The cheapest way to mine ether: A miner who’s tried just about every option shares which hardware to snag, and his tips for landing the constantly sold-out hardware
- Idan Abada started mining ethereum in 2015, and has tried everything from GPUs to ASICs.
- He recommends starting with a lower-hash-rate card, even though it’s not optimal for mining.
- Even an old gaming card could be repurposed to mine ether and crypto.
Idan Abada, the owner of Bitcoin Merch, sells crypto-related products such as mining equipment, computers, and even shirts and swag.
Abada is pretty much like the mad scientist of the mining world. He’s tried to mine just about every coin using just about any hardware. He’s even tried mining bitcoin with a miniature rig.
He began mining in 2015 and sees it as a hobby.
“It was not just for the money,” Abada said. “It was kind of like collecting Pokemon cards, that’s the only way I can kind of explain it. It’s fun to see that there’s something working for you, creating this coin while you’re not working. It’s really awesome when you sleep at night, you wake up and you have more coins than before you fell asleep.”
He’s describing crypto mining in a nutshell. By making his computers’ processing power available to compete and solve cryptographic puzzles, Abada is part of a global network of people who maintain various blockchains — and get rewarded with tokens.
When it comes to mining ether, Abada has tried it with both a
and an ASIC miner. The former tend to be cheaper and serve multiple purposes including gaming, while the latter — Application-Specific Integrated Circuits — are solely for mining.
Abada said for anyone just starting, he recommends sticking to the cheapest option, which is buying an RTX 3060 graphics card. The lowest model retails for about $329, according to Nvidia. This card can mine ethereum and many other coins and is compatible with most modern desktop computers.
“Now, laptops are a different story. I also mine on laptops, but I don’t recommend it,” Abada said. “It’s a risky business because those laptops are not designed for mining. I do it anyway because it’s my choice. And I have multiple laptops mining at all times.”
A laptop is more likely to overheat. But some of the newer models have better cooling systems, he noted., so you may be able to try it at your own risk.
If you’re a gamer and have an old graphics card, Abada said you can probably repurpose it for mining. But it won’t be as profitable as the newest models. Abada has tried graphics cards as old as the highest-performance Nvidia 10 series.
Keep in mind that, even for the newest models, Nvidia makes lower-hash-rate cards (LHR). This means if the card detects it’s being used to mine ETH, it will halve the “hash rate.” The manufacturer did this to limit the number of GPUs miners were buying up so that gamers could purchase them.
But Abada says even though a non-LHR card is more profitable, you can still use it. And it’s an alternative because it’s probably the only card you’ll be able to get your hands on these days.
Due to chip shortages, even these graphics cards may be difficult to get. But retailers such as Best Buy stock them regularly and if you’re early, you can land one. Another alternative is to check local or smaller retailers. If you live in a big city where they tend to sell out fast, smaller towns just outside your district may be another option.
You can also check the secondary market, but you will likely overpay. And you run the risk of getting a defective card that could have water damage, something Abada is familiar with.
“I experienced sparks coming out of graphics cards, it’s scary and it’s exciting. I do that kind of stuff because that’s what I like doing,” Abada said.
Another thing to keep in mind is Ethereum is moving from a proof-of-work to a proof-of-stake mechanism, in which the number of coins held will matter more for mining than computing power. When that happens, it will impact the ability to mine ETH profitably — but you’d still be able to mine other coins.
“The GPU cards are very unique because they can mine multiple types of algorithms, which means they have a variety of different coins that can mine,” Abada said. “So yes, there might be less profit because they cannot mine ethereum anymore, but they can mine so many other coins.”
Since Abada’s end goal is to maximize profit rather than mine just ether, he’s already plugged into a pool that switches coins based on what’s most profitable at any given time. He uses Nice Hash.
Once you’ve installed the graphics card, you’ll need to download mining software. There are a few options to choose from but if you want to just mine ETH, then the most popular ones are NBMiner and T-Rex miner, Abada said.
Finally, you’ll need to choose a pool to mine with. While there are numerous options, Abada recommends Bitfly for ETH. You can link to the pool by switching the running code for the ether miner with your own ETH address, and pool info.