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Bitcoin Mining Hardware Basics
When building a Bitcoin mining rig the thing you have to keep in mind is the whole thing is more or less a life support system for the graphics card that you’re going to put into it.
- Properly configured, a Bitcoin mining rig uses little CPU but pushes the graphics card (where all of the fancy Bitcoin math happens) to the limit!
- You must use an ATI graphics card! Other cards, such as nVidia lack the GPU instructions Bitcoin requires.
- You must ensure that you motherboard has one or more PCIE 16x slots.
- You can really skimp on CPU power and hard disk space.
- A heavy-duty power supply in the 1000W range is a must, without it your graphics card won’t work!
- System memory (RAM) can be modest but should not be below 2GB in most cases.
Selecting a Motherboard
Lets start with the motherboard. I was extremely
tempted to find a dual or triple PCIe 16x motherboard. However, most of these boards are quite expensive at the time of this writing. So, I went with the Zotac GeForce 6100 Micro-ATX AMD Motherboard GF6100-F-E which has only 1 PCIe 16x slot. It should prove to be an excellent and inexpensive basis for our Bitcoin mining rig. I selected this model for a number of reasons:
Price. It’s an extremely inexpensive board.
Capability. This board has an AM2/AM3 socket. This means that you can put an old single-core AMD Sempron into it for less than $40 dollars. This is great, because while Bitcoin mining rigs beat the tar out of their graphics card’s GPU they don’t really stress the CPU much at all. If, however, you’re using this system for a Bitcoin mining rig and something else (like a file server) at the same time, do get a stronger CPU.
Selecting a CPU
Unlike nearly every other scenario this is one of those rare times where the processor’s speed does not mean much at all. Nearly all of the heavy lifting happens in the GPU, not the processor. So, if you want to save money on this build, select the least expensive processor and move on. That’s what I’ve done here. I selected the AMD Sempron 145 Processor for the budget Bitcoin mining rig build. It’s fast enough for the needs of the system and it’s really inexpensive. My only complaint is I could not find a socket compatible 64bit processor for the same price and availability. Oh, well, you can’t have everything I guess.
Selecting the RAM
Well, now that we have the motherboard and processor, we need RAM. Thankfully these days RAM is extremely inexpensive. It may seem like overkill to suggest that you should max out the motherboard’s RAM to 4GB. You might be right, but it’s sort of my default setting. When I build a machine I install the motherboard’s rated maximum from the start. If you think your Bitcoin rig can get buy with less RAM, you’re probably right. In any event I don’t suggest going below 2GB of RAM.
Selecting a Graphics Card
Remember the graphics card is the heart and soul of your Bitcoin mining rig. While it’s important to stay within your means when building one, please remember not to skimp here. At the time of this writing the card offering the best “bang for your buck” is the ATI RADEON HD6870
. You have other options of course.
So, what’s so special about this card that it makes a good Bitcoin mining rig option? Well, there are a number of factors:
Price., The cost of the card hovers quite near $200 which is about as high as I was willing to go. Any higher and I could not call this Bitcoin mining rig build-out “budget” with a strait face. I’m sure you understand.
Performance. While there certainly are cards that out-perform the XFX ATI Radeon HD6870 they’re all much more expensive. This card will net you about 213.7 Mh/s which is respectable for a single card build. Also, this card can be over-clocked in software. Used with care, this can increase your mining rigs performance with no additional expense.Careless overclocking will damage your card. Therefore, please be conservative in the clock-rate adjustments you make, if any.
This tutorial is primarily aimed at those wishing to build a Bitcoin mining rig on a budget. If you’re interested in a top of the line card for Bitcoin mining, check out the XFX AMD Radeon HD 6990 830M. Affiliate links follow:
Selecting the Power Supply
Alright, at this point you should have your base system and the ATI graphics card of your choice. The case I use in this tutorial dose not ship with a power supply. If it did, you’ have to replace it anyway because chances are it would not exceed 500W which would not be enough. Yes, some people get buy on 500W power supplies, but I don’t recommend it. If you’re going the more expensive route and buying a RADEON HD 6990 you may wish to consider getting a 2000W power supply instead. Affiliate links follow:
Well, your Bitcoin miner doesn’t need much in the way of CPU power and it also doesn’t need much hard drive space either. For a mere $40 you can get a 250GB drive. I’m sure you can get a used hard drive in good condition for even less. The hard drive specs don’t matter much, it just has to be reliable. I should take a moment and remind you that whatever you do, you should regularly back-up your wallet.dat file to an external drive—even a small flash drive will work for this purpose.
At this point, you should have a motherboard, RAM, Power Supply, and graphics card. For this build I recommend the APEX TX-381-C Black Steel Micro ATX Tower Computer Case. It’s really inexpensive—in the $30 range. Further, it comes without a power supply, which means you won’t feel like you’ve paid for something you just can’t use because it’s just not powerful enough to accommodate your needs. This case won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s quite functional and it has the added benefit of having a handle.