Everything you need to know about Bitcoin mining.

Last Updated: December 1, 2022

Mining is the process of adding transaction records to Bitcoin’s (BTC) public ledger, known as a blockchain, by creating valid blocks. It is an important part of the Bitcoin network since it eliminates the so-called “double-spend problem.”

The difficulty of needing to reach an agreement on a transaction history is known as the double-spend dilemma. Bitcoin ownership can be mathematically confirmed using public-key cryptography, which is unbreakable with today’s technology. Cryptography, on the other hand, cannot guarantee that a specific coin has not been delivered to someone else earlier. To create a common history of transactions, an agreed-upon ordering must be established, which might be based on the time of each transaction’s inception, for example. External input, on the other hand, might be controlled by whoever supplies it, necessitating participants’ trust in that third party.

Mining (and cryptocurrencies in general) takes advantage of economic incentives to establish a secure and reliable method of data ordering. Third parties who order transactions are decentralized, and they are compensated for positive behaviors. Any wrongdoing, on the other hand, leads to a loss of economic resources, at least as long as the majority is honest.

This result is obtained in Bitcoin mining by constructing a series of blocks that can be mathematically demonstrated to have been stacked in the correct sequence with a specific amount of resource commitment. The method is based on the mathematical features of a cryptographic hash, which is a standardized method of encoding data.

Because hashes are one-way encryption tools, decrypting them to their input data is nearly hard until every possible combination is examined until the result matches the specified hash.

Bitcoin miners do something similar: they cycle through trillions of hashes per second until they discover one that meets a criterion known as “difficulty.” Because both the difficulty and the hash are huge integers expressed in bits, the condition simply states that the hash must be less than the difficulty. Every 2016 Bitcoin block — or about two weeks — the difficulty is re-adjusted to keep a consistent block time, This refers to the time it takes to mine each new block.

Miners construct a hash that is used as a unique identifier for each block, and it is made out of data from the block header. The Markel root — another aggregated hash that incorporates the signatures of all transactions in that block — and the prior block’s unique hash are the most crucial parts of the hash.

This means that even the tiniest change to a block’s predicted hash — and that of every subsequent block — will be noticeable. This wrong version of the blockchain would be immediately rejected by nodes, protecting the network from meddling.

The approach ensures that Bitcoin miners put in real labor — the time and electricity spent hashing through all of the available combinations — by imposing a difficulty requirement. To separate itself from other forms of block-creation methods, Bitcoin’s consensus system is dubbed “proof-of-work.” Malicious actors have no choice but to recreate the network’s complete mining power to attack it. That would cost billions of dollars in Bitcoin.

How are Bitcoin miners rewarded?

Bitcoin miners are rewarded for their efforts by the network in the form of fresh block generation rewards. New Bitcoin is created with each block, and fees paid by users to transact on the network are the two sorts of incentives. The majority of miners’ earnings come from the block reward of newly created Bitcoin, which stands at 6.25 BTC as of May 2020. This number is set to halve every four years, ensuring that no more Bitcoin is mined and the network’s security is guaranteed only by transaction fees. By 2040, the block reward will have dropped to less than 0.2 BTC, with only 80,000 Bitcoin remaining out of a total of 21 million.

Mining will effectively finish only after 2140, as the final BTC is progressively minded.

Even if the block reward declines over time, previous halves have been more than offset by price rises in Bitcoin. While no guarantee of future success exists, Bitcoin miners can be quite certain about their prospects. The community is overwhelmingly in favor of the existing mining setup, with no intentions to phase it out like Ethereum, another big mineable coin. Individual Bitcoin miners can be confident that the venture will be profitable if the appropriate circumstances are met.

Although mining is a competitive industry, getting started is still very simple. In the early days of Bitcoin, enthusiasts could just download some software and get started right away. Those days are gone, but setting up a dedicated Bitcoin miner isn’t as difficult as it may appear.

How to Select Mining Hardware:

The first thing to keep in mind is that buying an Application-Specific Integrated Circuit device, also known as an ASIC, is your sole option for mining Bitcoin. These machines are only capable of mining Bitcoin, but they do it very efficiently. They are so efficient that when they were first introduced in 2013, they rendered all previous forms of computational mining machines obsolete almost immediately.

You’ll need to look at other coins if you want to mine with conventional CPUs, GPUs, or more complex FPGAs. These gadgets can mine Bitcoin, but they do it at such a slow rate that it’s a waste of time and electricity. For comparison, the AMD 7970, the best graphics card available before the advent of ASICs, produced 800 million hashes per second. Today’s ASICs generate 100 trillion hashes per second, a difference of 125,000-fold.

The amount of hashes generated in a second is known as the “hash rate,” and it is an essential performance indicator for mining machines.

When choosing a Bitcoin mining gear, there are two more important considerations to consider. One is the power consumption, which is measured in watts. The device that uses the least amount of electricity will be more profitable between two devices that create the same number of hashes.

For each gadget, the third variable is the unit cost. It’s worthless to have the world’s most energy-efficient ASIC if it takes ten years for mining to pay for itself.

ASIC producers in the Bitcoin ecosystem are fairly active, and they frequently differ on these three factors. Some companies may create more efficient but more expensive ASICs, while others may produce lower-performing but less expensive hardware. Before determining which equipment is appropriate for your needs, it’s critical to comprehend the other aspects that influence Bitcoin mining income.

Financial aspects of Bitcoin mining:

Bitcoin mining, like real estate, is all about location, location, location.

The average price of power will vary depending on where you are in the world. In many wealthy countries, residential electricity is typically far too expensive for mining to be economically viable. Bitcoin mining in residential locations is too expensive to be viable continually, with electricity prices ranging between $0.15 and $0.25 per kilowatt-hour.

Professional Bitcoin miners frequently locate their facilities in areas with low-cost electricity. Some of these are China’s Sichuan province, Iceland, Russia’s Irkutsk region, and parts of the United States and Canada. Local electricity generation, such as hydroelectric dams, is frequently available in these areas.

These Bitcoin miners will often get prices below $0.06 per KWh, which is usually low enough to make a profit even when the market is down.

Prices below $0.10 are recommended in general to ensure a stable business. One’s circumstances have a big role in determining the best mining area. People in impoverished countries may not need to travel much further than their own homes, but those in developed countries will face higher entry restrictions.

Apart from hardware selection, a miner’s earnings and income are heavily influenced by market conditions and the presence of other miners. During bull markets, the price of Bitcoin may soar, making the BTC they generate more valuable in terms of dollars.

Bull market inflows, on the other hand, are counterbalanced by other Bitcoin miners who see higher earnings and buy more devices to get into the revenue stream. As a result, each miner now generates fewer bitcoins than previously.

Eventually, the revenue earned reaches a threshold where less efficient miners make less than they spend on electricity, resulting in devices being turned off and others earning more Bitcoin.

This does not usually occur immediately. There is a lag since ASICs are not always built quickly enough to compensate for price increases in Bitcoin.

In a falling market, the opposite concept applies revenue declines until miners collectively turn off their machines.

Existing Bitcoin miners must find a winning combination of location and hardware to maintain their competitive advantage to avoid being outcompeted. They must also maintain and reinvest their cash regularly, as more efficient gear might severely restrict older miners’ revenues.

Analysis of the profitability of mining hardware:

There are various calculators available, such as AsicMinerValue, CryptoCompare, and Nicehash, that can quickly determine the profitability of a mining device. The following algorithm can also be used to manually estimate profit.

This is the formula that many of these calculators employ, and it shows your portion of the network’s total issuance in dollars divided by your percentage of the overall hash rate. The required input values are either set parameters (Bitcoin blocks take 10 minutes to mine, therefore six blocks are mined each hour and 144 per day) or can be found on data websites like Blockchain.com or Coin metrics.

To calculate the profit, one must deduct the cost of electricity. This can be as simple as multiplying the device’s power usage by 24 hours in a day and the electricity price per kilowatt-hour, thanks to the equivalency between kilowatts and kilowatt-hours.

The table below shows the most popular ASICs on the market today, as well as their payback period — or how long it will take to break even on current income. It’s worth mentioning that a Bitcoin miner’s profit varies dramatically over time, and forecasting a single day into the future can result in caused by various.

At $0.20 per KWh, none of the ASICs make a profit, as can be shown in the table. The relative performance of each of the new-generation ASICs is largely the same, although older types can be useful if electricity is inexpensive.

For example, while being an older model, the Canaan AvalonMiner 1066 has a low energy efficiency but a low price, making it competitive in the low electricity price group. Because of its cheaper cost, the Bitmain S17 Pro, a previous-generation ASIC, keeps its ground but becomes undesirable as the reference energy price rate rises. MicroBT’s mining equipment appears to offer the most well-balanced performance.

Finally, keep in mind that this table was created during a bull market. Profits could be higher than typical, but the 2020 halving is still fresh, and decreased Bitcoin issuance could offset the effect.

Purchasing and assembling the necessary hardware:

ASICs are sold to retail customers in several places, and some manufacturers even allow direct sales. Although ASICs are more difficult to come by than regular graphics cards, anyone can purchase one at a reasonable price. It’s worth mentioning that purchasing mining equipment from stores or manufacturers based in other nations could result in high import fees.

ASICs may be sold without a power supply unit, which must be purchased separately, depending on the manufacturer or shop. Some ASIC manufacturers sell their power supplies, however, PSUs designed for servers or gaming computers can also be used, though additional modifications are likely to be required.

To connect to the internet, ASICs require an ethernet cable, and they can only be configured via a web browser by connecting to the local IP address, similar to a home router.

You must first register an account with your favorite mining pool, which will then provide detailed instructions on how to connect to its servers before proceeding. From the ASIC’s web interface, you must enter the pool’s connection endpoints and account information. The miner will then begin to work and generate Bitcoin.

It is extremely recommended that you mine through a well-established pool, as pooling your hardware with others will allow you to create consistent returns. Your mining contribution will be rewarded even if your device does not always locate the correct hash to build a block.

Bitcoin mining considerations and dangers:

There are technical hazards involved with maintaining high-power devices such as ASICs, in addition to the financial risk of not making a profit.

To avoid the mining equipment’s components being burned out owing to overheating, proper ventilation is essential. The miner’s full electricity usage is dissipated as heat into its surroundings, and one ASIC is likely to be the most powerful device in your home or business.

That means that when Bitcoin mining, you must carefully evaluate the limitations of your electrical grid. The energy network in your home is rated up to a certain amount of power, and each plug has its rating. Excessive use of those limits could lead to frequent outages or electrical fires. To find out if your electrical setup is suitable for mining, seek advice from a professional.

To keep the mining devices healthy, they must be maintained against dust and other external conditions regularly. While failures are uncommon, ASICs might fail sooner than predicted if they are not properly maintained.

While individual ASICs may fail, the most significant threat to their profitability is their obsolescence. Older devices will gradually be displaced by more efficient miners.

Previous generations of miners, such as the Bitmain S9, which was released in 2016, lasted around four years before becoming unprofitable in any electricity price scenario (except zero). The rate at which computing technology progresses, on the other hand, is highly unpredictable.

Bitcoin mining is no different from any other type of business. There are rewards as well as hazards to be had. This tutorial should have provided you with a solid foundation for analyzing both.


  • Joseph Campbell

    Joseph Campbell is a tech protocols reporter for CoinDesk and other tech websites. He is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College, where he double majored in Economics and Philosophy with a concentration in Data Science. He holds BTC, ETH, DOGE and a few NFTs.

  • William Foster

    William Foster is a editor for the Central Asian and European region. Before he worked as an editor at Acuris (Mergermarket) where he was responsible for documents on startups, private equity deals, fundraising, developments and editorial direction. His most memorable time was at Reuters, where he was both a reporter and editor for various teams.

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