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Experiment: Build a (Profitable) Ethereum Mining Rig From Spare Parts

Experiment: Build A (Profitable) Ethereum Mining Rig From Spare Parts

Ethereum’s mining difficulty is on the rise, and the crypto-currency's value seems to be on the decline thanks to so much mainstream attention. That's probably good news for gamers and general PC enthusiasts, but we also wondered if it's too late to get into crypto mining if you’re just trying to make a few extra bucks.

We recently explored the idea of building a mining rig at no cost, simply using older parts we had lying on the shelf. My colleague, Eric Vander Linden, cobbled together a competent mining rig with zero upfront costs. The “free miner” includes two R9 290X GPUs, which net roughly 57 MH/s. At the current difficulty rate, that rig should bring in a little more than half an Ether per month, which would be profitable as long as the price of Ethereum doesn’t dip below $100.

I also built a mining rig out of older components. Unlike Eric, I wasn’t worried about keeping the budget strictly at zero. I prioritized building the most powerful mining rig I could without buying specialty components. I was also interested in building an efficient miner to maximize profits. Still, I set my sights on something somewhat more exotic. Serious mining rigs often feature a half dozen graphics cards, or more, and I have the distinct advantage of a collection of older graphics cards packed away from past reviews and a handful of current generation GPUs I use for VR testing.

In total, I have 17 graphics cards that could work for mining—11 cards with AMD GPUs, and six cards with Nvidia GPUs. Unless you’re a hardware hoarder who never sells older parts, you probably won’t have such an advantage. A build like this wouldn't be free for most people, but we'd wager a few of you have some semblance of hardware sitting around anyway.

Regardless, I'm going to pick up where Eric left off. With a stack of graphics cards at hand, I am ready to go down the mineshaft. Will this be a fool's errand, or is there still gold to be found? Let's find out.


MORE: The Ethereum Effect: Graphics Card Price Watch


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  • badirontree
    THis is an EXTRA geto build :D
    Reply
  • badirontree
    *Ghetto
    Reply
  • bloodroses
    Next, add a Solar Panel/battery setup so you can get off the power grid. It will save you even more money.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    Interesting read. Unfortunately for me, I don't have the luxury of hanging to test products (for free, especially)... then again I don't have anything to test, beyond what I grab for my own use. I've got old hardware, but only one GPU with more than a Gig of RAM and I need that for my everyday driver.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    Believe it or not, the Power Color RX 480, which is otherwise a very efficient mining card, dumps more heat into the room than any other GPU in this roundup. After a little more than 10 minutes of mining, the card reaches nearly 80°C.
    That's not how it works...
    There is not a direct relationship between GPU temperature and heat output (it also depends on the cooling solution). There is a direct relationship between power draw and heat output (they're equal). R9 390(X) are going to heat up your room significantly more than a 480.
    Reply
  • doktorv
    If you live in a hot region and use air conditioning, you actually consume more than double the listed electricity because the heat being produced in the computer has to be subsequently removed by the air conditioning, which is not 100% efficient. Texas might seem to be attractive for mining because the electricity is cheap, but if you do the full energy calculation you'll realize it's only worthwhile in the winter.
    Reply
  • Blake_24
    If you would plan to run this for a longer time, you should try to lower the clock speed on the GPU core to lower power consumption and increase the memory clock speed to increase hash rate. Since Ethereum is not very dependent on the core clock and basically only the memory clock it would make performance better while also increase the profit margin
    Reply
  • AnimeMania
    Could you write an article about how the cryptocurrencies get the money to pay to their miners. What they do with all the computations your graphic cards are making and if every time they increase the difficulty of mining a coin, does the additional calculations produce something of value or just create busy work. How safe is it allow somebody you don't know to have unlimited, unmonitored access to you computer.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    20064386 said:
    If you live in a hot region and use air conditioning, you actually consume more than double the listed electricity because the heat being produced in the computer has to be subsequently removed by the air conditioning, which is not 100% efficient.
    Yes, you need additional power to remove the heat via AC, but it's not double. An AC unit does not take 1 W to remove 1W of heat.
    Reply
  • JoeMomma
    Thanks. I needed that.
    Now if only they could rig a hamster wheel to a generator to help pay the electric bill.
    Reply