Mining Bitcoins

What is Bitcoin Mining? A Step-by-Step Guide

Bitcoin may be the next big thing in finance, but it can be difficult for most people to understand how it works. There is a whole lot of maths and numbers involved, things which normally make a lot of people run in fear. Well, it's one of the most complex parts of Bitcoin, but it is also the most critical to its success.

As you know, Bitcoin is a digital currency. Currencies need checks and balances, validation and verification. Normally central governments and banks are the ones who perform these tasks, making their currencies difficult to forge while also keeping track of them.

The big difference with Bitcoin is that it is decentralized. If there is no central government regulating it, then how do we know that the transactions are accurate?

How do we know that person A has sent 1 bitcoin to person B?

How do we stop person A from also sending that bitcoin to person C?

What is Bitcoin Mining?

In Some Ways, Bitcoin Is Like Gold

One of the most common analogies that people use for Bitcoin is that it's like mining gold. Just like the precious metal, there is only a limited amount (there will only ever be 21 million bitcoin) and the more that you take out, the more difficult and resource intensive it is to find. Apart from that, Bitcoin actually works quite differently and it's actually quite genius once you can get your head around it. One of the major differences is that mining doesn't necessarily create the bitcoin. Bitcoin is given to miners as a reward for validating the previous transactions. So how do they do it?

Bitcoin mining requires a computer and a special program. Miners will use this program and a lot of computer resources to compete with other miners in solving complicated mathematical problems. About every ten minutes, they will try to solve a block that has the latest transaction data in it, using cryptographic hash functions.

A cryptographic hash function is an essentially one-way encryption without a key. It takes an input and returns a seemingly random, but fixed length hash value.

For example, if you use Movable Type's SHA-256 Cryptographic Hash Algorithm:

How Does Mining Work?

Hash Value: 46550fef 26f87ddd 5e15407f 45a0b8d2 9513291c 4e0f0acc 24a974de 907a1569

If you change even one letter of the original input, a completely different hash value will be returned. This randomness makes it impossible to predict what the output will be.

How Are Hash Functions Useful For Bitcoin?

Because it is practically impossible to predict the outcome of input, hash functions can be used for proof of work and validation. Bitcoin miners will compete to find an input that gives a specific hash value (a number with multiple zeros at the start). The difficulty of these puzzles is measurable. However, they cannot be cheated on. This is because there is no way to perform better than by guessing blindly.

The aim of mining is to use your computer to guess until it comes up with a hash value that is less than whatever the target may be. If you are the first to do this, then you have mined the block (normally this takes millions and billions of computer generated guesses from around the world). Whoever wins the block will get a reward of 12.5 bitcoins (as long as it becomes part of the longest blockchain). The winner doesn't technically make the bitcoin, but the coding of the blockchain algorithm is set up to reward the person for doing the mining and thus helping to verify the blockchain.

Each block is created in sequence, including the hash of the previous block. Because each block contains the hash of a prior block, it proves that it came afterward. Sometimes, two competing blocks are formed by different miners. They may contain different transactions of bitcoin spent in different places. The block with the largest total proof of work embedded within it is chosen for the blockchain.

This works to validate transactions because it makes it incredibly difficult for someone to create an alternative block or chain of blocks. They would have to convince everyone on the network that theirs is the correct one, the one that contains sufficient proof of work. Because everyone else is also working on the 'true' chain, it would take a tremendous amount of CPU power to beat them. One of the biggest fears of Bitcoin is that one group may gain 51% control of the blockchain and then be able to influence it to their advantage, although thankfully this has been prevented so far.

Initially, bitcoin miners were just cryptography enthusiasts. People who were interested in the project and used their spare computer power to validate the blockchain so that they could be rewarded with bitcoin. As the value of bitcoin has gone up, more people have seen mining as a potential business, investing in warehouses and hardware to mine as many bitcoin as possible.

These warehouses are generally set up in areas with low electricity prices, to further reduce their costs. With these economies of scale, it has made it more difficult for hobbyists to profit from Bitcoin mining, although there are still many who do it for fun.

In case you've ever puzzled where Bitcoin comes from and the way it goes into circulation, the reply is that it gets "mined" into existence. Bitcoin mining serves to both add transactions to the block chain and to unlock new Bitcoin. The mining manner contains compiling contemporary transactions into blocks and making an attempt to solve a computationally tricky puzzle. the primary participant who solves the puzzle gets to vicinity the next block on the block chain and claim the rewards. The rewards incentivize mining and encompass each the transaction fees (paid to the miner in the type of Bitcoin) as neatly as the newly launched Bitcoin.

Bitcoin mining is decentralized. anyone with an online connection and the suitable hardware can participate. The protection of the Bitcoin network depends on this decentralization for the reason that the Bitcoin network makes selections in keeping with consensus. If there is disagreement about no matter if a block should still be blanketed within the block chain, the choice is easily made via an easy majority consensus, it truly is, if stronger than half of the mining energy consents.

If an individual person or firm has control of improved than half of the Bitcoin network's mining vigor, then they've the energy to corrupt the block chain. The concept of someone controlling greater than half of the mining energy and the use of it to corrupt the block chain is referred to as a "fifty one% assault". How expensive such an assault could be to carry out depends mostly on how a whole lot mining vigour is worried within the Bitcoin network. as a result the safety of the Bitcoin network depends in part on how a lot mining energy is employed.

The amount of mining energy that gets used within the network relies upon at once on the incentives miners have, that's, the block reward and transaction charges.

Block Reward

The amount of recent bitcoin launched with every mined block is known as the block reward. The block reward is halved each 210,000 blocks, or roughly every 4 years. The block reward all started at 50 bitcoin in 2009, and is now 25 bitcoin in 2014. This diminishing block reward will effect in a total release of bitcoin that strategies 21 million. based on existing Bitcoin protocol, 21 million is the cap and no extra can be mined after that quantity has been attained.

As of today, block rewards provide the huge majority of the inducement for miners. on the time of writing, for the previous 24 hours, transaction prices represented 0.three% of mining revenue.

As the block reward diminishes over time, ultimately approaching zero, the miners should be much less incentivized to mine bitcoin for the block reward. This may well be a major safety problem for Bitcoin, until the incentives offered by way of the block reward are changed by transaction prices.

Transaction costs are some amount of Bitcoin which are included in a transaction as a reward for the miner who mines the block during which the transaction is protected. Transaction costs are voluntary on the a part of the grownup sending a transaction. even if or not a transaction is included in a block via a miner is additionally voluntary. for that reason, clients sending transactions can use transaction charges to incentive miners to assess their transactions. The edition of the Bitcoin client released through the core construction group, which may also be used to send transactions, has charge minimum suggestions via default.

Mining Issue

How hard is it to mine Bitcoins? smartly, that depends upon how an awful lot effort is being put into mining throughout the community. Following the protocol laid out in the software, the Bitcoin network instantly adjusts the problem of the mining every 2016 blocks, or roughly every two weeks. It adjusts itself with the purpose of keeping the rate of block discovery constant. as a consequence if more computational vigor is employed in mining, then the issue will modify upwards to make mining tougher. And if computational vigour is taken off of the network, the opposite happens. The difficulty adjusts downward to make mining simpler.

The bigger the issue level, the less profitable mining is for miners. accordingly, the greater americans mining, the much less ecocnomic mining is for every participant. the full payout depends upon the fee of Bitcoin, the block reward, and the size of the transaction expenses, however the greater people mining, the smaller the slice of that pie each grownup receives.

Mining Hardware

Any individual with access to the internet and appropriate hardware can take part in mining. within the earliest days of Bitcoin, mining turned into performed with CPUs from general computer computers. photos playing cards, or pix processing contraptions (GPUs), are extra helpful at mining than CPUs and as Bitcoin gained popularity, GPUs became dominant. finally, hardware referred to as an ASIC (which stands for utility-selected integrated Circuit) was designed primarily for mining Bitcoin. the primary ones have been launched in 2013 and were stronger upon given that, with greater productive designs coming to market. nowadays, mining is so aggressive, it might probably best be performed profitably with the newest ASICs. When the use of CPUs, GPUs, or even the older ASICs, the can charge of energy consumption is superior than the income generated.

As ASICs are superior and greater participants enter the mining space, the difficulty has shot up exponentially. lots of this exercise has been incentivized by the big expense increase Bitcoin experienced in 2013 and hypothesis that the fee may additionally upward push further. there is also political power within the Bitcoin ecosystem that includes controlling mining power, in view that that mining power very nearly offers you a vote in even if to accept adjustments to the protocol.

there are many businesses which make mining hardware. some of the more trendy ones are Bitfury, HashFast, KnCMiner and Butterfly Labs. organizations equivalent to MegaBigPower, CloudHashing, and additionally enable consumers to lease hosted mining hardware.

Mining Pools

Mining rewards are paid to the miner who discovers a solution to the puzzle first, and the probability that a participant can be the one to find the solution is equal to the portion of the overall mining energy on the network. participants with a small percentage of the mining power stand a really small probability of discovering the next block on their own. as an instance, a mining card that one could purchase for a couple thousand greenbacks would represent less than 0.001% of the network's mining vigour. With this type of small opportunity at finding the next block, it could be a long time before that miner finds a block, and the difficulty going up makes issues even worse. The miner might also never recoup their funding. The answer to this difficulty is mining swimming pools. Mining pools are operated through third events and coordinate companies of miners. by using working together in a pool and sharing the payouts amongst individuals, miners can get a steady circulate of bitcoin beginning the day they spark off their miner. facts on one of the vital mining swimming pools will also be viewed on

Electrical Energy Fees

The main operational prices for miners are the hardware and the electrical energy cost, each for working the miners but also for proposing satisfactory cooling and air flow. Some major mining operations have been purposely observed near cheap electricity. The largest mining operation in North the us, run with the aid of MegaBigPower, is observed on through the Columbia River in Washington State, the place hydroelectric vigour is considerable and electricity costs are the bottom in the nation. And CloudHashing runs a big mining operation in Iceland, where electricity generated from hydroelectric and geothermal vigor sources is also renewable and low priced, and where the bloodless northern climate helps deliver cooling.


In past this 12 months, the IRS issued tax suggestions concerning Bitcoin and pointed out that earnings from mining could constitute self-employment salary and be subjected to tax. FinCEN, the monetary Crimes Enforcement community, is a bureau of the U.S. Treasury that collects and analyzes facts on economic transactions with the goal of fighting economic crimes, certainly cash laundering and terrorist financing. FinCEN has issued suggestions asserting that bitcoin miners don't seem to be regarded funds Transmitters below the bank Secrecy Act and recently clarified that providers of cloud mining capabilities are additionally no longer regarded funds Transmitters.

The Base Line

Bitcoin mining is the potential through which new Bitcoin is introduced into circulation, the total of which is to be capped at 21 million BTC. Miners are in an palms race to installation the newest bitcoin mining chips and sometimes choose to find near low priced electrical energy. As greater computing vigor is used in mining, the issue of the puzzles raises, maintaining profitability in determine.