Building an Ethereum Mining Rig

For a newbie (someone new to mining, and unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies in general – like me), the thought of assembling a computer and attempting to mine a digital currency can be daunting. When I started looking into the best ethereum mining equipment, it wasn’t long before my head was spinning.

However, just like any big task, when broken down into small steps, it’s definitely possible to build your own mining rig and make some profit mining!

Here are the steps I followed:

  1. Finding and choosing the best motherboard for mining ethereum
    Not sure what to look for in a motherboard? Click here for our write up on choosing the best mining motherboard. If you know what you’re looking for, you might want to use our price comparison tool that not only lists based on the lowest price, but also only lists mining motherboards that are currently in stock (coming soon – still don’t see it? send us an email).
  2. Selecting a power supply unit for your mining rig build
    In order to supply power to all the pieces of your mining rig, you need a power supply unit. The trick with that is it needs to be large enough to power all your GPUs. Plus, power supply units lose their efficiency as you near their max output so if you are concerned about power usage you need to get one that is oversized. Here’s some of the best power supply units
  3. Choosing a low-cost CPU
    Since we’re mining ether (Ethereum), we need powerful graphics cards. Mining ether doesn’t require a powerful CPU – the processors only job in our mining computer will be to run the mining software and handle the interfacing of the graphics cards etc. I’ll be choosing the lowest cost processor that fits the socket on the motherboard we chose in Step 1 above (for us that’s an LGA1151 type CPU). I’ll also pick one that will have enough oomph for a computer that will meet my needs if this mining thing falls flat and I end up simply using it as a home computer. This is our selection of the low-cost CPUs for our ethereum mining build
  4. Picking some RAM for your Mining Rig
    Similar to the CPU on your mining rig, the RAM needs to meet 2 requirements – it needs to fit the slots and be compatible with your motherboard, and it should be cheap! Unlike a gaming computer or desktop publisher, your mining rig only requires enough RAM to run your operating system and your mining software. Here’s a list of some budget RAM choices for your Ether Mining Rig Build
  5. Finding a low cost hard drive
    Other than storing the operating system and mining software, we don’t require anything from the hard drive. That makes it easy – find the cheapest solid state drive you can! Here are a few choices
  6. USB Risers aka PCIe Risers
    You might not need these yet, but eventually you’ll need powered PCIe risers to be able to connect the maximum GPUs that you can to your best motherboard for mining. For now, I only have 2 mining GPUs so I can connect them directly to the motherboard. Then as I buy more I’ll be looking at getting some mining PCIe risers. Here are some of the options I’ll look into when it’s time.
  7. Electricity Usage Monitors
    A cheap and reliable electricity usage meter is essential to help you tune your GPU mining rig to get the best mining speed vs power usage to help you fine tune your profitability. Even if you’re building multiple rigs, you only really need one of these as you can move them around to test and tweak your rigs one at a time. Electricity Usage Meters
  8. Buying some GPUs
    This is a big one. Each GPU has different hash speeds, and the ability to overclock, and undervolt so really what is the best GPU for mining ethereum? There are so many variables. I’m working on building a comparison table, sorry it isn’t done yet. I’ve been too busy setting up my rig… but I promise, I’ll set up the mining hardware comparison chart soon.

Now it’s time to assemble your Ethereum mining rig build!

Almost $1200 later, and here’s all my pretty parts before I opened the boxes (plus a bit of a [unrelated project] 3d printer visible in the background as well)

And here are all my mining rig components afterwards

To start with, I connected the CPU, CPU fan, RAM, and SSD hard drive to the motherboard. Next, I connected power to the motherboard and to the SSD.

Then I decided to try building this miner with a Windows install, so I went here and downloaded Windows 10 onto a USB flash drive. Apparently I don’t even need a Windows Key if I’m willing to put up with an ‘upgrade’ message in the bottom corner. We’ll see how it goes, but I do have an unused Windows 7 key that I plan to use as an ‘upgrade’ to Windows 10.

I plugged a USB keyboard into a USB slot on the motherboard, connected a monitor to the DVI plug on the MSI z170a motherboard, and turned on the “power switch”. Since I didn’t buy a power switch for my build, I had to short pins 6 and 8 with a metal screwdriver (just touch it momentarily and the lights and fan on the motherboard will come on, letting you know the system is booting up).

Temporarily/Momentarily short these pins on the MSI Z170A Gaming M5 mining motherboard to get the board to boot up:

Watch the monitor screen, and you’ll see the MSI dragon and logo. Click F11 to enter your boot menu to tell it to boot from USB. For some reason, I pressed F11 repeatedly and instead of giving me boot options, it actually just loaded the windows install from the USB flash drive and gave me the first Windows options screen (it asked for location and language settings). Follow the prompts – anytime it asked me if I wanted a feature (like Cortana, location specific items etc) I would say no.

Now that Windows is installed, the computer reboots and loads Windows. Isn’t it beautiful? With the solid state drive, and a clean fresh install of Windows 10, this mining rig actually boots really fast!

Restart the computer, pressing the ‘delete’ key on the keyboard to enter the bios settings.

Click F7 (or the ‘advanced’ option at the top of the screen)

Next, click on ‘settings’ on the left hand side

Choose the ‘advanced’ option and then choose ‘PCI Subsystem settings’

  • Set PEG0 and PEG1 values to Gen1
  • Changed ‘Above 4g Decoding’ to ‘Enabled’ [I ended up turning this off, it was causing me troubles]

Next, click on Settings > Advanced > Power Management setup, and change “Restore after AC Power Loss” to “Power On”. That way, your miner can restart itself if there is a power outage. Plus, no more needing to short the power pins to get it to boot. Now you can use the switch on the back of the power supply for mining to turn your mining rig on and off.

Finally, click the ‘X’ in the upper right to close the Bios Settings. Choose Save Changes and the computer will reboot.

For some reason my rig wouldn’t reboot – it would hang with error code 33 on the LED on the MSI z170a mining motherboard. Earlier I had noticed in the manual that with a single stick of RAM it should be in DIMM2 – I had mine plugged into DIMM1. I shut off the power supply, and moved the RAM into slot #2 and turned the power supply switch back on. The MSI load screen came up and said “Preparing Automatic Repair” or something to that effect. That got me up to LED error code ’34’ which I assume is slightly farther along than error code ’33’. So, back to the BIOS. I changed the above settings back, clicked the ‘X’, saved changed and waited for a reboot. That got me to a windows screen prompting me to reboot again. So clicked the button. Next I shutdown and went online looking for help.

[later on, I found info that talks about how the LED display on the mining motherboard will actually display the temperature of (CPU?) in Celsius. Since the ‘error code’ I had wasn’t listed, it could be that I was seeing the temperature after the boot cycle was completed. However, I’m not sure why my monitor was black – that’s what made me believe the system had hung up somewhere]

I found a thread where someone had flashed the BIOS to a newer version. I checked, and sure enough, my BIOS had a build date of 12/16/2016. The new version was 05/10/2017. I downloaded it from here and put it on a flash drive and extracted the ZIP:
**make sure you download the driver for the correct motherboard!! Embarrassingly, I spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong and realize I downloaded the z170a gaming pro when I needed z170a gaming M5 instead!**
https://www.msi.com/Motherboard/support/Z170A-GAMING-PRO-CARBON.html#down-bios

Here is a video from MSI that outlines the steps that I took:

I plugged the USB drive into my mining rig and clicked ‘M-Flash’ in the lower left corner. I navigated to the file on the USB drive and clicked on it. A prompt will pop up asking you to confirm the BIOS update, and click ‘yes’. After it installs, it reboots. Restart again and enter the BIOS.

I also changed Settings > Boot “Boot mode select” to UEFI.

Next, I downloaded this Windows 10 file that does a bunch of registry tweaks for mining efficiency.

Windows 10 Registry Tweaks for Mining Rig

I loaded onto a USB and plugged into my mining rig, and ran the file. Follow the prompts and choose yes or no for each of the options – I chose Y for almost everything.

I performed a list of tweaks to the Windows 10 setup to optimize my GPU rig for mining

Thanks to Ciprian @ 1stMiningRig for this list of Bios Tweaks!

Next, I hit the windows key + r, and typed in services.msc

  • Scroll down to Windows Update and change “Startup Type” to disabled
  • Restart the computer, go back into services.msc and make sure Windows Update is still disabled

Next, I increased the virtual memory:

  • On desktop, right click on “This PC” and choose “Properties”
  • Click on “Advanced System Settings”
  • On the advanced tab, under “Performance” click on the “Settings” button
  • Click the “Advanced” tab
  • At the bottom, under virtual memory, check off the “Custom size” option and
    • minimum 3000
    • maximum 20000
  • Click “set” then “OK” and “apply”
  • Restart your mining rig

Next, change the power plan and options

  • Search for Power Options
  • Click “Show Additional Plans”
  • Select “High performance” plan
  • Click on “High Performance Plan” and choose “Change plan settings”
  • Select “Never” for all 4 sections
  • click “Change advanced power settings” and look for PCI Express”>”Link State Power Management” and make sure it is set to OFF
  • Restart your ethereum mining rig

After that, I plugged in my GPUs and started the rig back up. It gave me a black screen, so I moved my DVI monitor cable into the first GPU and I could see the windows screen.

I browsed the web, and installed the NVidia driver and it installed for both of my GPUs automatically.

Get your mining software running

Next I went to Claymore’s website to download his miner. I downloaded the Eth/Dcr dual miner.

I searched for an Ethereum pool, and chose EtherMine. It requires no signup, you simply have to have a wallet address that you can enter into the Claymore config.

I went to MyEtherWallet

For now I just have it set up to mine Ethereum. Out of the box, I am hashing around 38 mH/s and total mining rig power usage is 215 watts at the wall. Here’s my profitability at that rate:

Next, I’ll be running some overclocking tests on the GTX 1060 6GB cards to see if I can increase the hash rates when I’m mining Ethereum on my rig.

Have you built a GPU mining rig? Are you running Windows 10? Tell us your setup in the comments, or, if you’ve just started, let me know if this write-up and mining rig tutorial was helpful.

 

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