How to build a Zcash mining rig

28 Sep 2017

ZCash is an anonymous cryptocurrency that uses zk-snarks to ensure that all the information regarding user transactions is safely encrypted, while still verifiable by miners that can ensure no double-spending has taken place using zero knowledge proofs.

ZCash uses Equihash as a hashing algorithm, which is an asymmetric memory-hard PoW algorithm based on the generalized birthday problem. It relies on high RAM requirements to bottleneck the generation of proofs and making ASIC development unfeasible, much like Ethereum.

If you're not sure how to start mining after you've built your rig, check out this guide.

In this guide, we want to teach you how to build your own zcash mining rig. This will save you a lot of money as pre-built rigs can often be expensive and hard to acquire. Choosing your equipment carefully is probably the most important step in the whole process, so make sure you compare mining equipment and do proper research before buying a piece of hardware.

You can also use our Zcash mining calculator to get an estimate of your profits according to your electicity and hashing rate.

You can also mine Zcash through a cloud mining contract with Hashflare or Genesis Mining.

Sourcing your Equipment

You're going to have to get hold of a fair few components and the costs stack up quite quickly:

1) A MotherBoard - A motherboard is the brain of the computer and is what you build everything onto - the base of your mining rig. The main feature you are looking for in a motherboard is the number of GPU slots it has as this will determine how many graphics cards or GPU's it can fit - and in the end your total hashing power. 3 PCI Express slots will mean you can fit 3 x RX 480 with a hashrate of 90 H/s each - or a total hashing power of 270 H/s (Using the Claymore miner). A PCI Express slot is a connection port on the motherboard. Both PCI-E x1 and PCI-E x16 will allow you to plug a GPU in as long as you're using a Riser. The more Graphic cards you can use in one single Motherboard, the more power you'll save. Just make sure your PSU can handle it.
We used the GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 which you can get here! We also recommend the Asrock - H81 Pro BTC as it has six GPU slots and two extra molex plugs for your Power Source Unit.
2) Graphics Card - Picking your GPU is the most important part, as its the hardware that will do pretty much all the work. You need to ensure that everything is working correctly, as your GPU will be put under stressful conditions the entire time it's mining. If you're buying a new GPU, then make sure to check its hashrate online and to buy a graphic card that can give you a good hashing power. If you're buying in secon-hand, make sure that everything works properly. Ensure that all the fans work, do a benchmark test and see the results, If the GPU doesn't overheat and the benchmark results come out positive, you may have a good find in your hands.
We have a list of GPU's here that you can sort through and work out what fits your budget. Remember that AMD has the best track record in mining speed, and that the cheaper the brand is, the worse it is. Try to stick to Sapphire, Asus, etc...

 

Another issue you can have with your graphics cards and your motherboard is that they just won't all fit in together nicely because of the spacing on the motherboard between the PCI Express slots. It may also happen that you only have one or two PSI-E x16 slots and more PSI-E x1 slots to fill. Fear not - you can use a GPU riser that is basically an extension cable for a PCI Express slot. Some graphics cards are really quite bulky so be careful when you are making your selection. You can get a riser here.

3) CPU - Since Zcash uses the Equihash algorithm, CPU mining is still somewhat profitable. You can buy a good CPU and mine with both the graphic and the central processing units, maximizing your profits per rig. Make sure that you have a good cooler for your CPU, as it will get hot throughout mining.
4) Hard Drive - You need a hard drive to store your operating system and your software for mining. A standard SSD drive will do (an SSD hard drive is just a storage device and is called solid state as there aren't moving bits which can break). The size will depend on what you are planning to do when mining. If you are planning to download the entire blockchain and mine as shown in this guide here - then you will need to take into account how big the blockchain will become and need to spend a little more. If you are just going to mine zcash as part of a pool then you don't need to store the blockchain and can get a smaller SSD drive. We used the SSDNow V300 120GB. Buy it here.
5) RAM - or Random Access Memory - this is a basic component in any computer is basically a scratchpad for jotting down calculations and recalling information quickly in a computer. 4GB should do the job.
You can get some here.
6) A PSU or Power Supply Unit - Like the GPU, the Power Supply Unit is a very important component that will be put under a lot of stress. However, PSUs tend to be more durable than graphic cards. Before buying a PSU, you need to sum up the power consumption of your GPU and all the other components and make sure your power supply has the capability to supply more! If you are building a "mega rig" which has 6 GPU's you might find it more cost effective to have two separate power supplies because at 750 Watts and $100 each rather than a 1500 W and $300 dollars. However, the 1500 W power supply will most likely you last more time and perform better. When using two PSUs, you can use a tool like the Add2PSU in order to make it easier to turn on both Power Source Units. We got a Seasonic 1200 Watt which you can buy here.
7) A Case or Rig - Again this can be quite a difficult choice to make as it will depend on your GPU's and whether you are using GPU risers. You don't want components sitting on top of each other as there is a fire hazard potentially. You can leave the whole system open air or even build your own case to give it that personalised touch. You can buy off the shelf rigs from a couple of providers - for example SW mining. You can also get them from ebay or amazon. If you don't want to spend money on the rig, you can build it in many different ways, with metal, PVC, wood. You can even recycle your old computer case to make a structure:

Alternatively you can source some of you components from gpuShack, on our second mining rig we are using the MOBO/CPU/RAM/SSD Bundle for 5 GPUs. Remember to use the promo code CRYPTOCOMPARE gets 5% discount off your purchase.

Putting it together

As mentioned make sure your power supply unit can handle the Graphics cards and that you have risers capable of placing extra GPU's in a safe location. Make sure all the connections are in nicely and everything is held together firmly.

Now, all you have to do is build your rig with the hardware you've purchased. As mentioned, make sure that your PSU can handle your graphic cards. You can always get a Kill-a-Watt to measure your spends. Make sure all the connections are in nicely and everything is held together firmly, and remember to check the manual if you have any questions regarding what goes where.

A word on positioning. GPU's can get hot - especially if you overclock them so be sure to get the best bang for your buck - and to be safe to place your rig in a well-ventilated area so it doesn't overheat. Something that is very important - If possible, keep your Rig away from the walls, this will allow it to be better ventilated, making it fresher. If you think your cards are still too hot, you can always get a good strong fan to make them colder.

Once it switches on you need to make sure all the software is there for you to get it mining!

Software for your Rig

The first thing you need to do is install an operating system on your computer. For the more technically minded there is linux Ubuntu but for the majority Windows is probably best as it automates installing drivers for your computer to talk correctly amongst all the components. The advantage of Ubuntu is it gives you more options and its free! 

For Zcash, the best miners (Claymore and Genoil) are available for Wingows, so it ma be best to give it a try

Once you have installed the operating system there are two ways you can mine:

  • Solo Mining - Solo mining means its you against the rest. If your hash is correct you win the block reward. But with a rig of 270 H/s and a network hashing power of 29 MH/s you aren't going to get a zcash block very often. The other issue is you have to download the blockchain for yourself. See our guide here on how to solo mine zcash.
  • Pool Mining - This is where you team up with other miners to reduce the variance of your returns. Pool mining allows you to have a continuous and predictable income that is paid out regularly according to the pool's rules. You can compare ZEC mining pools here.

If there are any questions on how to get your rig up and running - or any part of the process - just drop us a line at the bottom of the article - our resident mining guru will help you out. You can also post in our Zcash Forum and one of our community should be able to help you out! Also if we've got something wrong or it can be explained better let us know!

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