How do I get started with bitcoin mining?

In my previous article, I came to the conclusion that attempting to mine bitcoins for a profit is not a good idea — unless you have free power.

However, there is a significant community of home miners operating in the cryptocurrency space, many of whom are making reasonable profits.


Since the inception of ASIC mining drove GPU miners away from bitcoin in 2013, users have continued to mine alternative cryptocurrencies (altcoins) with hardware designed for computer gaming or other desktop applications.

Enthusiastic users will create Frankenstein systems built with multiple power supplies and up to 8 GPUs on custom frames. These rigs often use a variety of custom software to squeeze every ounce of hashing performance out of their equipment.

Three mining rigs that we built to mine Litecoin and Dogecoin in the first Bitcoin Brains store in 2013/2014.

I’m not going to get into all the steps required to become a serious altcoin miner. This process isn’t suited to a 5 minute read or a one-size-fits-all guide. If you want to go down this road, be aware that you will need to be very motivated, have fairly strong technical skills and be great at problem solving.

Keeping a farm of multiple rigs with dozens of GPUs running 24/7 can feel a lot like herding cats. After all, you are using hardware and drivers in a way that they were clearly not intended with software that is often very experimental at best. Sometimes a setup that you are certain should be working just won’t work as intended. We’ve often joked that there seems to be some voodoo involved in keeping these things running.

Bitcoin/altcoin mining voodoo

Mining altcoins this way can be very frustrating but if you are the kind of person who likes an interesting challenge then it can also be a lot of fun and potentially quite profitable. However, altcoins can be very volatile so there are real risks here. A coin you are mining could change drastically in value before you are able to sell it. Choosing the right coin to mine before it skyrockets can bring in huge profits. Conversely, mining a coin before it tanks can leave you with nothing but a big power bill.

The key to finding the right coins to mine is careful research. Sometimes you should bet on a coin with sound economics and technology and sometimes you should just follow the hype.

Just in case going all-in with a significant investment of time and money doesn’t appeal to you, there are a couple ways you can get started to try this without a major commitment.

If the idea of researching new coins appeals to you, then you can get started by renting hashing power on the marketplace at Nicehash.com. Basically once you’ve found a coin you like, you rent mining power from another Nicehash user and use it to mine the coin before it hits the big markets.


The other option is to approach this from the other direction. If you would prefer to begin learning about the technical side of mining in a very basic way then you can use the Nicehash miner to mine with your GPU and it will automatically choose the most profitable coin to mine and pay you out in bitcoin.

Setting up this program is very simple and you can get mining with even a single GPU. You don’t need a custom-built frame or multi-GPU set up to get started. You can use a normal gaming computer. Just make sure that your computer case has ample airflow and keep an eye on your GPU temperatures.

Either of these options should give you a good foot in the door to figure out how altcoin mining works and whether you’d like to be more seriously involved.