So you’ve heard of Bitcoin and you’d like to try this whole mining thing out but aren’t sure where to start. Well this guide is designed to get absolute beginners mining Bitcoin. You’ll need a desktop computer with a decent GPU (Graphics Processing Unit), preferably one by Radeon. You’ll also need to have a Bitcoin wallet set up. If you don’t yet have a Bitcoin wallet I suggest reading our Getting Started With Bitcoin post . It goes over the basics of Bitcoin and how to set up a wallet. Let’s get started.
Mining is the process of using your computer’s processing power to process transactions for the Bitcoin network. By allowing your computer to do a certain amount of cryptographic work you are rewarded with some Bitcoin.
Originally Bitcoin miners just used their computer’s CPUs (Central Processing Unit) like an intel i7 to do this work. Eventually a few users figured out how to get much better results by using GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) by installing some special software. Most users now mine in pools as the chance of finding a Bitcoin block (A group of 25 coins) is very low for most casual miners.
There have been some hardware progressions over the last year in Bitcoin mining that are beginning to make GPU mining less profitable in terms of the amount of Bitcoin earned from GPU mining. However, GPU mining is still considered profitable and may remain so for a little bit still. The first new hardware to be used were FPGAs which used less energy than GPUs. However, the biggest improvement has come with the development of ASICs for Bitcoin. Our Bitcoin ASIC Roundup gives a brief introduction to ASICs if you’re interested.
To mine Bitcoin you’ll need to download some specialized software. This tutorial covers a program called GUI miner used on Windows 7 and 8. We’ll also show you how to sign up for a mining pool in order to get a steady payout for your contributions.
Mining pools came about after the difficulty in Bitcoin mining became very high. Today mining pools allow groups of users to pool their mining resources making it more likely that the group, and thus the individual, finds a block. The mining pool will then pay each miner a portion of that block corresponding to how much they had contributed (There are multiple ways of calculating this).
Downloading GUI Miner
GUI miner is a basic Bitcoin mining program that also works well for beginners. Unlike many of the other miners available, it has a front end (GUI – Graphic User Interface). There are more advanced mining programs but they often require users to be acquainted with the command line so we won’t cover them here.
The link below is the Github download for GUIminer for Windows. For other versions and operating systems check this bitcointalk thread.
After you’ve downloaded this program you’ll need to create an account at a mining pool. At this point there are a lot of different pools out there many with different upsides and downsides. I’m going to cover mining with Slush’s Pool (Bitcoin.cz) for this tutorial as it is one of the longer running and bigger pools. With larger pools you’ll see payouts more often than with smaller pools. There is a full list of Bitcoin mining pools in this BitcoinTalk thread.
Once you’re at Slush’s pool click on My Account and you’ll see two login fields. Below those fields is a Sign Up link, click that. You’ll need to create a username (Which can be publicly visible depending on your settigns), enter an email and choose a password. Once you’ve registered you’ll be brought to your account page. The information that you’ll need for your miner is on this page.
By default a worker name and password is created. Your worker name should be something like Username.worker1 and your password will be something randomly generated. If you’d like you can create a new worker and give it a different password.
Once you’ve sorted all that out with Slush’s pool you’ll need to start up GUI miner. Go to the folder that contains GUI miner and find the .exe file in it (it is an application file that has a Bitcoin logo next to it). Here you’ll need to enter your settings from Slush’s pool. Once it is up and running it should look something like the below screenshot.
After you start GUI miner you should see a hash rate appear at the bottom right of the GUI miner window. 698.9 Mhash/s was the hash rate that my Radeon 7970 was putting out when I took this screenshot. Most GPUs will not be quite this high. At current difficulty I’m making about 5 bitcents or .05 BTC per day (approximately $4 USD).
Make sure that you enter your bitcoin address into your account with Slush’s Pool and set a withdrawl amount. Once you hit that threshold your coins will be sent to the Bitcoin address you specified.
Where To Go From Here
At this point you should be successfully mining Bitcoin, congratulations! However, there is a lot more that you can learn about mining and a few different ways to work on increasing your hash rate. For a good idea of how much Bitcoin you’ll make in a day use this basic Bitcoin mining calculator. If you’re interested in ASIC mining hardware check out this post on the ASICs that are currently in the works.
Disclaimer About Laptops
Mining on laptops can be a very bad idea. Laptops don’t have the cooling that desktops do which has resulted in the death of more than a few motherboards. If you have a desktop-like or gaming laptop they might work out better. However, ultrabooks and laptops like MacBook Pros don’t have a way to dissipate that much heat and it can also harm some batteries.
Thanks for reading and let me know if you end up with any issues with this tutorial. If you run into problems leave a comment below or shoot me an email at CryptoJunky at zoho dot com and I’ll try and help you figure them out. Also, once you have a few Bitcents please consider donating something to the developer of GUI miner.