Building a mining rig from an old PC
6 min read
Some time ago, I was hit by the idea to mine cryptocurrency. Well, more technically, YouTube hit me with the idea. I had heard about mining before, but I had never seriously thought about it until then.
At first, it all seemed quite intimidating. I had only seen videos of large mining rigs that people had set up in their houses, and it just didn’t seem practical.
After some thinking, I decided that I would at least try and have a go. And in the end, it worked out!
In this blog post, I will be discussing how I managed to build a mining rig from an old Dell Precision 5500 lying around and gathering dust. I will also discuss some of the challenges that I faced.
Before I could do anything at all, I had to do a little research just to learn a little bit about what mining is. I read a few articles about what cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are. I also looked into what mining is. It was honestly very interesting! But as much as I’d love to discuss how awesome cryptocurrencies and blockchains are, I feel like that’s for a different blog post. Though, here’s a brief overview of what I learned about mining:
Essentially, miners spend computing power to solve really hard math problems that verify cryptocurrency transactions. In return, miners are rewarded with a block reward. If we were mining Bitcoin, the block reward will be some amount of Bitcoin. Since there’s so much competition these days, miners group together into mining pools and then split the rewards. This is known as pooling. Miners used to use CPU’s before they began to realize that graphics cards (GPUs) did a much better job at these types of math problems. Eventually, people began to use ASIC miners (these are powerful computing devices built specifically for mining). These days, Bitcoin can only be profitably mined with ASIC miners. However, there are cryptocurrencies like Ethereum which can still be profitably mined with GPUs.
After doing the research, I felt a little more confident. Now, at least I had a vague idea about what I was going to be doing.
Choosing the right GPU
I decided that I was going to build a GPU mining rig as they were cheaper, less noisy, and they also consumed much less power as opposed to ASIC miners.
I also realised that we already had an old PC. That meant that I didn’t need to build a mining rig from scratch as I already had most of the supplies like the motherboard, the CPU, and the PSU (Power Supply Unit). The only thing that I would have to replace was the GPU.
But now, the challenge was to find a GPU that wasn’t too expensive but was still profitable.
Most of the high-end GPUs weren’t very affordable at all. For instance, the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti cost $2,600 AUD (roughly $1900 USD)! I was just about to give up after that. However, eventually, I came across the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. It was a mid-range GPU worth $800 AUD (about $600 USD). Obviously, it was going to take some convincing to persuade my dad to spend so much on a computer part.
So, I decided to do the math and see how much profit it will make (taking electricity costs into consideration). It turned out that the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti made $2.50 AUD ($1.80 USD) per day if it mined Ethereum (of course this really depended on the price of Ethereum at that time). Then, I calculated how much time it would take to pay off the price of the GPU:
Time (in days) = $800 (price of GPU) / $2.50 (profit per day)
\= 320 days
But of course, the profitability depended on how much Ethereum was worth. So, to be on the safe side, I added an extra 50 days to the calculation, giving a result of 370. So, I told my dad that if he invested in the GPU, the cost would be paid off in 370 days.
Believe it or not, although he was a bit iffy, he agreed!
Complications and Challenges
Before buying the GPU, I checked a few things to make sure that it would work with the rest of the components of the PC.
First, I checked that the motherboard had a PCIe x16 slot to connect to the GPU. Next, I checked whether the PSU (Power Supply Unit) was able to power the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Ti. My PC (the Dell Precision T5500) had an 875 watt PSU. The GPU only required 120 watts. So, it should’ve been smooth sailing, right? The PSU had more than enough wattage to power the GPU and the rest of the computer.
Well, the GTX 1660 Ti actually took an 8-pin power connector from the PSU. The PSU of the Dell Precision T5500 only had two spare 6-pin power connectors.
However, I found out about a “dual 6-pin to 8-pin power adapter”. It was exactly what I needed! Though, I still wasn’t completely sure whether it would work. I did some research about using the adapter and whether it was safe. I found out that many others had faced this issue before, and the adapter had done an excellent job.
So, that night, my dad and I ordered the GTX 1660 Ti as well as the “dual 6-pin to 8-pin power adapter”.
The Moment of Truth
A couple of weeks later, both the GPU and the adapter had arrived. As soon as the GPU arrived that afternoon, I ran straight to my room and began to unbox it. I took out the old graphics card and fit the new GTX 1660 Ti into the motherboard of the computer. Then, I put both the 6-pin connectors into the adapter and put the 8-pin connector from the adapter into the GPU. Last, I connected the monitor to the GPU using an HDMI cable.
After confirming I had done everything right, I turned on the PC. It was the moment of truth…
The first thing I noticed after it booted was the blurry resolution. The computer was using the integrated graphics card, not the GTX 1660 Ti. I opened Device Manager on the computer.
In the display adapters section, it recognised the GPU, but it was displaying an error:
“Windows has stopped this device because it has reported problems. (Code 43)”
I searched up the error and found out that it might be happening because the drivers are not installed.
I downloaded the GeForce Experience by NVIDIA on the computer and installed the drivers. After restarting, the GPU worked!
I installed the Nicehash QuickMiner which I had learned about in some of the mining tutorials I saw on YouTube. I won’t get into the details here, but Nicehash is a marketplace that allows us to buy and sell mining power. So, instead of mining in pools, Nicehash allows us to sell mining power and get paid in Bitcoin (which was convenient as I was planning to exchange the Ethereum for Bitcoin anyway).
After installation, I set-up up the Nicehash QuickMiner. It was finally set to go!
The GTX 1660 Ti has been going for a couple of months now, and it’s doing great! I learned a lot about cryptocurrencies and blockchains. I also learned about computers and how all their parts function together.
Honestly, overall, it was an enjoyable and educational experience.
Originally published at siddak.code.blog on February 6, 2022.