Over the past few years, cryptocurrency mining has become so profitable that a handful of individuals have become billionaires in the process. Naturally then, this has motivated thousands of others to join the cryptocurrency mining industry as well. After all, some computer hardware is all you need to generate passive income, right?
But what if you don’t have fancy mining hardware on hand? Can that Raspberry Pi you’ve got lying around mine digital currencies too?
Cryptocurrency Mining: A Game of Optimization
Most cryptocurrencies these days can only be mined on powerful graphics processing units (GPUs). These singular pieces of hardware are usually designed for an entirely different purpose, usually gaming or artificial intelligence training. This means that crypto miners are competing with several other types of buyers for an already limited supply.
As a result of this demand, GPUs are often sold above retail prices, skyrocketing when stock levels reach rock bottom. For evidence of this fact, look no further than chip manufacturer Nvidia’s own investor disclosure.
During the cryptocurrency market’s bull run in 2017, demand for mining-related hardware created an entire global computer hardware shortage. This included items such as high-end graphics cards, power supplies, and even PC motherboards.
As long as cryptocurrencies can be mined on general-purpose computer hardware, this cyclic trend of part shortages is likely to continue. That leaves the market flooded with lower-end hardware that large mining enterprises often overlook.
The question, then, is can you leverage lower-end hardware to mine cryptocurrencies and turn even the smallest amount of profit?
Is Cryptocurrency Mining Expensive to Get Into?
A cryptocurrency mining operation, regardless of scale, operates like any other business. As such, you need to take into account the cost of hardware acquisition, operating expenditure, and how long before you can get a return on investment.
Even if you run mining software on a single computer, you have to account for all the above variables and decide if the risk to reward ratio is right for you. For instance, you may already have a few Raspberry Pi devices or GPUs lying around. That would drive the cost of acquisition all the way down.
As for operating expenditure, the biggest factor to consider is how much you pay for electricity in your neighborhood. The biggest detriment to mining on low-power hardware such as the Raspberry Pi is that the electricity cost will most likely far outweigh any profits you receive from mining alone.
By employing some form of cheap electricity source, you can turn a tiny profit on even the most underpowered hardware. If you’ve already adopted solar energy or live close to another source of alternative energy, mining can be an extremely lucrative proposition.
As mentioned previously, not all cryptocurrencies can be mined on low power hardware. In fact, big names such as Bitcoin and Litecoin require a completely different class of hardware called ASICs. That being said, plenty of smaller digital currencies exist and can be mined to some degree of efficacy on low-end hardware.
Take Monero, for instance. As one of the top 25 cryptocurrencies by market capitalization, it is universally recognized and can easily be traded for Bitcoin or cash. Over the past few years, Monero’s developers have fought off ASIC and other specialized mining equipment. Their rationale is that mining should be inclusive rather than centralized among those wealthy enough to own expensive hardware.
Consequently, Monero now allows even those with low-end hardware to mine the cryptocurrency. This is because Monero relies on a computer’s CPU (central processing unit) for mining, unlike most other tokens, which use the GPU. Since your average company is bound to have a far more performant CPU than GPU, this brings everyone on a level playing field.
The Raspberry Pi is no exception to this rule—boasting far superior CPU performance than GPU. More specifically, the Raspberry Pi 4 is equipped with a quad-core CPU with A72 cores running at 1.5GHz. While still a far cry from modern desktops and laptops, it is more than capable for many applications.
Mining Monero on a Raspberry Pi 4: Some Quick Math
According to multiple independent reports, the Raspberry Pi 4 can generate 108 hashes per second. For context, the hashrate represents a way to measure the Raspberry Pi’s performance or processing power.
Using CryptoCompare’s mining calculator, we find out that a device with 108 H/s can mine approximately 0.00005127 XMR per day. At $154 per XMR token, that nets you $0.07156 a day.
However, these calculations assume that your electricity is completely free. If you do not have solar panels on your roof, you’re likely paying your electricity provider at least 5 cents per KWh. Since the Pi consumes between 10 and 15 Watts of power, our calculations show that you will actually pay more in electricity each day.
In summary, if your electricity is heavily subsidized or even free, you may stand to earn roughly 20 cents per month of mining Monero on a Raspberry Pi 4. If you pay market rates for power, you actually stand to lose at least 30 cents per month instead.
If you’ve purchased a Raspberry Pi just for mining, it likely cost you at least $35 for the device itself and a few dollars more for the rest of the peripherals. Even in the best-case scenario, getting back your investment would take you 175 months or 14 years.
Regardless, if you’d like to experiment with mining Monero (even at a loss), grab a copy of the open-source CPUMiner-Multi software. Then, run the command cpuminer –help for instructions on how to get started.
Should You Bother With Mining Cryptocurrency?
The above profitability calculations do not even account for other fees associated with liquidating the digital currency. For example, sending your Monero to a cryptocurrency exchange will incur some transaction fees, as will trading it for a fiat currency such as the US dollar or euro.
However, if your goal is to hold Monero in the long-term, it’s possible that the cryptocurrency’s price may rise over the next few months (equally, it may fall). Even so, you would be better off just buying some Monero in exchange for fiat currency. The only other reason to mine at a loss would be to procure the digital currency anonymously.
Otherwise, perhaps the best way to make money out of the cryptocurrency market is to stake Ethereum on a Raspberry Pi instead.
Cryptocurrency mining requires expensive hardware. But what if there was another, easier alternative?
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