Crypto Mining Rigs & Bitcoin Mining Rigs Explained


    Crypto Mining Rigs Explained From CPU to ASIC Miners and Beyond 100

    Crypto mining rigs come in various forms (including CPU, GPU, ASIC, FPGA, and cloud mining) that deliver differing degrees of hashing power and mining rewards.

    Crypto Mining Rigs Come in Many Types, Shapes, Sizes 

    The mining of cryptocurrencies refers to the utilization of computer hardware to furnish the computational processes of a blockchain network. Cryptocurrency mining is a way to help secure a blockchain network from attacks, as well as to financially incentivize the miners of that network to assist in securing it. Solve the mining problem for a block, and you can be rewarded with the block reward — typically in the network’s proprietary coin. Crypto miner, mining rig, bitcoin miner, mining hardware — these are just some of the names for the circuits, processors, and computer hardware used to mine cryptocurrencies. While some crypto mining rigs are purpose-built, general-purpose mining rigs (very much like your own computer) can also enable you to take part in mining cryptocurrencies.

    Cryptocurrency miners are used on all blockchains that utilize Proof of Work (PoW), which is the consensus mechanism used to securely process, verify, and confirm transactions while hindering double-spending and other blockchain attacks. The most widely known PoW blockchain is Bitcoin, although other established networks such as Ethereum 1.0 also fall into the category. In this article, we’ll look at the varying options for mining cryptocurrencies: from using general-purpose circuitry to bespoke mining hardware. If you’re looking to brush up on your crypto mining basics prior to this deep dive into hardware, read our Bitcoin: Network Security piece. 

    While mining rigs have various technical features, crypto miners are generally concerned with two above all else: hash rate and energy usage. The hash rate is measured in hashes per second (h/s), and is related to the likelihood of solving the cryptographic puzzle necessary to receive the block or mining reward. Miners also tend to look at how much electricity a mining rig uses, including both its overall energy consumption and its efficiency in terms of hashes per kilowatt-hour. Without enough hashing power and energy efficiency, a miner won’t be profitable and it might actually cost more in electricity costs than any mining rewards you’d receive in return. While some mine simply to support a network’s security and the wider mission of decentralized networks, most crypto miners do it in order to earn a profit.

    Is CPU Mining Still Relevant?

    CPU mining is using a central processing unit (CPU) to mine cryptocurrency. CPUs can be found in everyday hardware like laptops and desktop computers. However, unless you’re reading a crypto mining article from the early 2010s, you likely won’t come across the mention of CPU mining in regards to Bitcoin. That said, in the very early days of bitcoin (BTC) mining, bitcoin miners successfully mined blocks with the CPUs in their laptop and desktop computers. This was possible because there were very few miners at the time, and the overall hash rate was therefore much lower when the Bitcoin network was in its infancy. Less competition meant a higher mining success rate. As the popularity of Bitcoin increased, however, so did the competition, which made mining BTC with readily available CPUs largely obsolete. 

    Some blockchains feature mining algorithms that have been designed to be CPU-mining friendly, including Bytecoin, Zcash, and Monero. The primary rationale behind this design decision is to allow ordinary retail miners to be able to profitably compete with the large-scale institutional miners that have come to dominate mining on other major blockchains. Besides being more equitable, this also ensures that these projects maintain mining decentralization. 

    That said, CPU mining is a thing of the past for mining BTC and many large-cap PoW blockchains. In such cases, CPU miners can’t utilize electricity as efficiently, and their hash power can’t compete with other mining rig options. CPU chip mining is measured in kilohashes per second (kh/s), with a kh equaling 1,000 hashes. Most of the best CPUs achieve 8-20 kh/s, and only a few (as of 2021) exceed the 20 kh/s threshold. These numbers pale in comparison to those other mining rig varieties.

    GPU Mining Takes Over

    As interest in blockchain and crypto has grown, so have the number of miners — and thus the competition for mining rewards. As a result of this cycle, most miners of most large-cap cryptocurrencies have moved on from CPUs and started using graphics processing units (GPUs) to mine cryptocurrency, as these systems tend to be more efficient for mining and have a much better hash rate than CPUs. The first software for GPU mining was released in 2010. 

    While CPU hash rates are measured in kh/s, GPU hash rates are measured in megahashes per second (mh/s), with 1,000 kilohashes equal to one megahash (a million hashes). Performance varies based on the age and price of the GPU, but many modern GPUs perform in excess of 10 mh/s, with some of the best GPUs approaching 60 mh/s (as of 2021). To put this in context, a 40 mh/s GPU miner has 2,000 times as much hashing power as a 20 kh/s CPU miner. GPU miners achieve these benchmarks because they can process far more operations in parallel than a CPU. On top of this, many miners construct mining rigs that have 6-12 GPUs each, which multiplies their hashing power. Some crypto mining enthusiasts even have multiple multi-GPU mining rigs running, with some home-based operations even reaching up to 24-48 concurrent GPU rigs.

    Besides being much faster and more efficient than CPUs, GPUs also have a certain amount of flexibility in being able to mine a variety of coins on different blockchains, with distinct mining algorithms. There are numerous coins that are popular to mine with GPUs, with ether (ETH) being one of the most popular as of 2021. However, with Ethereum’s move to Proof of Stake (PoS), these miners may have to look elsewhere for profitable GPU mining rewards. While the GPU mining…