Mining Software

While it is now considered too late for hobbyists without costly ASIC processors to start extracting bitcoins, most alternative digital currencies are still well suited for mining on your home PC.

In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to start digging up a few bedcoins, feathercoins or dogecoins without any extra expensive equipment.

For the most part, cryptocurrencies use SHA-256 or scrypt as the proof of work hash algorithm, but most new currencies have opted for scrypt.

Row of Litecoin Gridseed miners set up. Copyright: Arina P Habich

Scrypt tends to be more intensive memory of both – however, personal computers with fairly powerful graphics cards can still MINE these cryptocurrencies very efficiently because there are no dedicated ASICs to compete with – yet.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is still possible to use only the processor of your computer to exploit some of the digital currencies. This is true even if you only have a laptop with integrated graphics; although this may not be terribly effective and is not a configuration we recommend.

Portfolios on loan

Before you start mining, you will need a wallet to keep your coins hard earned (see our guide to store bitcoin). A good option is to go to the home page of the currency you intend to extract and search for the download link for the default wallet application. If you want to do more research on litecoin in particular, we have a guide on how to get started.

If you need help and advice, most altcoins have community forums, as well as their own subreddit. The majority of portfolios are based on the original Bitcoin-Qt client. Be warned, however, that before these wallets are really usable, you may have to wait a long time during the complete download of the blockchain in the room.

Sensational. Much Wallet (This is DogeCoin’s wallet)


The need for speed

Unless you have specific mining equipment, there are two ways to extract cryptocurrencies: with your CPU or with your graphics processing unit (GPU) – the latter is of course installed on your graphics card.

Of the two, a GPU offers much better performance for the cryptographic calculations required. However, if you make your first foray into the mining industry and do not own a bloated gaming computer – a laptop with Intel integrated graphics, maybe – it will still be possible to exploit these altcoins, but at a rate much slower.

The problem with GPU extraction is that it requires a dedicated graphics processor, as you may have installed in your desktop PC – Intel’s integrated graphics that can be found in most laptops just do not fit. To keep the speeds at a respectable level, most altcoin miners build dedicated machines using motherboards that can hold multiple graphics cards, typically via up cables.

Also be aware that the operation of digital parts is very intensive and can shorten the life of your electronic components. It’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate cooling in place, keep an eye on these temperatures and keep your hands on all the guarantees – just in case.

Solo, or with the crowd?

Mining can be either a lone business or you can join a mining “pool” where a number of people combine their processing resources and all take a share of the rewards.

It can be useful to think of mining pools as joining a lottery syndicate – the advantages and disadvantages are exactly the same. Going solo means that you keep the full reward of your efforts, but that you accept the reduced chances of succeeding. Conversely, joining a pool means that members, as a whole, will have a greater chance of resolving a block, but the reward will be split among all pool members, based on the number of “shares” won.

If you plan to go it alone, it’s important to note that setting up your software for solo extraction may be more complicated than with a pool, and beginners would probably be better off taking the last route. This option also creates a more stable revenue stream, even though each payment is modest compared to the full block reward.

Deciding which altcoin to mine will be something else to keep in mind, however, some pools, such as Multipool, handle this for you and change parts based on profitability.

Installing your CPU miner

Practical software called cpuminer is the easiest way to start crawling, but requires the ability to use the command line on your computer. The program can be downloaded from SourceForge and is available for Windows (32 and 64 bit), OS X and Linux. For the purposes of this guide, however, we make the assumption that you are using the Windows operating system.

First, download the appropriate file for your operating system. The zip file can be extracted anywhere on your hard drive, as long as you remember where it went. A good idea would be to create a folder ‘cpuminer’ on your desktop.

Write your script

So, how do you configure the cpuminer with the necessary parameters for your mining pool? Well, it is usually simpler to write a script of a line (known as a “batch file” in Windows) to run the minor with the correct instructions.

To do this you will need the following:

  • The full path to the directory in which the extraction program (“minerd.exe”) is stored (for example: “C: \ cpu-miner-pooler”).
  • The ‘stratum’ URL of your mining pool server (for example, “stratum + tcp: //”).
  • The port number of your mining server (for example, “3333”).
  • Your mining pool user name (for example: “username”).
  • Your name or worker number (eg “1”).
  • Your worker password (for example: “x”).

Now open Notepad or your favorite text editor. However, do not use a word processor such as MS Word. Then enter the script using the following formula (note that this method assumes that you are extracting a currency that uses the scrypt algorithm):

start “path” minerd.exe – -url URL: PORT -a scrypt – – userpass USERNAME.WORKER: PASSWORD

So, using the details of the example above, you would have produced the following text:

start “C: \ cpu-minor-pooler” minerd.exe – stratum urur + tcp: // -a scrypt -userpass username.1: x

Save this file with a “.bat” extension; for example: “my-mining-profile.bat”.

Once the batch file has been saved, double-click on it to activate the minor program. Your data mining pool is most likely to have a web interface, and in a few minutes, the Web site should indicate that your mining wizard is active.

Now that you know how to use the processor, let’s take a look at your GPU.

Setting up your GPU miner

For those who intend to exploit with GPUs or USB extraction devices, cgminer is the program to use and can be downloaded from the developer’s website – unless, either you are a Mac user, which case you will find unofficial binaries here.

The versions of cgminer after version 3.72 do not support scrypt browsing, and GPU support has been removed in version 3.82. Therefore, the latest version is not necessarily the one to download. Instead, find the version appropriate to your needs.

Again, in this example, we make the assumption that you are using the Windows operating system. However, if you are using Linux or OS X, the command line arguments (that is, the parameters) are the same. In addition, the instructions below again assume that you are going to extract a scrypt currency.

Extract the software into a folder that can easily be found, for example: “c: \ cgminer \”.

Before going any further, make sure your graphics drivers are up to date.

Then press the Windows key with the “R” key, type “cmd”, and press “Enter.” This will open the control terminal. Use the “cd” command to change the directory to the one that contains the cgminer zip file.

Then type “cgminer.exe -n”. This lists all the devices recognized on your PC. If your graphics card is detected, you should be ready to go. If this is not the case, you will need to find the necessary steps to correctly configure your specific graphics card.

You will now need your mining pool details, just like with the CPU extraction section above:

  • The full path to the directory in which the extraction program (“minerd.exe”) is stored (for example: “C: \ cpu-miner-pooler”).
  • The ‘stratum’ URL of your mining pool server (for example, “stratum + tcp: //”).
  • The port number of your mining server (for example, “3333”).
  • Your mining pool user name (for example: “username”).
  • Your name or worker number (eg “1”).
  • Your worker password (for example: “x”).

Now we are going to make a new batch file, in order to start tuning with the correct parameters. In this case, the command structure is:

Start “path” cgminer – scrypt -o URL: PORT -u USERNAME.WORKER -p PASSWORD

For example,

Start “C: \ cgminer \” – scrypt -o stratum + tcp: // -user username.1: x

Watch your miner

Now that the mining software of your choice is set up, you will see various statistics scrolling on your command line terminal. If you use cgminer, you will see more information than cpminer. In the case of the first, you will see information on the currency and the mining pool, as well as on your mining equipment. If you are using cpuminer, you will only see references to blocks that your PC has resolved; However, this shows at least your hash speed.

Maximize your power

Good news for minors who own PCs with dedicated graphics cards: it is possible to run both cpuminer and cgminer at the same time. To do this, add a “- threads n” argument to the minerd command. Here, “n” represents the number of processor cores you want to use for mining.

Remember to leave one or two hearts free to control your GPUs. If you configure minerd to use all CPU cores, it means that the processor will be too busy to send data to the GPU for processing. For example, if you have a quad core processor, try setting the “-threads” argument to “2” or “3”.

The simultaneous exploration of GPUs and CPUs reveals how much better GPUs are at extraction than the CPU. Compare the hash rates displayed in the terminal windows for each of your mining programs and you should see a hash speed difference of at least five times.