For two years, I owned a cryptomining machine and didn’t even know it.
I have two of the most powerful graphics cards you can buy: the GTX 1080, which I then upgraded to the GTX 1080 Ti. And they just so happen to be some of the best graphics cards for mining cryptocurrencies.
Cryptomining is the process of solving complex problems to verify digital transactions using computer hardware – in this case, a graphics card. Miners can either create a cryptocurrency or get paid for their processing power in a cryptocurrency.
Those graphics cards cost me a pretty penny, even if I bought them before the massive graphics-card price hikes caused by cryptominers buying them up. And when I wasn’t gaming, my GTX 1080 and GTX 1080 Ti just lay there, doing nothing, not making me money.
No more. One day, I decided to try mining cryptocurrency with them.
I was making some profit at first, but not very much. So I got curious. What if I added more graphics cards? How much could I make?
Check out my new messy mining-rig experiment to see how much in bitcoin I’m making.
Why not just buy cryptocurrency instead of mining it?
I could just buy cryptocurrencies instead of mining. But that means I’d be paying for it.
My goal here is to amass as much bitcoin as possible for less than I can buy it at market price – within my means, of course.
And if I’m making a profit, even if it’s not exactly huge, why not? Just so long as it covers the cost of the electricity it uses, as well as the extra parts I bought for the experiment. The moment mining becomes more expensive than buying the cryptocurrency, I’ll stop.
What I’m not doing is mining bitcoin so I can immediately turn it into cash.
I just want a stockpile of bitcoin that I can do whatever I want with.
Here’s my mining setup.
I have two separate mining setups: a dedicated mining rig in the basement of my house, and the gaming PC in my office. Here are the parts – graphics cards – I’m using that are integral to the mining process:
• 1 GTX 1080 Ti in my gaming PC
• 1 GTX 1080 in the mining rig
• 3 GTX 1060 6 GB in the mining rig
I already own the GTX 1080 Ti and the GTX 1080, which I used for playing games on my PC, so those aren’t factored into my “investment” in bitcoin mining.
For my costs, I’m factoring in only the extra parts I bought as part of my mining experiment, which include the three GTX 1060 graphics cards, a cheap processor, a cheap motherboard, and a power supply.
All the extra mining parts come to a total of $US1,601, which I’ll need to recoup via mining.
It’s not the prettiest mining rig, but it’s in the experimental stage, so I’m not taking the time to make it look good as long as it performs the way it’s supposed to.
Some miners make their rigs look beautifully organised, like this one:
I started where anyone would when embarking on a new project: Google and Reddit.
After a few minutes of research, I found a piece of software for Windows called NiceHash that was called the “easy button” for mining. It seemed like a good place to start.
What is NiceHash?
NiceHash is like a marketplace with buyers and sellers, and it’s all dealt with bitcoin.
• Buyers on NiceHash make offers in bitcoin for the processing power – or “hashing power” – of a seller’s graphics cards.
• NiceHash will automatically switch the seller’s hashing power to mine for the buyer with the highest offer, so it’s a competitive market for the buyers.
• Since bitcoin is the most valuable cryptocurrency at the moment, I chose to use NiceHash instead of mining others like ether.
It’s also worth noting that NiceHash takes a small cut of the seller’s profits.
I installed NiceHash on my computer, set up an account, and pressed a button. Just like that, I was mining.
I also tweaked the settings of my graphics cards to make them run faster — but tweaking them too much can be risky.
Using software that can tweak the settings of a graphics card, I can make each card mine faster, resulting in slightly more bitcoin!
That said, I can potentially damage my expensive graphics cards if I set the settings too high. A broken card would mean slower mining, and the card itself would essentially become a $US400 paperweight.
The GIF below is a bit of an exaggeration of what can happen, but you get the idea.
I also have to keep my graphics cards cool so they don’t break.
Electronics hate heat, and they wear out faster when they’re exposed to lots of heat for extended periods.
It’s almost as if cryptomining were designed to break graphics cards – miners usually run their graphics cards for 24 hours, and the process creates a lot of heat.
To keep the cards cool, I set the built-in fans to run at a pretty high speed. At the same time, I don’t want to run them too fast, as I could wear them out. It’s a balancing act with heat and fan speed.
How much bitcoin am I making?
With my current setup using NiceHash, I’m making 0.0015 bitcoin a day.
Compared with some larger mining operations that can make several whole coins a day, that’s the mining equivalent of looking for loose change on the footpath. At bitcoin’s current value of about $US8,200, it’s about $US12 a day, or about $US4,500 a year.
But again, I’m not really looking at the dollar value of bitcoin unless it dips to the point where it’s more expensive to mine than it is to buy.
My profits versus my electricity bill.
Graphics cards use up a lot of electricity while mining, and it’s a significant cost to factor in when you’re gauging whether mining is worth it.
I live in an area with somewhat high electricity costs. The total daily cost of electricity to run my setup is $US5.32. That’s $US1,945 a year.
Subtract that from the $US4,500 in yearly mining revenue, and you’ve got roughly $US2,555 in gross profit.
But then I have to make up the cost of my equipment.
So by making roughly $US2,555 a year through mining (at the current price of bitcoin), I’m on track to pay off the extra parts I bought for mining in about 230 days.
Subtracting the $US1,601 I spent on the extra parts from that $US2,555 of gross profit amounts to about $US954 in net profit for the year.
As long as I’m making a profit, I’m essentially getting bitcoin for free and paying off extra mining parts. When that’s no longer the case, it’s time to stop mining and potentially sell my extra parts online.
There’s a gamble.
I just hope I make up the cost of my extra parts before bitcoin’s value decreases so significantly that I have to stop mining. Still, I can sell the parts online to recoup some of the expenses.
So how much have I made so far?
I have amassed almost 0.02 bitcoin in about two weeks of mining. That’s about $US0.02 worth of one bitcoin, for a total of $US165 before the cost of electricity.
Take away the $US75 in electricity costs, and I’ve made $US90 in two weeks. But I’m not counting that as profit until I pay off those extra parts I bought for the experiment.
Should you do it? Maybe. But probably not.
If you already have a gaming PC with a GTX 1060 (6 GB) graphics card or better, or the equivalent in AMD’s graphics cards, go for it! Just consider the electrical costs by calculating how much power your PC uses and how much your electricity company charges.
I used a power meter that plugs into an outlet to figure out how much electricity my rigs were using while mining, and I checked my bill to see how much my electricity company charges per month.
Otherwise, should you spend money on more mining parts? I wouldn’t advise it for the average person. There’s a lot to consider, like the uncertainty of bitcoin’s value – and there’s the risk that the extra graphics cards you buy will become less efficient at mining when newer models are released.
When more-powerful graphics cards are released, miners increasingly replace their older models. The difficulty of the crypto problems that mining solves starts to increase, and the older graphics cards become less efficient and slower at solving them, all while consuming the same amount of electricity.
If you wanted to keep an efficient mining setup, you’d have to sell your old cards and buy the newer models, which is, understandably, not something everyone is willing to get into.
Plus, it’s a very slow way of making money, if that’s what you’re after – unless you’re planning on running a vast cryptomining organisation.
But if you love tinkering with PC parts and regularly keep on top of the crypto market, you could give it a try.
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