How to DIY an Ethereum Mining Rig for Beginners
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Ethereum mining rigs can cost a fortune, particularly in power costs. Fortunately, it’s possible to create a DIY mining rig that uses very little power. This article explains how to build your own cheap Ethereum mining rig.

DIY Ethereum Mining Rig Efficiencies

The most efficient GPU miner of Ethereum at present is the Nvidia GTX 2070 8GB. It mines at around 42 megahashes per second (MhS) using 170 watts of power. That’s around 4.048 megahashes per watt (MhS/w). But the ASIC miners, custom chips designed to run the Ethash algorithm, beat out even the most efficient GPU miners. Unfortunately, they both cost hundreds of dollars and are priced out of reach of most small-time miners. On top of that, they’re useless for anything other than mining.

For those who don’t have the money to build a high-end miner, you are best off using a low-cost, high-efficiency mining rig.

There are two approaches to reducing power costs when mining Ethereum (or any cryptocurrency):

  1. You can reduce the total wattage consumption of the system.
  2. You can maximize the amount of cryptocurrency mined relative to its power consumption.

Both design styles end up looking very similar to one another. That’s because cryptocurrency mining focuses on two parts: the graphics card and the power supply. The rest of the computer can be little more than scrap pulls.

Let us begin with the most important component: the Graphics Processing Unit What Is the Difference Between an APU, a CPU, and a GPU? What Is the Difference Between an APU, a CPU, and a GPU? Over the last five or more years, there have been a number of different terms swirling around to describe computer hardware. Some of those terms include but aren’t limited to APU, CPU, and GPU. But... Read More (GPU).

Parts for Building Your Ultra-Efficient Miner

Energy-Efficient GPUs

The most energy-efficient mining devices for Ethereum are dedicated ASIC miners. But those cost a fortune. Most people are better off creating a low-cost, high-efficiency miner and then using the computer for other purposes after they are finished with it.

The best GPUs should offer the highest hashrate inside of 75 watts. The reason for this is that 75 watts is the maximum output of the PCIe slot which the GPU is connected to.

More or less, if you want energy efficiency (without paying a fortune for a 1060, 1070, or 1080), your only option is an AMD graphics card. The most energy efficient of these is the AMD Radeon RX 460 or RX 470 (or the pricier RX 560 and RX 570). The RX 470 pulls around 145 watts, with the recommended power supply for it produces around 350 total watts.

The RX 550 on the other hand, uses a total of 50 watts. That makes it easier to deploy on single-card mining rigs.

AMD Radeon RX 460

The hashrate of the RX 550 is reported to be around 11 mega-hashes per second (MhS). With a “peak” wattage consumption of 50 watts, that translates to 0.22 MhS/W. The 570 produces a hash rate of around 25 MhS with a power consumption of around 120 watts for 0.208 MhS/W. Of the two, the 550 offers better efficiency per watt and is easier to deploy on low-cost, low-end systems.

Note: The more GPU video RAM, the better the hash rate of the card. If you can get more RAM, do it.

RX 550, 460, 560 GPUs Are Easier to Power

GPUs like the RX 470 and 570 require additional power from either a 6-pin or an 8-pin connector, supplied by your power supply unit (PSU).

The RX 550, 560, and 460 draw so little power that they can operate entirely off the power supplied by the motherboard’s PCIe connector (which maxes out at around 75 watts). That means you don’t need an 8- or 6-pin connector, so it can almost certainly operate off the energy supplied by what’s known as a picoPSU: a tiny, fanless, highly-efficient PSU.

Energy-Efficient Power Supply

The power supply determines how efficiently a computer pulls current from the wall socket. Unfortunately, the standard PSU converts from wall current (Alternating Current, also known as AC) to Direct Current (DC) at around 70 percent efficiency. That means 30 percent of the power pulled from the wall gets turned into waste heat.

Fortunately, a variety of PSUs can convert at 80 percent and higher. When certified by the 80 Plus organization, a power supply unit receives an efficiency rating which varies depending on the load of the unit.

The ratings vary between 80+, 80+ Bronze, 80+ Silver, 80+ Gold, 80+ Platinum, and 80+ Titanium. At the highest end of the spectrum, PSUs produce above 90% efficiency at all loads, but they tend to cost a fortune.

I prefer using what’s called a picoPSU. A picoPSU generally supplies power somewhere under 200 watts. It also tends to offer higher efficiencies than standard power supplies, at 80-90% efficiency. If you’re using an RX 550, 460, 560, you can get away with a picoPSU. The model I recommend is the 160-XT. The XT includes a 4-pin CPU connector.

However, many Intel J-series motherboards have soldered-on processors that don’t require a 4-pin power port. That reduced build costs.

On the downside, you can’t just slap a picoPSU into a case without making modifications. For example, I had to run the DC power jack through my case’s three-pronged female port. On top of that, picoPSUs usually only support a single SATA-powered device. If your case places its storage drives in odd places, you might also need an extension cable.

PSU Case Modification with 3D printed bracket.

Best Motherboard and CPU for Ethereum Mining

There is only one requirement for the motherboard: it needs to support a full-size GPU. The processor doesn’t matter. You need a PCIe x16 slot.

I recommend using either Intel’s J-series “Atom” motherboards with embedded processors. Alternatively, AMD’s socketed AM1 platform offers a modular alternative. Both are fine motherboards although if you ever want to play games, they are for low-end gaming only.

A few of Intel’s J-series boards now include PCIe x16 support. However, there’s confusion regarding how much power the PCIe slot produces. According to its specifications, a PCIe x16 slot can deliver around 75 watts. That should be enough to handle the 75-watt draw of many midrange GPUs, like the Nvidia 1050 Ti and RX 550, 460, and 560.

Not all of these cards require it, but some manufacturers include an optional 6-pin GPU power connector for added safety.

This is a photo of a PCIe x16 port on an AMD Kabini ITX motherboard.

Note: You might notice that some motherboards are PCIe x16 at x4 speeds. Cryptocurrency mining only requires a PCIe x16 port for its physical size and ability to supply 75-watts of power. The bandwidth of the port does not matter to miners.

The Rest of the Computer

The rest of the computer doesn’t matter much. In general, you want a case that can adequately cool either an RX 460, RX 560, or RX 550—but GPUs include their own cooling mechanism. The case only needs to not interfere with the GPU’s fans and provide enough space to house the graphics card.

Some people even choose to do open air builds. An extreme few daisy chain together multiple 570 GPUs on Ikea storage shelves!

Sample Build: Super Low-Energy Ethereum Miner

Here’s what my ideal low-power, budget build looks like:

  1. Motherboard + CPU: ASRock J4005B-ITX (Amazon)
  2. GPU: Sapphire Radeon RX 550 4GB ($95 via Newegg)
  3. Case: Silverstone SG05-LITE Sugo ($43.99 via B&H)
  4. RAM: Crucial DDR4-2400 1 x 4GB SO-DIMM (Amazon)
  5. SSD: Crucial BX500 120GB (Amazon)
  6. picoPSU + power brick: 120-watt unit ($65 via Mini Box)

Total wattage consumption: 75-95 watts
Estimated hash rate: 14 MhS
Hashes per watt: 14 MhS/100 W = 0.14 MhS/W

A  more expensive miner would use a beefier PSU and GPU, but otherwise it should look identical. For beginners, I don’t advise anything stronger than an RX 560. The supporting infrastructure of a bigger GPU, such as a high wattage power supply unit, can invisibly increase costs. If you’re new to mining, you should do everything possible to minimize build costs and power consumption.

This is a picture of the Silverstone Sugo Mini-ITX computer case.

There is more you can do to this system. The Solid State Drive (SSD) makes boot and configuration time faster, and you could double the RAM by purchasing two 4GB SO-DIMMs instead of one. This would slightly increase the hash rate and make it more usable as a lightweight gaming computer.

Configuring Your Miner: Undervolting Your GPU

Like with CPUs, you can reduce the voltage supplied to the GPU and decrease the power consumed and waste heat produced. Whether there’s a trade-off depends on the silicon lottery. Most discrete graphics cards can undervolt slightly (what is undervolting? How Undervolting Decreases Heat & Increases Battery Life How Undervolting Decreases Heat & Increases Battery Life Would you believe that many computers and smartphones can run cooler and consume less power? A trick exists, called undervolting, which can increase your CPU's efficiency with few drawbacks. If performed right, devices generally produce... Read More ) without losing anything. However, a small number become unstable, even with slight undervolting. You won’t know until you try.

If you have an AMD card, it works like this: install Radeon Settings. Run it, and then go to the Gaming Tab:

This is a screen capture of the Radeon Settings menu.

Choose Global Settings:

This is a screen capture of the AMD Radeon Settings menu and someone is clicking on Global Settings.

Choose the Wattman tab and scroll down until you reach the entry for Voltage Control (mV). From within this menu, you can reduce the voltage. However, keep in mind that your GPU draws a different voltage at each frequency. Personally, I use a 100 mV undervolt at each frequency.

So, for STATE 1 through 7, I reduce the voltage by 100. The lowest it can go for the RX 480 is 800, so you’ll notice that the first two entries are at 800:

This is a screen capture of the Wattman settings with the voltage being tweaked.

If this makes your system unstable, Radeon Settings will automatically reset to the default voltage. There is virtually no risk of permanent instability. In the worst case scenario, you can simply remove your graphics card.

Should You Build an Energy-Efficient Ethereum Miner?

I’d say only as an experiment. The underlying technology behind Ethereum is a big leap over Bitcoin’s. But cryptocurrency is so ridiculously speculative, it’s only worth taking a moderate risk on, even if you understand cryptocurrency Learn All About Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Without the Confusion Learn All About Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Without the Confusion Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are making us look at investments in a different way. Take one of these Udemy courses to learn Bitcoin basics expand your knowledge about digital currencies. Read More . I wouldn’t invest thousands into mining unless you really have thousands to spare, and make sure you’re aware of the risks before spending any money.

Explore more about: Computer Parts, Cryptocurrency, DIY Project Tutorials, Ethereum, Graphics Card.

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  1. Al
    December 26, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    Hi Kannon, I stumbled across your article and found that it filled in a lot of gaps as I consider building a beginner rig for mining. Do you have any monitor recommendations, something for loading the system, maintenance, etc? I found many options but I'm not familiar with this configuration and worried about spending on something that is not compatible.

    Thanks again,

    Al

    • Kannon Y
      December 30, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Hi Al, sorry for the delayed response!

      The kind of monitor that you use depends on the video out on the motherboard. For the AM1 platform, I believe the standard video outs include HDMI, VGA, and DVI. For this kind of build, though, you will likely want to buy a second-hand or reduce price monitor. This is something you will probably end up running headless (without a monitor) so you could probably just use whatever you have on hand.

      I'm not sure about the other parts that you're speaking of. For maintenance, dust filters are always nice to have, since they reduce the amount of cleaning required.

      For the most part, other than the possibility of needing extension cables for the SATA or MOLEX plugs, you shouldn't need any special parts.

      • Al
        December 31, 2017 at 1:25 am

        Thanks for the info. By maintenance, I meant updating drivers, OS, etc etc so I'm going headless unless I need to check the system.

        Thanks again.

  2. Elmer
    December 12, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    Hi Kannon,
    Can I use multiple RX 460 GPU's (maybe 4) on an ECS KBN-I motherboard? Will that overload the motherboard?

    Thanks for any info.

    Elmer

    • Kannon Yamada
      December 13, 2017 at 1:06 am

      Hi Elmer, unless you are using the six pin connector on a discrete card, it will pull wattage from the PCIe slot -- and you will overdraw if you use more than one RX 460. I apologize for not making this clearer.

      To others who are reading this comment, this tutorial is for a single slot miner. A single slot miner has an overall lower footprint, both in terms of power draw and overall cost, compared to a multi-GPU miner. They are cost-effective only for those who want to get their feet wet since the cost of entry is fairly low.

      I would recommend the AM1 platform over the ECS KBN board. You can do a lot more with the AM1 platform once you decide to retire the miner.

  3. Papa Georgio
    November 26, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Kannon,

    Awesome beginners build guide for an energy efficient mining rig! I have read through it several times and finally purchased the parts you recommended. However, I am not sure what power brick/adapter I need to get to maximize the potential of the picoPSU you recommended: https://www.amazon.com/Mini-Box-picoPSU-160-XT-Power-Mini-ITX-Supply/dp/B005TWE6B8/ref=as_at?creativeASIN=B005TWE6B8&linkCode=w50&tag=mak041-20&imprToken=jre1Yx45yo8HG1jqJ7Y0zw&slotNum=0

    Your original link to amazon which included the picoPSU with an adapter is no longer available (404 page). Can you provide the optimal power brick adapter (link to product or recommended specifications) for use with the picoPSU 160xt in this build please?

    Much appreciated!

    • Kannon Yamada
      November 30, 2017 at 6:02 pm

      Georgio, thanks for your comment! I'm sorry that they no longer sell that particular PSU adapter combo.

      That is a shame about the barrel jack adapter. Because there are a lot of different sizes and shapes for barrel jack DC plugs. In general, all the picoPSUs that I've seen use the same connection standard which is 5.5mm outer diameter and a 2.5mm inner diameter IIRC. They do differ in their efficiencies, but in general, there are so many no-brand suppliers out there, it's better to just pick a reputable importer and buy from them. My go-tos are QuietPC and MiniBox. But there are many other importers out there.

      So, more than likely, I would go with one of these:

      http://www.mini-box.com/12v-12-5A-AC-DC-Power-Adapter

      http://www.mini-box.com/12v-16A-AC-DC-Power-Adapter

      If you use the 160 XT, it can work with a mismatched adapter. You can use any wattage adapter, provided it exceeds the wattage consumption of your entire computer while mining. But because your power consumption goes up dramatically when mining, you might want to go with the 160-watt adapter.

      The price is too high, though, IMO. These should be like 20-dollar units.

  4. Mister M
    November 10, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Sorry for the multiple comments, I didn't think my comment had posted :/

  5. Mister M
    November 10, 2017 at 1:16 am

    Hi Kannon

    I have been following this article and built a machine using a Radeon RX460 (Gigabyte 4GB) on an Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H motherboard using a 460W PSU before trying a pico, and have installed all the relevant latest drivers.

    I am testing this with Minergate on Win 7 Pro 64, mining Monero and can only get 250 h/s.

    Could there be something I have missed?

    Thanks

    Mr M

    • Kannon Yamada
      November 10, 2017 at 1:25 am

      Sorry about the multiple comments. We need better thread tracking.

      So first of all, you're doing it right. By reusing old components, you keep your build costs low, which is the whole point of this exercise.

      Second, I can't think off the top of my head what might be going on. It's well established that the RX 460 can hit close to 11 MHS on a rig practically made from wet noodles. The hash you're getting is so ridiculously low, something is clearly off. And updating drivers is almost always the first thing to do.

      My best guess is that this is a Windows thing. WIndows is a complete disaster back when I tried to mine Ethereum on it. The Linux/Ubuntu set up is infinitely easier.

  6. Mister M
    November 10, 2017 at 1:11 am

    Hi Kannon

    I have just put an RX460 (Gigabyte Radeon 4GB) on a AM1 (Gigabyte GA-AM1M-S2H) board in an old Dell Case I have. I am currently using the 460W PSU, before trying a pico supply.

    I am using Minergate mining Monero to test the setup. I can't seem to get anything more than about 250 h/s.

    I've installed the latest Gigabyte drivers etc.

    Can't figure out what I'm doing wrong.

    Anything I might have missed?

    Thanks

    Mr M

    • Kannon Yamada
      November 30, 2017 at 5:37 pm

      Hey there, thanks for reading! And sorry for the late response!

      I wouldn't burden a laptop with the kind of thermal overhead that mining causes. It's just way too much wear and tear for a mobile device with a very low thermal envelope. But an external GPU using a USB interface? I've not heard of this and know nothing about it.

      I know that the USB interface would cause a bottleneck on most kinds of GPU-related operations, but for some reason, mining doesn't seem to incur this kind of penalty. From what I know, you should be good to go if you know how to set up this kind of arrangement (I have no idea how).

  7. dinis
    October 31, 2017 at 12:01 am

    Hi. Great info.
    I have an old PC that doesn't have PCIe slots but has 4 USB's. I wonder what about if I use 4 PCI-E PCI Express X16 Extender and run the GPU's from the USB ports. would it work? like this, I would need a smaller investment, just to start playing with it.
    Another idea is to use my own laptop (toshiba R700), at night, using the same USB extenders but maybe the laptop power is not ready to supply the GPU. What is your opinion on this? In the case that it would be advisable to use laptop, would this interfere with my normal working or would it be advisable to let it work only when I am not using the laptop?
    Thanks in advance
    dinis

    • Kannon Yamada
      November 6, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      What kind of GPUs would you use? Do you have any examples? I've heard of external GPUs for workstation docks. In theory, it should work, since cryptomining generally runs off the GPU and doesn't use the CPU very much.

  8. RavMun
    October 13, 2017 at 9:00 am

    How much hash rate increase do you think you can get by getting a 2nd stick of 2gb ram in there? And is it better for power to use a single 4gb stick or 2 x 2gb sticks? What would be the increase in hash rate with say 8 or 16gb?
    Thanks!

    • Kannon Yamada
      October 16, 2017 at 5:23 pm

      IIRC, there is a very slight increase in hashing performance when the RAM is running in dual-channel mode or when more RAM is used. I'm not sure why this occurs. It could be due to sampling errors.

      All the mining machines that I've seen use 4GB of RAM. So it sounds as if RAM is not very important.

    • Kannon Yamada
      October 16, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      I should clarify, SYSTEM RAM is not very important. GPU VRAM is very important.

      • RavMun
        November 30, 2017 at 3:18 pm

        Ah, right. So (assuming i'm putting 2 x 2GB into my ECS KAM1-I motherboard) if I get a XFX Radeon RX 460 2GB instead of 4GB will it make a big difference to hashrate? what kind of reduction?

        It's harder to find the 4GB ones but also, they do a 2GB with a heatsink instead of a fan so i could make a silent machine.

        • Kannon Yamada
          November 30, 2017 at 5:30 pm

          You'd need to look those numbers up. I'm only familiar with the 4GB model. The 2GB is probably significantly slower at solving crypto compared to the 4GB. It's not so big that you shouldn't be mining, but it is big enough to throw off your power cost calculations.

  9. Amit
    August 25, 2017 at 9:35 pm

    I am getting around 29 MH/s with my GTX 1070 and a peak power consumption of 150 W (that includes the entire Windows 10 PC)

    So thus turns out to be cheaper than AMD as you mention.

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 25, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      Thanks for letting me know Amit! The 1070 is such an amazing GPU. I wish it were horrible at crypto so I could afford one!

  10. Shep
    August 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    How much can you mine with a rig like this?
    Thank you so much for the great information Kannon!

    • Kannon Yamada
      August 6, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      It depends on the difficulty level. I'm not sure where Ethereum is right now, but a megahash rate of around 25 is what most people were getting with IIRC an RX 470 and they were profitably mining a few months ago. A hash rate of 11 MH/s isn't amazing, but it's almost half of an RX 470 (which sells for a ridiculous amount of money). You won't make any money unless Ethereum goes up in value vs your power costs. But using a build like this helps you keep the power cost and build costs lower than had you decided to get a 470 or 480.

  11. Daniel
    July 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

    Could I use this setup to install 2 GPUs RX 460 instead of one? I know that will drive the power cost up but Im wondering if the motherboard would take it. I don't mind an extra 100 watts for 11 MH/s of ETH

    • Kannon
      July 7, 2017 at 12:03 am

      You would need a different motherboard that's capable of supporting two different RX 460s. The software itself can run on two separate GPUs, so that's definitely not an issue. The issue is that dual GPU motherboards can cost quite a bit of money compared to single slot boards.

      The key is that the motherboard has to have two x16 slots (or two slots that can physically support an x16 card).

      • Daniel
        July 7, 2017 at 7:16 pm

        And what energy efficient motherboard + cpu would you recommend for that case? I want to buy 2 RX 460s and maybe bump the watts to 300 I don't mind as long as I can hash 22 MH/s on the same small machine.

        • Kannon Yamada
          July 9, 2017 at 1:35 am

          The problem is that motherboards with 2 x16 PCIe slots (either 2.0 or 3.0 should work) tend to cost quite a bit. Currently, I believe that people are buying older high end boards and using Celeron processors (which are the lowest tier for socketed processors) in order to get a board that's within an affordable price bracket. PCIe is an older socket, so in theory you should be able to go back pretty far and find something that works.

          Unfortunately, alt coin mining seems to have driven the prices on these boards up quite a bit. If you can find them at all. They're sold out most places:

          https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813157392

          The only sane option is the 460 at the moment, plus some weak hardware. I wouldn't even bother with using a dual GPU miner.

  12. Eddie G.
    June 28, 2017 at 6:42 am

    "Cryptocurrency"?....Hah! Stupid...money that isn't "real"......yeah...no I'll stick with The Real World thanks.

    • Ben
      July 16, 2017 at 5:43 am

      And you believe that our current monetary system is based in reality? How is a $100 bill printed on paper (not backed by gold or any other valuable tangible object) any more 'real' than any of these cryptocurrencies? You do realize that every dollar the U.S. government prints is printed with interest, right? As in, the Federal Reserve prints our government the $1 and charges us interest (whatever the Fed Rate is). Where do you think that interest comes from? It's simply made up. POOF, out of thin air. Where do you think any of our money comes from? What to you makes the digital representation of money you see when you log on to your bank account online
      and more real than what a crypto investor/miner sees when they open up their digital wallet?

      • kannon
        July 16, 2017 at 4:38 pm

        Thanks for the comment. I believe that Nixon ended convertibility into gold -- he did not end the relationship between the US's gold reserves and the dollar. The dollar is still backed by the tremendous amount of reserves held by the US government, which is why it's among the most stable currencies in the world.

        There is some debate over whether or not the US secretly sold off large parts of its reserves though -- but that's a separate discussion.

        Some however, argue that gold is a great way to back a currency. It's actually a pretty inefficient system since we still make a lot of products with gold.

        • Barry
          August 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm

          "The dollar is still backed by the tremendous amount of reserves held by the US government,"

          False. There is no relationship between the Gold held by the Treasury and the FRN.

        • Kannon Yamada
          August 23, 2017 at 2:46 pm

          The US dollar is backed by all of the nation's assets. And that includes its gold reserves. The US no longer fixes the value of the dollar to gold, which means it does not have to add gold to its reserves whenever it prints money.

  13. Simon
    June 27, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    OK, so I build the system per your sample build. Now what - What about the software? What software do I install (and configure) to do the mining?

    • Kannon Y
      June 27, 2017 at 7:43 pm

      I recommend Ubuntu.

      //www.makeuseof.com/tag/install-ubuntu-computer-using-usb-flash-drive/

      Once you install Ubuntu, it's pretty easy to begin mining Ethereum:

      https://www.meebey.net/posts/ethereum_gpu_mining_on_linux_howto/

    • Rex
      June 27, 2017 at 11:09 pm

      Yes, Mr. Yamada, tell The Rest of the Story.
      I looked hard for the link to the Next Step: Mining Etherium for Dummies.
      Nada

    • Rex
      June 27, 2017 at 11:10 pm

      Yes, Mr. Yamada, tell us how to use this.
      I looked all over this page for a link to "Mining Etherium for beginners"

      Nada

    • Jimmy
      June 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Lots of articles on how to do this. There's even a Linux distro specifically for Ether mining. EthOS. Not free but painless to set up. There's also free ones. C'mon guys, you can't have everything spoon fed to you.

      • Simon
        June 28, 2017 at 2:22 pm

        Really?? No one is asking to be "spoon fed.....", just for a few links and maybe some addition helpful advice from others in the community that have more experience in the subject.