With cryptocurrency coin prices surging, it’s no wonder that crypto enthusiasts and even outsiders are interested in cashing in on the crypto mining phenomenon. Mining can be a profitable venture if you have cheap or even free electricity, and if you know what coins to mine and when to mine them.
All of this mining is done with high-end GPUs (think expensive gaming video cards) arranged and configured to solve complex math problems. In this first blog post of a multipart mining series, we will show you the parts required to build a 7 GPU cryptocurrency mining rig to mine our primary targets, Ethereum (ETH), Monero (XMR) and Zcash (ZEC).
N.B. Pricing was taken at the time this article was written. Pricing may differ from what is listed here due to supply constraints or other pricing factors that regularly affect PC hardware components.
CPU – Celeron G3900 2.8Ghz – $41.99
I have seen many times on social media, forums, etc people spending money on a CPU that is totally unnecessary for mining, and frankly a waste. Mining is a GPU (video card) intensive task. If you are going to spend additional money, at least spending it on something that will make you mine at a faster rate such as a better GPU.
Our CPU choice for this mining rig is an affordably priced Intel Celeron G3900 at 2.8Ghz for $42 from Amazon.
This CPU is more than adequate to handle the tasks of booting Windows and starting your mining software, and then sitting there 99% idle while your GPUs do all the work.
Motherboard – MSI Z170A Gaming M5 – $149.99
In order to control all of those GPUs, we are going to need a motherboard that has enough PCI-e slots to support 7 video cards. The MSI Z170A Gaming M5 is perfect for this task! With 7 PCI-e slots and reasonably priced at $149.99 on Amazon, it is the perfect mining motherboard. We will need to purchase PCI-e riser slots as well to ensure we can successfully connect all of our 7 graphics cards concurrently to this motherboard. There are many other choices for motherboards too that support 6,7 and even 8+ cards now, so if you find a better deal or another board that supports a large number of cards, feel free to substitute here.
Like any basic computer setup, we will need RAM. Depending on whether you run Linux or Windows for your mining platform will determine whether you need 8GB of RAM, or if you can get by with 4GB. Linux is much less resource intensive than Windows, and if we loaded the CLI version of Linux (no X desktop) we could get away with 4GB. Unfortunately the tuning utilities for GPUs on Linux are somewhat lacking, and much easier and quicker to do on Windows. So for this reason we are opting for Windows builds and must use 8GB instead of 4GB. Also, since we are using Windows, and it is a paid operating system, we will also incur a small license fee for a product key (detailed below). You can buy this RAM for $68 from Amazon.
Hard Drive – Kingston 120GB A400 SSD – $58.99
We are going to need a hard drive in order to store our operating system, mining data, etc. While you can definitely get away with a cheap USB or standard HDD, with the prices of SSDs dropping so rapidly, I would highly recommend opting for an SSD. You will be doing a lot of reboots during your initial install and configuration. For the small increase in price, an SSD makes a huge difference in boot times.
Graphics Cards (GPUs) – (7) MSI RX 580 ARMOR 8G OC – $329.99 each
This is definitely going to be your toughest task. Sourcing 7 graphics cards, let alone at a good price is no easy feat. Since the boom in mining occurred, high-end graphics cards are in short supply these days! Also, retailers will sometimes limit the amount you can buy per purchase, but if you stay diligent and pick them up when they are available from multiple retailers if necessary, you will be good. Setting auto-notify alerts when items are back in stock also helps if you are having problems locating them. Expect to pay 50-100% more when trying to source from eBay. If you have your own business, you can try to source it through a b2b partner (BestBuy for Business, CDW, etc), as that may be easier to get the quantities you need in one order.
For our rig, we chose the MSI RX 580 Armor 8GB OC series which we picked up from Amazon for $330. These cards are great for mining our primary targets, Ethereum (ETH), Monero (XMR) and Zcash (ZEC).
Also make sure if you do decide to use different cards from the graphics cards we recommend that you ensure you get a card that has a minimum of 8GB of RAM. There are 2 reasons for this. First, the 8GB models seem to come with higher quality memory allowing for better overclocking and squeezing an additional 10% MH/s out of each card. Second, with the DAG size of Ethereum continually increasing, the 4GB cards will soon become obsolete and useless. So make sure you pick up the 8GB models, and don’t be tempted by the $60 decrease in price for a 4GB model!
In order to power all of those video cards, we are going to need a pretty hefty power supply. Don’t cut corners with a no-name, or lower rated PSU. You will actually run more efficiently, and save more power when your PSU isn’t running at full or near full capacity. Corsair’s 1200W HX1200 platinum power supply unit is just what we need for our rig, offering multiple +12v rails. At $240 from Amazon, it is very reasonably priced for what it has to offer, and is the perfect PSU for our 7 GPU cryptocurrency mining rig.
PCI-e 16x to 1x USB 3.0 Cards (7) – ~ $8.33 each
In order to connect all of our video cards to our MSI Z170A Gaming M5 motherboard, we will need PCI-e to USB 3.0 riser cards. The standard choice for this are 16x to 1x PCI-E USB 3.0 powered extenders/risers. Make sure you choose a reliable manufacturer of risers with positive reviews. Since the boom in mining occurred, a lot of cheap, lower quality riser manufactures popped up and are manufacturing units with high fail rates and poor QA. We’ve found that the black and blue boards (as we have linked to here) seem to be of higher quality than the green boards. We will need 7 of these boards to connect to our graphics cards, however I recommend picking up 1-2 extra just incase of failure.
We will be using Windows for our operating system of choice. While Linux is more than capable of running mining software, there is definitely a higher learning curve involved in ensuring a Linux mining rig is running in an optimal state. Furthermore drivers are much more prevalent and automatically installed in Windows, making this an easy route for a beginner or the target of this post. The best way to get a cheap Windows 10 Pro key is to buy an OEM product key from a reputable seller on eBay. There are plenty of sellers selling these keys, so just find one that is cheap and offers digital / instant delivery, and you should be fine. Don’t waste your money on a $100+ key from a retailer. They are all the same and the OEM ones work just fine for install and Windows Update.
Most of you probably have a spare USB keyboard and mouse you can use to setup your rig, and then disconnect when it is operational. However if you don’t, this combo for $11 from Amazon does the job and is cheap!
If you don’t want to jump 2 pins together on your motherboard every time you want to turn it on, I would recommend picking up a pack of these switches with a simple on/off push button. It makes it easy to turn off your rig with a simple push of a button.
Optional – Plastic Shelving Unit – $24.99
While you can create pretty much any contraption you can think of from spare plastic, wood and cardboard to house your crypto mining rig, these plastic shelving units from Home Depot offer a great cheap pre-built alternative. They are light, plastic, can fit 4+ mining rigs a piece, and the shelves have holes in them allowing for good airflow! You can also find these on sale pretty often for $19.99.
Without optional components – $2931.19
With optional components – $2972.46
With our hardware all picked out and ordered, our next steps are assembly, installation, configuration and overclocking! Join us soon for part 2 of our multipart mining series, how to build your 7 GPU cryptocurrency mining rig.