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What Do I Need To Mine Bitcoins?

Although early on in Bitcoin's history individuals may have been able to compete for blocks with a regular at-home computer, this is no longer the case. The reason for this is that the difficulty of mining Bitcoin changes over time. In order to ensure the smooth functioning of the blockchain and its ability to process and verify transactions, the Bitcoin network aims to have one block produced every 10 minutes or so. However, if there are one million mining rigs competing to solve the hash problem, they'll likely reach a solution faster than a scenario in which 10 mining rigs are working on the same problem.


For that reason, Bitcoin is designed to evaluate and adjust the difficulty of mining every 2,016 blocks, or roughly every two weeks. When there is more computing power collectively working to mine for Bitcoin, the difficulty level of mining increases in order to keep block production at a stable rate. Less computing power means the difficulty level decreases. To get a sense of just how much computing power is involved, when Bitcoin launched in 2009 the initial difficulty level was one. As of Nov. 2019, it is more than 13 trillion.



All of this is to say that, in order to mine competitively, miners must now invest in powerful computer equipment like a GPU (graphics processing unit) or, more realistically, an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC). These can run from $500 to the tens of thousands. Some miners—particularly Ethereum miners—buy individual graphics cards (GPUs) as a low-cost way to cobble together mining operations. The photo below is a makeshift, home-made mining machine. The graphics cards are those rectangular blocks with whirring fans. Note the sandwich twist-ties holding the graphics cards to the metal pole. This is probably not the most efficient way to mine, and as you can guess, many miners are in it as much for the fun and challenge as for the money.