LITECOIN MINING 101: PART 1: WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BUILD A MINER

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Data-mining

If you are Reading this then you have become interested in the modern “Gold Rush” of Crypto currencies, specifically Litecoin since Bitcoin is no longer viable for the average person with limited funds.
This is listed as a “LITECOIN” miner, but the basic setup, other than the settings for the pool in cgminer (which tell it what to mine) are the same for any other Crypto currency out there (Feather Coin, Doge Coin, Terra Coin), other than Bitcoin.

These posts will be a Step by Step Guide for you to build your first Mining Rig, based on my experience. I am not a computer expert, but an amateur so all I am passing on is what I have learned through trial and error and help from many people.

I feel that this will be helpful, because I dont speak computer as a first language so I am coming from the same place you are. I use acronyms farther into the book, but spell them out when I first talk about them. For example later I use “GPU”, but early on I will say “The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, the Graphics Card)”. You can also take a look at the last post for the ACRONYMS and reference them there (or just google it we are in 2014!)

 

You will see from start to finish how I set up this 4 Card Litecoin Mining Rig.
We will cover in the coming post’s as follows.
• What hardware I bought as well as some alternatives you can buy instead
• How to Make a Case out of a Milk crate and Putting together all the physical hardware
• How to set up your BIOS settings, then windows then all the software you will need to run the miner
• Then connecting all the GPU’s and installing all the necessary software to get them to work and be recognized.
• Finally I will show you how to join a “MINING POOL”, set up the Mining Program and then tweak your settings to get maximum performance with the lowest power draw.
The basic hardware components of a Litecoin (or any scrypt based crypto currency) miner are these.
• Motherboard
• CPU (Central Processing Unit)
• RAM (Random Access Memory)
• HD (Hard Drive) Whether a HDD or SSD
• PSU (Power Supply Unit)
• GPU (Graphics Processing Unit)
• PCI Riser Cables (powered or non-powered depends on your system)
• Keyboard, Monitor and Mouse are necessary for the initial set up and tweaking, but not for the actual functioning of the system once you get it running.
For Software
• Operating System (and one that can handle what system you are building)
• Miner program (GUIminer, CGminer, Reaper, etc.)
• Driver (necessary for proper installation of GPU cards)
Litecoin Wallet (or whatever you are mining) Linked here is my Youtube Video on how to set up a Litecoin Wallet.

 

SO WHAT SHOULD I BUY?
This is the question on every prospective miners minds, what do I need to buy?
Well in actuality there are a multitude of choices out there; it all comes down to three questions
1) What size am I building? (# of GPU’s)
2) What is the most efficient (in terms of hash rates, power and cost)
3) What is available.

For example most people prefer the Sapphire 7950 OC Boost Cards due to their more efficient hash rate to power usage. In the world of mining it is not necessarily the highest hash rate that wins, since high powered cards can draw A LOT of power, thus cutting into your profits and in a sense defeating the purpose of you building one. The “Best” cards for mining are those that have the lowest power consumption per Hash, and the Sapphire 7950 is the top of the list. However Nowadays you will be paying a premium for used ones, higher than they even cost brand new, so for most these are out of the question. I was able to get mine before the rush really hit, so while I spent more than I would have six months prior, It was still not the crazy prices today; and unless you are lucky and find some reasonably priced you probably won’t find them or don’t want to pay the prices for them.

This is also true for many of the best PSU (Power Supply Units) out there as well. So for each of the items I listed above I will list numerous different types, and will focus on a 4 GPU system, however if you are going to build a 5 or 6 system you will want to check and make sure that the components I list will work. On the flip side whatever I list will more than be fine for a 1,2 or 3 GPU system, however you may want to check if there is a cheaper alternative. For example you wouldn’t want to buy a 1250w PSU (Power Supply Unit) when you could save $100 and get a 500 watt PSU (that is unless you are planning to upgrade and add more cards in the future!).

 

HARDWARE

The Lists below are not itemized by “best”, if they are considered to be the “best” then I will indicate it however the first one indicated will be what I used, the rest will be other alternatives. If there are limitations in them I will also list those.

 

MOTHERBOARDS
Motherboard choices all depend on what you will be running, however if you buy an INTEL BASED MOTHERBOARD USE AN INTEL PROCESSOR. Flip side is if you use an AMD based motherboard buy an AMD processor. Either choice is fine as the processor is not important for mining.

MSI Z77a GD65

1) MSI Z77A GD65 -$190 (4+ GPUS)
This is the Motherboard featured above, which I bought because it could handle 6 GPU’s and was used by another person who was building the same setup as I was. It is a good Motherboard, however if you are only using 4 or fewer GPU’s you may want to look at a cheaper version like the ASUS or like below.
2) MSI Z77A G55 – $140 (4+ GPU’S)
3) ASUS M5A97- $95 (4 or Less GPU’S)
4) Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD5 -$189 (4 or Less GPU’S)
5) Gigabyte Intel GA-77xUD3H – $140 (4+ GPU’S)
6) ASROCK 970 Extreme3 – $140 (4+GPU’S)
7) ASROCK MB-970EX4 – $100 (4+ GPU’S)
Check to see if the motherboard you purchase has a on board power switch, that is a button already on the motherboard that lets you push to power it on, if it doesn’t you will need to purchase one (usually around $6).

 

CPU (Central Processing Unit)
You do not need a powerful CPU to run a mining rig. In the past you could mine on CPU’s however that is no longer the case, so you just need a basic CPU. You are fine with pretty much any low priced CPU, but as noted above in the Motherboard Section Make sure you use a AMD CPU for a AMD based Motherboard and an INTEL CPU for an INTEL based Motherboard.

Celeron G1610

1) Intel Celeron G1610 2.60 GHZ LGA 1155 – $43
2) Intel Celeron G1620 Ivy Bridge Processor – $40
3) AMD Sempron 145 – $35

 

RAM
For any Windows Based Mining Rig, you don’t need a lot of RAM, 4GB will be enough (less can result in issues, so stick to 4 GB unless you are using Reaper mining software, in which you will want to have 8GB of ram possibly.

Corsair Vengeance 4gb DDR3

1) Corsair Vengeance 4GB DDR3 -$60
2) Kingston 4GB DDR3 -$40
For Linux (Ubuntu) based miners you can use less than 4GB

 

PSU (Power Supply Unit)
The Size of the PSU will all be card dependent, for Sapphire 7950’s they will need less power than say a R9 290, consult the GPU info and forum boards to see what specific PSU wattage you need to run the system.

LEPA1600 watt PSU

1) LEPA 1600w (these are hard to find)
2) EVGA 1300 Watt Gold Rate ($230)
3) SEASONIC X1250 (with the AMD 280x you can safely put 3 on here, but 4 will probably be pushing it)
4) CORSAIR TX850 – $140
Once again this will all depend on what exactly you are building (how many GPU’s) as well as how much power each GPU pulls. For example you WILL not be able to run a 4x Sapphire 7950 on 1250 if you do not undervolt the cards (overclocked and undervolted my whole system is pulling 1000-1100 watts). I include the 850 watt Corsair since you may be building a smaller GPU system. Once again consult the specs on the cards you will be buying, as well as look at what others are using.

 

GPU’s
Use MSI/SAPPHIRE/GIGABYTE Brand GPU’s, they are the most reliable and stick to dual fan cards if possible, however external (i.e. box fan) can make up for the cooling issues, as well as undervolting (which is to go below factory power input to the cards, thus saving you power and not running your power unit as hard)

I used Sapphire HD 7950 OC Boost’s however these are harder and harder to find at reasonable prices and the factory has no info on even WHEN they will be shipping new ones to distributors, so here are some of the GPU’s.
1) Radeon SAPPHIRE 7950 OC BOOST – $350+ (on ebay), capable of 600+ khs. The most energy efficient power/khs card out there, which is why they are hard to find.
2) AMD R9 270 -$180. 450 KH/S. KH/WATT RATIO: 2.25
3) AMD 7970 -$350. 725 KH/S. KH/WATT RATIO: 2.416
4) AMD R9 280x -$320. 450 KH/S. KH/WATT RATIO: 2.416
5) AMD R9 290x -$560. 880 KH/S. KH/WATT RATIO: 2.416
6) AMD R9 290 -$400. 900 KH/S. KH/WATT RATIO: 3
7) AMD 7990 – $660. 1385 kh/s. KH/WATT RATIO: 4.6266

 

HD
You don’t really need to go out and buy a SSD (Solid State Drive). I did before I realized I didn’t need it. In reality you can just use an old HDD (Hard Drive Disk) from an old computer, but if you really want to spend extra money you can go out and buy a new HDD or SSD.

ADATA 32gb SSD

ADATA 32GB SSD – $44.99

 

 

RISER CABLES
I recommend that you go with Powered risers however you do not necessarily need them, however I do not want to take the chance of hurting the motherboard from too much power draw.
You also do not need 16x-16x PCI risers, you can get by with 1x-16x risers. There is no specific company or brand I can say “buy these”. The ones I got were directly from a factory in China through Amazon.
These can be a crapshoot and on occasion you can get a bad one, I have heard about people having issues on occasion, but the only way to find out is when you are installing the GPU’s individually and they don’t work. Through repeating the steps of installation and switiching out the power cables, riser cables, etc. You can find out if you have a bad power cord, PCI riser cable or just a bad card. It happens.

 

POWERED RISERS

Powered-Flexible-PCI-E-1x-to-16x-Riser-Cable

The top part is the 1x that fist into the motherboard PCI Slots, the Bottom (larger) part is what goes onto your card. As you can see there is a powered connector that will connect to the MOLEX power cord coming off your PSU. These can run from $10-$20.

UNPOWERED RISER CABLE

1x 16x riser cable

This is the exact same as the Powered Riser Cable, but there is no…power!
The 1x slot that goes into the Motherboard PCI slot is the small top portion and the 16x that goes into the card is on the bottom of the picture.
If you are gaming then you will want 16x-16x cables if possible as the 1x can degrade gaming quality and speed, but for mining 1x works fine. However I have heard some folks had to buy 16x-16x cables to get the 5th and 6th cards working. Everything with mining is unique to the system, you will find that a fix that works for 90% of people may not for you. Its all about patience and trial and error. These can run $6+

 

CD/DVD DRIVE
This really doesn’t matter what you use, you can buy or just borrow someone’s as long as it will plug in and play. I used a Samsung 8x Slim DVD+/-RW Slim USB External Drive, Black SE-208DB/TSBS for about $35.

Samsung SE208dbtsbs

KEYBOARD/MONITOR/MOUSE
This is insignificant since you can use ANY monitor, keyboard or mouse and don’t need dedicated ones unless you like spending money or have them laying around. Plus once you get the Remote Desktop hooked up you will be able to do everything you want over you laptop or desktop anyways. Find the cheapest junkiest pieces of junk or whatever you already have.

 

SOFTWARE

 

Other than the first thing I list, Operating System, the rest are all free, but will depend on what kind of Components/Operating system you are using, so choose what’s best for you.

OPERATING SYSTEM:
As with a lot of things, this will depend on what size system you are building.

 

LINUX/XUBUNTU: COST: FREE

ubuntu screenshot

Linux is a better option in regards to power consumption and is less prone to viruses/etc. However It is different from Windows, which may pose a problem to some uses (however Windows 8 is a massive difference from the Windows we all know!).
Just so you know, Ubuntu is a type of Linux OS. Ubuntu is used by many miners, and most like it, the fact that it will save you nearly $100 is also a nice incentive to at least try it! Use Xubuntu as normal Ubuntu is more of a memory hog.

 

WINDOWS: COST: DEPENDS

Windows XP ($50-$100): I have never used Windows XP personally however I know that it has been successfully done with Windows XP SP3 and newer. Any version earlier than that I cannot speak for. Make sure that it is XP SERVICE PACK 3 to be sure.

Windows 7 ($0-$100): Many miners use Windows 7 because they already have it and/or its cheaper if they are running a larger mining rig. However for a 4 GPU rig, Windows 7 will work just fine, no need to go with windows 8. All you need is the most basic version which I have seen for sale for less than $70 at various sources

Windows 8 ($95): Since I was going to be building a 6 GPU rig, I bought Windows 8.1 OEM which cost just below $100. This is a onetime use OS, so It cannot be transferred once you install it. If you are planning on a 4 or less GPU rig there is no need to pay for Windows 8. I also have to say that I DO NOT like the new layout of windows 8, as it is designed for the touchscreen market and is not as user friendly (my opinion) for those going ‘old school’. It is not impossible to use, just takes some getting used to and it took me a minute or two to find the “Desktop” icon so I could actually do some work.

MINERS:

Click the name to go to the download site.

 

 

DRIVERS:
This will all depend on what Cards you have and what miner (and version of the miner) you are going to use. Some miner versions will not like a certain driver, while others will. I have found that any AMD based Cards work best with CGminer, and version 3.7.2 that I use prefers the latest version of the Catalyst Driver (currently 13.1.2). Since I am building this rig and explaining it using one possible group of hardware, you will have to do some research and find out what drivers work best for your Miner/Card Combo.

 

WALLET:
This should be easy. For Litecoin I have had no issues, I downloaded it, set up fine and started to synchronize right off the bat. For my Feathercoin wallet, it took some tinkering with my firewall and what “node” I was connecting to, to get it to work. The best thing to do, since I cannot cover every issue that may arise is to head to forums dedicated for that specific cryptocurrency and ask around/search the forum to find the answers to your specific issues.
Always make sure you download your wallet from the legitimate source, there are scammers out there who have set up fake sites to steal your Litecoins.
Litecoin: www.litecoin.org
Feathercoin: www.feathercoin.com
Terracoin: www.terracoin.org

There are hundreds of other coins such as DogeCoin, Diamond Coin, AnonCoin, etc.  Too many to mention here.

 

CHECK OUT MY VIDEO ON HOW TO CREATE A LITECOIN WALLET

 

There are also other ways to store your coins, from physical “paper” wallets to Online Websites. However there is a decision to be made if you want more security or ease of use, the more “online” that it is the less security it has, but more ease of use, the less online has more security, but less ease of use. You will have to decide what is best for you. For more information on wallet types, you can read my post on This Specifically.

 

NEXT POST WILL BE ON HOW TO ASSEMBLE THE MINING RIG

 

 

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