Missed out on making millions with Bitcoin (what’s Bitcoin, you ask)? Don’t worry – you’ve still got time to jump in on alternative cryptocurrencies, like Litecoin and Feathercoin. Thanks to a different algorithm at the core, those can still be mined by anyone with a graphics card – expensive ASIC Bitcoin miners won’t work. What are you waiting for?!
A Full Guide To Getting Started With Mining Litecoin
Kannon published a tutorial back in July about getting started with Litecoin, but the software tools have improved since then, so I thought it would be worth publishing an update. One point to note is that at the time of Kannon’s article, Litecoins were worth less than $3, they’ve now increased to 10 times that value and are significantly more difficult to mine. If you were paying attention, unlike me, then congratulations on your newly acquired fortune – hold onto them!
Disclaimer: There are a lot of alternative cryptocurrencies out there, some of which are attempts to get rich quick by the coin’s creator. I’m suggesting Litecoin because it’s the next largest cryptocurrency that’s still possible to mine, but obviously I can’t guarantee the whole cryptocurrency bubble won’t be a complete failure and be banned in every country in a few years. That’s exactly what stopped me mining Bitcoins two years ago now, a decision I clearly regret. Worst case scenario, you’re investing in a nice gaming machine. If you’re willing to take a gamble on other cryptocurrencies, check CoinWarz for an up-to-date profitability list and limit your search to “Scrypt”-based currencies – those can all still be mined using graphics cards.
First, you’re going to need a good graphics card. It is possible to mine using a CPU, but it’s so ridiculously slow it’s just not worth it, even with a top-of-the-range CPU. ASICs designed for Bitcoin mining are also ineffective due to the different algorithm used to mine Litecoins. That’s the thing about ASICs – they’re really good at one dedicated task and useless at anything else.
AMD Radeon cards (like this XFX AMD Radeon HD 7750) are overwhelmingly better than equivalently priced NVIDIA cards due to the different architecture (more, slower processors; as opposed to fewer, faster processors), as well as a particular math operation that can be done in one cycle on AMD but requires 3 cycles on NVIDIA cards. Remember, we’re not talking about gaming there, so this certainly doesn’t mean AMD cards are better than NVIDIA at gaming performance; purely in terms of the math required to mine crypto currencies.
Of course, running a high-end graphics card on full load 24/7 requires a lot of power; so much, in fact that unless your graphics card produces more than a certain rate of kilohashes per second, you’ll be making a net loss due to power costs (unless your power is free, in which case, have at it with anything you’ve got). Therefore, it’s important you either invest in a new card, or accurately check what your current card is capable of.
The easiest way is to check the Litecoin mining hardware comparison chart and see if your card is listed – take the lowest figure there as a realistic estimate of what you can achieve easily, which will give your calculation a little room for error and allow for idling time due to network issues, etc. Plug that number into this calculation tool, along with an estimate of power consumption and power costs for your area; and out will come an idea of how much “profit” you’ll be making – but bear in mind the difficulty will increase rapidly.
For a more realistic approach to Return-On-Investment rather than daily profit, check out this Reddit thread.
At this point, it may be painfully obvious that you may even end up making a net loss with your current setup.
For this reason, I invested in a new graphics card, a top of the line AMD Sapphire Radeon R9 290. It hits a sweet spot between power consumption, and production rate, even though the purchase cost is quite high. It’s not just the graphics card, of course – the new card required more power than my 350 watt PSU could provide, so that’s another $100 for a new PSU.
Join a Pool
You could mine solo, but it’s harder, more work to set up, and the rewards aren’t as reliable. Joining a pool means you get paid for all the work do you, whether or not you actually find a block; it’s like a lottery syndicate. Check out the current list of mining pools here. Once you’ve joined a pool, you should find somewhere to “manage workers”. From that page, you’ll find a worker name and password (leave it as x, you don’t need one), and there should be a list of that pools servers somewhere too. Note these all down.
The mining scripts are available for Windows as Kannon described before, but I experienced so many driver problems and variations in performance that it just wasn’t worth the trouble. BAMT is a 2 GB linux distro that boots off USB – it’s dedicate to the task of mining, and it does it well. Why mess around? After two days of thinking I had a dud card — mining would work for a few minutes then any tweaks would kill it and require a complete re-install of Windows (yes, seriously) — I was up and running with a BAMT Live USB in 10 minutes. Seriously, don’t use Windows.
Forgive the bad photo – my Linux screenshot skills are basically non-existent
At the time of writing, the latest Litecoin enabled BAMT is version 1.2 and it works fine with my R9 290 graphics card, with no driver updates. If you have a newer card, you may need to perform some updates. Download Litecoin BAMT here, and useWin32 Disk Imager to burn it onto a 2 GB USB flash drive. Boot from it, and presto – you’re mining. Unfortunately, you’re mining for someone else since you haven’t set it up with your own addresses yet. Do that now.
Note: If you’re planning on only using LTC Rabbit, they have their own customised version of BAMT which you might want to look into – the rest of these instructions should still apply.
Using BAMT Headless
Log in via SSH – the IP address should be shown on the BAMT desktop – as follows:
The default password is “live”.
Switch to superuser mode:
Initial configuration needs to be done by editing the /etc/bamt/cgminer.conf
Read below for details on what to put in this file, but at the very least adjust it to use your mining pool login credentials. When you’re done, save the file and restart the mining process with:
To view the cgminer output and make interactive changes, run:
Note the number you find next to the CGMiner process. “Attach” to that screen with the command (replacing 8213 with the number your screen output reported).
screen -r 8213.cgminer
From there, you can enter interactive mode, or just keep an eye on your card.
Here’s a sample output:
The interactive text menu allows you to change settings without permanently adjusting the config file. For exactly, to push the GPU memory clock to 1300, you would press G -> C -> M -> 1300 -> Enter.
Before you do anything else, open the cgminer.conf file for editing. Right now it has someone else’s mining pool details in there, so you’ll need to change that as soon as possible and restart. Note that the user entry is a concatenation of your username on that mining pool, a period, and the worker name; the password is usually just x – don’t enter your actual mining pool password – this is just for the worker.
"url" : "stratum+tcp://stratum.give-me-ltc.com:3333",
"user" : "username.workername",
"pass" : "x"
If you’ve only joined one pool, delete the details for the additional one, and remove the comma that’s currently separating the two. At some point, you’ll want to join an additional pool as a failover in case the first one is down or does’t have work units available.
This file is JSON format, so each property and value must be surrounded by double quotes, and a single colon (:) separates the “property”:”value”. Between property value pairs, you need a comma.
The exact settings you should use will vary by the graphics card – you can search on Google to find something suitable. Here’s some general advice to keep in mind:
- Intensity is a basic measure of how hard to work the graphics card, from 0-20. The faster you work it, the hotter it will get.
- You can keep the temperature constant by setting auto-fan to true and defining a temp-target (a target temperature to maintain). When it goes past this, you’ll hear the fans whack into full blow.
- Keep the GPU engine clock lower than normal, and keep the memory clock as high as possible (whilst still being stable) – you’ll need to experiment with your graphics card to find what works best.
- Don’t run at 90 Celsius the whole time unless you want to significantly reduce the life of your card.
You should have no trouble finding a suitable configuration for your graphics card, so a quick search on Google will return lots of possibilities to try. Here’s a sample one for R9 series cards. Setting up multiple cards is more difficult, but not impossible.
Finally: Get a Wallet
At some point you’ll want to be paid, and for that you’ll need a wallet to “receive” the payments. Your wallet is an application which keeps updated with the network, synchronising transactions. Since your mining machine may be regularly upgrade, reformatted, or otherwise messed around with, it’s a good idea to download the wallet to a more reliable machine that you keep backed up. Head over to litecoin.organd download one suitable for your OS. Alternatively, you can store your currencies in an online currency exchange wallet such as BTCe.
The first few hours your wallet will be out of sync, meaning it’s still catching up on all the previous transactions.
You can check the Help -> Debug window menu to see the block chain information. When the “Last block time” is roughly the current date, you’ll be in sync again. While out of sync, none of your transactions will show correctly, so if you’ve transferred some in already you’ll need to wait.
Cryptocurrency theft has made malware and hacking even more viable than ever – now there’s actual money sitting on your computer, and not just personal information. In some cases, people have lost thousands of coins. For this reason, you’ll want to encrypt your wallet from Settings -> Encrypt Wallet. Absolutely don’t forget your passphrase, obviously – that would be like losing your real life wallet with cash in it.
I’m probably not going to make a huge amount of money mining Litecoins; but my ageing GeForce 7800GT was due an upgrade anyway to get ready for the VR revolution. Did you take Kannon’s advice back in July? Are you still skeptical of cryptocurrencies, or are you ready to have a go for yourself?