With the meteoric rise in popularity of Ethereum, cryptocurrencies and blockchains are back in the news again. Graphics card prices have soared with the promise that those who have the computers and know-how to do some serious mining can take home huge sums in a Bitcoin-like gold rush to snatch up as much virtual currency as possible. But how easy is it to make your fortune in cryptocurrency? And is it worth your while getting started?
Weve all had tech related regrets. Betamax, backing the Zune against the iPod, letting that precious vinyl collection go. No one likes living with regrets, so dont add what you drive to that list. Stop thinking about it and just book a Mustang test drive already.
For the uninitiated, mining for currencies like Bitcoin and Ether means devoting a huge amount of computer processing power to doing accounting sums for the platforms behind them, helping to verify the accuracy of the public blockchain ledgers.
You’re essentially getting rewarded for keeping the books for these platforms, which we’ve explained in more detail here, and the rise of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and others has led to a flood of amateur enthusiasts jumping into the mining business the idea of having your computer whirring away making you free money sounds almost too good to be true.
Image: Peter Miller/Flickr
And in reality, it almost is you can get rich from cryptocurrencies, but you need to put in plenty of work, and have luck on your side. You’re more likely to get a windfall due to market pressures than the quality of your mining rig, which is why it’s only worth a shot for the most committed and the most adventurous.
Mining for cryptocoin requires some free software tools and a dedicated rig. Turn the clock back several years and you could get away with a powerful home PC and make a few bucks. These days you can waste a weekend and a month’s wages on building a machine with four graphics cards purring away in a row and still not make a profit.
GPUs are now established as the mining processors of choice in most situations graphics cards are even built for and marketed towards miners now basically because they’re better at doing lots of laborious, repetitive tasks, whereas CPUs are better suited to switching between many tasks quickly.
The trouble is, the serious players have got whole farms of these computers, and unless you’ve got a warehouse and some life savings to spare, you’re going to be lagging a long way behind. You’re up against huge foreign operations running off cheap electricity and hardware bought wholesale.
Even if you do get yourself a rig set up and find a currency with a bit of a profit margin, you’re still putting yourself at the whims of the cryptocurrency markets mining can start or stop becoming profitably depending on a currency’s current value.
There are several profit calculators on the web that will tell you how much computing power and electricity you need to make a certain amount of cash, so you can see exactly how much (or more likely, how little) you could make. Take Bitcoin, for example, which is now just about impossible to mine profitably for average users at home you’d need thousands of GPUs running before you’d get close to getting more back in Bitcoin than you’d be paying for electricity.
Market fluctuations in cryptocurrencies. Image: Screenshot
You can fork out thousands of dollars on specialised kit, if you want to, but even then you’re only going to be raking in a handful of dollars a day with Bitcoin. That of course can go up or down as the currency value fluctuates, and what’s profitable one day might not be the next if your chosen cryptocurrency dips in value, or gets some bad media coverage that’s where the slice of luck we mentioned earlier comes in.
Other options, like Feathercoin and Ether, have a better profit potential than Bitcoin right now, with the caveats we’ve already mentioned: If you’re serious about your mining then you need to keep a very close eye on the market trends, because the situation can change on a weekly or even daily basis. A single Litecoin, another cryptocurrency, has swung from costing you between $US10 ($13) and $US55 ($72) this year alone.
For instance, a huge $US64m Ether heist carried out last year was severe enough to cause a fork in the Ethereum platform it runs on top of, and a halving in price of Ether itself if you’ve got a powerful, expensive, cryptocurrency mining operation going on in your basement then that’s a serious hit on your profits through factors completely out of your control. Sure, a swing the other way can make you relatively rich, but it’s a risk, and the upward trend won’t necessarily continue.
Image: The Ethereum Project
Many modern-day miners join a mining pool, combining resources with other users and getting a share of the profits, but the same risks remain. Fork out a few thousand on a mining rig, take the time to study the market trends, go through the process of setting up the programs, join up with a mining pool, and yes you can if the prices stay buoyant and you’ve picked your cryptocurrency wisely make a few thousand dollars a year. Whether or not it’s worth the risk and investment is up to you.
And if your investment isn’t already precarious enough, remember the scene is constantly changing: In the near future Ethereum is set to switch from its existing Proof of Work (PoW) system for extending the blockchain to a new Proof of State (PoS) system which is easier to scale and less energy intensive.
Without going too far into the technical details, it essentially makes the mining process more like earning interest on money you’ve already got: Racks of graphics cards won’t be able to generate wealth as they did in the past, which is bad news for miners looking for a profit even if it’s good news for your electricity bill. Instead, earning money will rely on staking (investing) rather than mining.
In other words, if you’re already halfway through building your Ethereum mining machine you might want to pick a new cryptocurrency… at least until the ground rules change on that one too. (Remember what we said about the constant state of flux?) And that’s really the only way to squeeze any profit out of cryptocurrency mining operations keep moving as fast as the market does, and switch up the currencies you target as conditions change.
As soon as one cryptocurrency becomes profitable to mine, as we’ve seen with Bitcoin and Ethereum, everyone wants a piece of the action and making money gradually gets harder. It’s then time to get in early on another currency. In short, if you want to get rich (or at least make a profit), you need to pick and keep picking the right cryptocurrencies, have a serious amount of graphics processing power in hand, hope that your chosen currencies stay secure and keep increasing in value, and put in a lot of time and effort.
It’s not impossible, but we can think of easier ways to make a buck. If you’re determined to jump in and get involved in cryptocurrency mining, if only for the educational and geek appeal rather than to make any money, your best bet is to immerse yourself in one of the many mining forums out there, which will give you the inside track on the latest news and market trends.
- 2018 Bahamas Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Conference - July 16th, 2018
- Best Cryptocurrency Trading Platform 2018 | Top Crypto ... - July 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency: Advantages And Disadvantages Explained - July 12th, 2018
- ATB Coin - The fastest and most secure payment system - June 19th, 2018
- An Illustrated Glossary of Cryptocurrency Slang (Infographic) - June 19th, 2018
- Apollo All-in-One Cryptocurrency - June 3rd, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News, ICO Database, Coin Rankings and ... - May 25th, 2018
- CoinLib - Cryptocurrency prices now - May 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Capitalizations | CoinMarketCap - May 4th, 2018
- CryptoCurrency Market , Coin Prices & Charts, Crypto ... - April 28th, 2018
- Nasdaq open to cryptocurrency exchange in future, says CEO - April 27th, 2018
- The 4 Top Cryptocurrency Mining Stocks -- The Motley Fool - April 27th, 2018
- One in five financial institutions consider cryptocurrency ... - April 27th, 2018
- New hacks siphon private cryptocurrency keys from ... - April 27th, 2018
- What Is Cryptocurrency? - dummies - April 21st, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Market Surges to $365 Billion, Start of a ... - April 21st, 2018
- BTCMANAGER | Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - April 16th, 2018
- How to keep your cryptocurrency safe - CNET - April 11th, 2018
- How do I report Cryptocurrency Mining income? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- When do you report Cryptocurrency investments? - TurboTax ... - April 4th, 2018
- Trading Cryptocurrency in 2018: The Definitive Guide - March 14th, 2018
- How would one operate a Cryptocurrency Mining Pool and ... - March 13th, 2018
- Coinbase cryptocurrency index fund - Business Insider - March 10th, 2018
- Cryptosomniac | Cryptocurrency Price Tracker - Bitcoin & Eth ... - February 24th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies News & Prices | Markets Insider - February 22nd, 2018
- I started cryptocurrency mining at the end of 2017 and was ... - February 20th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency News - Bitcoin, Ethereum, NEO, ICO startups - February 8th, 2018
- 7 Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges to Buy/Sell Any ... - February 8th, 2018
- Electroneum. The Mobile Cryptocurrency. - February 8th, 2018
- Cryptocurrencies trading | your guide in the world of trading ... - February 5th, 2018
- Robinhood trading app introduces cryptocurrency - money.cnn.com - January 28th, 2018
- Robinhood adds zero-fee cryptocurrency trading and tracking ... - January 28th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency Price Prediction, Comparison, Analysis - January 22nd, 2018
- South Korea's major cryptocurrency exchanges ... - reuters.com - January 13th, 2018
- Bitcoin-crazy South Korea may face a ban on cryptocurrency ... - January 13th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency - IC Markets - January 13th, 2018
- Kodak launches cryptocurrency, stock pops 125% - Jan. 9, 2018 - January 10th, 2018
- The cryptocurrency bubble is strangling innovation | TechCrunch - January 9th, 2018
- Coinschedule - The best cryptocurrency ICOs (Initial Coin ... - January 8th, 2018
- CCN: Bitcoin, Ethereum, ICO, Blockchain & Cryptocurrency News - January 7th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency boom: Why everyone is talking about ripple - January 4th, 2018
- Cryptocurrency stocks holding gains despite bitcoin pullback ... - December 29th, 2017
- MobileCoin: A New Cryptocurrency From Signal Creator Moxie ... - December 16th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Definition | Investopedia - December 6th, 2017
- '$300m in cryptocurrency' accidentally lost forever due to bug ... - November 10th, 2017
- Amazon might want in on cryptocurrency - mashable.com - November 8th, 2017
- What is Cryptocurrency - earnlite.com - October 26th, 2017
- Cryptojacking Lets Strangers Mine Cryptocurrency With Your ... - October 21st, 2017
- Introduction to Cryptocurrency - CryptoCurrency Facts - October 14th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Flash Crash Is Said to Draw Scrutiny From CFTC ... - October 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Alternatives to Bitcoin - due.com - October 7th, 2017
- Learn BitCoin and master the world of cryptocurrency - October 7th, 2017
- Almost Every Cryptocurrency Is Tanking Right Now | Time.com - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrency boom stalls as regulators focus on ICOs ... - September 7th, 2017
- Why Marketers Need to Pay Attention to Cryptocurrency -- Now - Entrepreneur - September 7th, 2017
- Opinion: That Floyd Mayweather-backed cryptocurrency is another sign of a bursting bubble - MarketWatch - September 7th, 2017
- Putin-Backed Political Group Advances 'Green' Cryptocurrency Concept - CoinDesk - September 7th, 2017
- First He Beat Up His Girlfriend, Now He's Selling Cryptocurrency With Paris Hilton - Daily Beast - September 7th, 2017
- Cryptocurrencies have already recovered from last weekend's crash ... - TechCrunch - September 7th, 2017
- Venezuela Cracks Down On Cryptocurrency Mining - CryptoCoinsNews - September 4th, 2017
- Mobius Foresees Cryptocurrency Crackdown Sparking a Rush to Gold - Bloomberg - September 4th, 2017
- The Aggregate Cryptocurrency Market Cap Is Up 810% Year to Date - Motley Fool - September 4th, 2017
- How to make upwards of $1,000 a month by mining cryptocurrency - Mashable - September 2nd, 2017
- Chinese Officials Contemplate Suspending Cryptocurrency ICOs - The Merkle - September 2nd, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Investment Course 2017: Fund your ... - Udemy - September 2nd, 2017
- Six Banking Giants Just Decided to Partner to Create a New Cryptocurrency - Futurism - September 2nd, 2017
- 7 Cryptocurrency Predictions From the Experts - fortune.com - September 2nd, 2017
- Russia Could Pass Cryptocurrency Law This Year, Senior Lawmaker Says - CoinDesk - September 2nd, 2017
- AxionV: AI Cryptocurrency Fund Leading the Way in ICO Security - HuffPost - September 2nd, 2017
- PayThink Custom tokens are the future of cryptocurrency - PaymentsSource - September 1st, 2017
- Litecoin Prices Surge Above $70 as Crypto Market Tops $175 Billion - CoinDesk - September 1st, 2017
- Dharma wants to let anyone borrow a small amount of cryptocurrency - TechCrunch - September 1st, 2017
- PR: Archain Is Building an Uncensorable Internet Archive Inside a Cryptocurrency - Bitcoin News (press release) - August 31st, 2017
- Cryptocurrency Market Just Reached Total Value of $160 Billion - Futurism - August 31st, 2017
- Another banking trojan is trying to loot your cryptocurrency wallets - The Register - August 31st, 2017
- Cointal Revolutionizes P2P Cryptocurrency Trading - CryptoCoinsNews - August 31st, 2017
- $160 Billion: Cryptocurrency Market Sets New All-Time High ... - CoinDesk - August 30th, 2017
- Central Banks Can't Ignore the Cryptocurrency Boom - Bloomberg - August 30th, 2017
- Whoppercoin is a cryptocurrency you can eat or trade - The Verge - August 30th, 2017
- Learn about cryptocurrency mining with this interactive blockchain demo - TNW - August 30th, 2017