Bitcoin Mining for Beginners – Episode 6: ASIC Miners
When we last left off, I was sharing my experiences with purchasing my first ASIC miner. Before continuing, I highly recommend reading my previous article here. Bitcoin Mining for Beginners is a complicated topic with lots of moving parts.
Writer’s Note: This article was heavily delayed due to the holidays and unexpected health issues. I’m very well now, but the past month has been very trying. I thank you all in advance for your understanding.
The miner I ordered from eBay had arrived, and I had begun the process of configuring the ASIC for mining Bitcoin. Yes, you can mine other SHA-256 cryptocurrencies with ASIC miners designed for mining Bitcoin. But that is a topic for another day.
As previously mentioned, I reset the device, connected a power supply, and connected the miner to the network via Ethernet. From this point, one is required to enter the web-based configuration interface by entering the IP address of the miner into a browser. One then enters the username and password, which should be the default account on the device if the reset process was done correctly.
Since I was using a Bitmain Antminer S3+ as my first foray, the default username and password were “root.” If you’re running a different device, your default credentials may vary. Please consult documentation for your device to verify. You may have to do some digging online if you’re using an older ASIC to test the waters, much the way I did when I began.
ASIC Web Configuration Interface
A very important step in locating your miner on the network is knowing whether or not the device will use DHCP or a static (pre-programmed) IP address. This should be documented with the ASIC device itself, but if you’re using older generation hardware like me, you may receive your miner without documentation. If this happens, you may have to perform more in-depth research and fact-finding on the web. You will also require the use of an IP scanning tool, such as Angry IP Scanner.
Angry IP Scanner
After all configuration steps were complete, I was then tasked with configuring my ASIC miner for mining. As documented in previous editions of this series, one should have an account setup with both a mining pool and an online wallet. That’s Bitcoin Mining for Beginners 101 — establish how and when and why you get paid!
So I had all of my information in hand, including links, port numbers, and login credentials for my mining pool. I then entered that information into the ASIC’s configuration interface, and voila! I was actively mining!
After 12 hours of mining, my device stopped mining suddenly. I attempted to access the web interface, to no avail. I tried power cycling. Nothing. I tried resetting the device to being anew. Nothing. The device was simply not responding or working correctly at all. I was at a total loss.
We all know that buying used tech on eBay is a perilous experience. You can never be sure if what you’re buying is as described. You can also never be certain that a seller will provide good support after a transaction is complete. This is especially true in the world of used mining equipment – every item has a tagline that states something along the line of “due to the nature of cryptocurrency, this item is sold as-is without warranty.” Not very comforting when dealing with a $250 doorstop. Then are the examples of eBay sellers shipping goods only to have empty boxes arrive – or eBay buyers keeping ASIC miners then filing false claims and shipping back empty boxes. No Bitcoin Mining for Beginners guide would be complete without this ample warning to the perils of buying bitcoin miners on eBay.
Fortune smiled on me, however, as the seller I had chosen to do business with was highly rated. This seller responded to my initial questions about the defunct miner within 8 hours, and they offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. They not only refunded my miner in full, but they sold me a new miner for the ridiculously low price of $60. They were trying to do right by me, as they said in their reasoning for doing so. I was giddy, to put it lightly.
The new miner arrived after a couple of weeks. I plugged everything in and repeated all of the aforementioned configuration steps, and voila! It was working. I held my enthusiasm for a couple of days, to ensure I wasn’t dealing with another DOA miner. This time, however, fortune smiled upon me. yet again. This miner is still working to this day.
My First ASIC Bitcoin Miner
About the Defunct Miner
At this point, you may be wondering what happened to the dead miner. I wasn’t required to send it back, per the seller. So what now? Well, I decided that I should take this learning experience to the next level and try to repair the device. Bitcoin Mining for Beginners is an ongoing series.
Stay tuned to this space for my adventures in ASIC miner repair!
Buying an ASIC Miner
I decided that, after two months of mining with repurposed PCs, it was time to try buying a dedicated ASIC miner for Bitcoin. But just what is an ASIC miner, and why did I want one?
Well, I suppose we should start with just with a simple description of just what an ASIC is. ASIC stands for “application-specific integrated circuit,” and it’s basically a device designed for one function. In my case, this ASIC was used specifically for Bitcoin mining. ASICs are limited to one particular application, and in the case of cryptocurrency mining, one specific protocol.
If you haven’t seen my previous episode in this series, please go check it out here.
Why ASIC Over GPU?
In the world of Bitcoin mining, miners have many options on how they want to mine. A miner can use their CPU, an array of GPUs, or they can opt for an ASIC. Every option has pros and cons, but typically Bitcoin miners opt for ASICs due to their efficiency and hashing power. Some cryptocurrencies, such as Ethereum and Monero, cannot use ASIC devices due to the simple fact that ASICs don’t exist for their protocols. The difference between ASIC, CPU, and GPU mining is broad enough of a topic to deserve its own write-up, so today we’re simply going to focus on my experiences with buying and deploying my first ASIC device.
Where to Buy?
After several days of research, I decided that I was going to opt into using an ASIC. But that was only the first step. I now needed to source a device from a reputable supplier, and I needed to put a good amount of money up front in order to make my purchase.
The concept of putting a lot of money into something I’ve never even heard of was a scary prospect, I must admit. I believe in the blockchain, but I wasn’t willing to drop the roughly one thousand dollars I needed to spend to get my feet wet in the world of ASIC mining. So I decided to look into an older generation miner for far less money to give myself an introduction to buying, configuring, and maintaining an ASIC miner.
What I’m about to tell you comes with a heavy disclaimer: do NOT spend more than you’re comfortable losing! The world of cryptocurrency is rife with risks, shady sellers, and sight-unseen purchases. As with any investment into cryptocurrency, one should always do their research, find the best source possible, and be ready to be patient. Buying hardware for mining Bitcoin comes with many, many risks, and one should be as informed as possible. One should also not spend more than they are able to lose. I cannot stress this enough!
With the heavy disclaimer out of the way, let us soldier on.
After weeks of research, peer consultation, and shopping around, I decided to buy my first ASIC miner from eBay. I settled on a Bitmain Antminer S3+ 450 GH/s ASIC device for $200 as my first investment. Sure, its hash rate isn’t great, and it won’t make me amazing amounts of Bitcoin, but I was far more comfortable plunking down $200 on eBay than I was plunking down nearly a grand to prepay for a latest-gen ASIC from a distributor I’d never heard of.
Bitmain Antminer S3+
Miner Has Arrived
Weeks later, after my order was placed and my item arrived, I began the process of configuring my ASIC. It was fairly easy for me to configure, as I am an IT professional by trade. However, user experiences may vary.
I was required to provide a power supply for my ASIC, as it didn’t come with one, and I decided on a Thermaltake 750 watt power supply that I sourced from my local Fry’s Electronics. I also purchased some handy power supply manual switches from a seller on eBay because I didn’t like the idea of running a power supply 24/7 using a paperclip as a jumper.
Power Supply Switch
With ASIC and power supply in-hand, I set about the process of configuration. It was very straightforward – connect the power leads to the miner, connect the network cable, and power the device on. I then had to use an IP scanner to locate the device on my network, as resetting the device to factor defaults reverts the network configuration to DHCP.
I thought I was ready to continue, but a slew of challenges still awaited me.
To Be Continued
As I found out, configuring used mining equipment not such an easy prospect. My challenges were many. Too many, as it turned out, for a single episode. As such, we will pick back up next time. We will continue diving into the world of buying second-hand mining equipment. I will also share the trials and tribulations that come with the territory.
Look to this space for more adventures in Bitcoin!