Linux can also be installed and run from a removable USB drive, something Windows 10 doesn't allow. The flavor I went with is Lubuntu. It's a stripped-down version of the Ubuntu distribution, meant to be extremely lightweight for use on older computers and netbooks with low processing power. As such it's extremely small, needing less than 8GB of space for a full installation. Running the machine off a USB drive means slower performance for generic system tasks and responsiveness, but it has zero impact on crypto mining.


MORE: The Ethereum Effect: Graphics Card Price Watch


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  • rush21hit
    Us mere mortals wouldn't have an R9 290X level of card lying idle. Heck, suppose we do have unused GPU it would be something from 2 gen before it and a mainstream oran entry level card of its time at that, at the very least.

    That said, I do have HD7750 and HD6670 on a closet somewhere, only its from HIS with a common HIS problems; the fan.

    So suppose anyone does have some mainstream or high level card at least the level of HD5850, as an example, they'd still faced with power bill issue, which in some case outweigh the profit. As we all know how much of a sucker old gens are compared to what we have now. That is assuming they are somehow emotionally attached to it and not decided to sell it, even after buying later gen.

    This article still has a point. But a very unlikely one.
    Reply
  • Neuspeed
    This article didn't address the mining difficulty of Ethereum. At this point, is not a good idea to mine ethereum unless people have hash rates in the GH/s or at least MH/s. It's better to mine other alt coins such as: XMR, LTC, and many others. Overstock.com will now accept 40+ different Altcoins as form of payment. Won't be long before other companies do as well.
    Reply
  • why_wolf
    As with every gold rush. The real profit lies in selling shovels.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    20050808 said:
    Us mere mortals wouldn't have an R9 290X level of card lying idle. Heck, suppose we do have unused GPU it would be something from 2 gen before it and a mainstream oran entry level card of its time at that, at the very least.
    I think you read this wrong. I didn't write this saying "These are the exact steps and parts list you need." It's simply saying, "Here's a basic idea you can possibly adapt to your own circumstances." No, not everyone has a 290X in storage. But a lot of people do. My current "leftover" GPU is an R9 280. That's plenty strong for some hobbyist mining.

    20050808 said:
    So suppose anyone does have some mainstream or high level card at least the level of HD5850, as an example, they'd still faced with power bill issue, which in some case outweigh the profit.
    All of which I cover fairly extensively in the last page, or did you not bother reading the whole thing?

    20050808 said:
    As we all know how much of a sucker old gens are compared to what we have now. That is assuming they are somehow emotionally attached to it and not decided to sell it, even after buying later gen.
    You're attributing much too broad a brush to people. There are plenty of reasons to keep around leftover computer parts, other than sentimentality. You might want a backup incase your new hardware gets damages, is a lemon, etc. You might hang on to some stuff because you've got friends or family that might want it when they finally decide to ditch their current dinosaurs.

    20050808 said:
    This article still has a point. But a very unlikely one.
    Never said it didn't have a few restrictions, was only saying it is possible.


    20050892 said:
    This article didn't address the mining difficulty of Ethereum.
    Actually, I did talk quite a bit about the rising hash difficulty. Did you not read the last page? Did you not see on the front page where I talked about the ballooning DAG files making it harder to use older mainstream GPUs ( since most of them are 2GB VRAM or less )?

    20050892 said:
    At this point, is not a good idea to mine ethereum unless people have hash rates in the GH/s or at least MH/s.
    You don't need a GH/s rig to do it, as I've already demonstrated. It may not be hugely profitable, but you can make a little at it even using something as lowly as a 4GB 1050 Ti.


    20050951 said:
    As with every gold rush. The real profit lies in selling shovels.
    Too true. Just ask Sylvester McMonkey McBean.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    20050951 said:
    As with every gold rush. The real profit lies in selling shovels.

    Yup those that got rich are the ones selling the mining equipment! :lol:
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    As much as I despise miners and the very idea of cryptocurrency, I found this article interesting and a little enlightening why people are getting into it late in the game. Even if ETH crashes and burns tomorrow, eventually there will be another to take its place. I don't see this cycle changing anytime soon either unless governments get involved and start banning mining in their nations.
    Reply
  • 10tacle
    Oh and one more thing: not all is bad for we PC gamers. Those of us who have previous generation GPUs have enjoyed watching the values of said cards go up. A friend of mine sold his 8GB RX 470 for $320 on eBay last month, or nearly $100 more than he paid for it. I sold my SLI pair of GTX 970s for $420 or about $120 more than they were worth combined a few months ago. We both upgraded to a GTX 1080Ti with the spoils.
    Reply
  • derekullo
    What about integrated graphics cards?

    From what I'm reading the Intel HD Graphics 630 can address up to 64 gigabytes of ram allowing you technically keep mining even after the Geforce 1070 is forced out when the DAG finally exceeds 8 gigabytes.

    Or is there hash rate efficiency not high enough to offset the electricity used for the Intel HD Graphics 630?

    My reason for asking is I have a lot of computers not being used but without graphics cards.
    Reply
  • Math Geek
    thanks for the article. i'll be pointing the 100 users a day in the forum asking about getting into mining toward this article. good basic info that can be easily adapted to individual users.
    Reply
  • LalitMUFC
    Very nice article. Can you provide guide for part-time mining on my gaming rig?
    Reply