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An Introduction to Free Bitcoin Mining

8 mins
Updated by Ish Bautista
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If you’re starting with bitcoin, you’ve likely come across terms like “miners” and “bitcoin mining.” Unlike the U.S. Dollar, where the government can print more money to increase supply, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are created through a process called mining. But what exactly is bitcoin mining, and how does it function? This guide will delve into the concept of bitcoin mining, explaining it in detail and exploring how you can participate in this digital mining process.

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What is bitcoin mining?

bitcoin mining by ciountry Statista
Bitcoin mining by country: Statista

Bitcoin mining is the process involved in verifying bitcoin transactions and adding them to the asset’s blockchain. It’s a form of auditing job that involves securing the network and minting new bitcoin.

The people who conduct this activity are known as “miners,” they’re required by code to solve sophisticated mathematical puzzles before a new block of transactions is added to the blockchain. Every time a miner adds a new block, they are rewarded with compensation called “block reward,” which is 6.25 BTC.

The block reward is halved every 210,000 blocks (or roughly every 4 years). At the next halving event, this reward will be cut by half once more… and on and on.  

Moreover, understanding the bitcoin whitepaper would also be a beneficial read in case you’d like to read more about the inner workings of bitcoin.

How bitcoin mining works

bitcoin mining miners BTC cryptocurrency

Bitcoin mining used to be quite easy back in the day, but with the network becoming more saturated and complex, mining has also become difficult. 

Primarily, bitcoin miners work as auditors. They ensure that all transactions processed are legitimate and blocks are added to the blockchain in good time. 

Currently, a block of transactions is worth about 1 MB. For a miner to receive mining rewards for a block of transactions, it has to be the first to solve the mathematical puzzle and then add the block to the blockchain.

This mathematical problem is where the work really lies. Unlike getting a random test question that you can easily solve on your laptop, the problem is more like coming up with a 16-digit hexadecimal number (known as a “hash”) that is either less than or equal to a specific target hash. For bitcoin beginners, this process is known as “proof of work” or PoW. 

So, PoW is more like guesswork. However, considering that we’re looking into 16-digit hexadecimal, the number of guesses you need to arrive at a precise number could run into the trillions. Evidently, no one has the time or capacity for that work. 

This is where mining machines come into play. These machines lend their computing power to solving the math problem.

“Bitcoin mining is like a digital process. Imagine a group of computers, not real people, working together all the time to keep track of transactions in a record. They create new bitcoins through a process called mining, and no company, country, or third party is in charge.”

Andreas Antonopoulos, bitcoin advocate: Youtube

The legality of bitcoin mining depends on your location. Some governments have come to recognize the threat that bitcoin mining poses to their financial and monetary sovereignty. This has led to several crackdowns on the sector, including mining. 

Some examples of countries where mining is illegal include Pakistan, Ecuador, Egypt, Algeria, and Nepal. However, bitcoin mining is legal in most countries or, at most, unregulated.  

Free bitcoin mining requirements/ profitability

The first and most critical tool for mining is a specialized application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miner. A new ASIC can cost anything between $1,000 to $5,000, or more. But that’s not the only consideration to run a mining operation. ASICs consume immense amounts of electricity – a cost that could easily exceed that of the device consuming power. 

You will also need bitcoin mining software to join the network. These aren’t as expensive as the hardware – in fact, some options are even free. 

To determine whether free bitcoin is profitable, you will have to consider the following: 

  • Cost of hardware
  • Possible software costs 
  • Electricity costs 
  • Current bitcoin value 
  • Possible taxes

At first glance, you might think that bitcoin mining is a profitable endeavor. Bitcoin is currently worth over $45,000, so mining a block and getting the reward will net you over $285,000. But you’ll need an army of mining rigs to be profitable. Bitcoin mining’s electricity consumption can be pretty extensive. Data from the Congressional Research Service shows that a single ASIC can consume as much power as 500,000 PlayStation 3 consoles. To run a mining outfit from home, you’ll need to pay incredible sums. 

In fact, the cost of electricity will most likely be the most significant determinant of mining’s profitability for you. This is why miners work with mining pools.

Understanding mining pools

Initially, bitcoin mining was set up for individual efforts. People could use their home devices to mine bitcoin.

However, with cryptocurrencies gaining more mainstream attention, mining became more competitive and less profitable to run from home. Looking to be first, several people got more advanced tools – Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). These tools, which were designed to run high-power games, can easily be retrofitted to work for mining instead.

Then came Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), which are now the industry standard. These provided even greater power than GPUs, providing bitcoin miners with a higher degree of profitability. By delivering greater computing power at less energy consumption levels, these devices have phased out CPUs.

Bitcoin ETF crypto BTC

As their names suggest, mining pools concentrate the capacity of different miners together. These miners combine their processing power to mine bitcoin, and they share the rewards based on how much power they contribute.

Mining pools can be incredibly profitable. However, the fact that they share the rewards means that you will be making less than you would if you went solo. It’s also important to note that you will most likely have to wait a long while to get your reward. Still, when you consider the money you save from not having to operate your mining rig, you’ll find that these pools aren’t such a bad idea. 

How to pick a free bitcoin mining pool

When choosing mining pools, it’s important to consider several key factors. Here are a few points to consider:

  • Infrastructure compatibility: The first point of consideration will be the pool’s compatibility with your mining device. Some pools don’t allow CPUs, while others have specifications for miners running GPUs and ASICs. 
  • Task assignment mechanism: Mining pools assign tasks to miners using different methods. Say pool A has stronger miners while those in pool B are comparatively weaker. A pooling algorithm running on the server should be able to distribute tasks across the available subgroups.
  • Pool transparency by operator: Mining pool operators must also promote transparency and trust among pool members. Some of these transparency measures could be real-time dashboards that miners can view to ascertain their share of the pool’s resources.
  • Payout threshold: If your hardware is on the low end of the computing power spectrum, then avoid pools with higher payout thresholds. Your contribution to the pool will be less, and you’ll get a lower portion of your earnings. So, you will have to wait longer to hit the payout threshold and get your payment.
  • Pool fee structure: While some pools charge a nominal fee for miners to use their services, others don’t charge at all. However, you will need to be careful with pools’ payout formulae, which might come with some hidden charges. For instance, some zero-fee pools could only offer this free service for limited periods and charge later. 

The possible risks of free bitcoin mining 

While it might seem like a risk-free endeavor, mining isn’t without its dangers

For one, bitcoin mining is a financial activity. You could purchase thousands of dollars worth of equipment and shell out even more due to electricity consumption and not mine a single block at the end of the day. Mining pools help to mitigate this risk, but you still run the risk of falling victim to a scam – or the pool getting hacked. 

Bitcoin mining is competitive

Bitcoin mining can be a profitable venture, yet it involves various considerations and risks. As the activity has become mainstream, entry into this field is more challenging than before. Nonetheless, with careful planning and adequate capital, you can successfully engage in bitcoin mining. It’s important to stay informed about the evolving mining landscape and technological advancements to make well-informed decisions and maintain competitiveness in this sector.

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Frequently asked questions

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Jimmy Aki
Based in the United Kingdom, Jimmy is an economic researcher with outstanding hands-on and heads-on experience in Macroeconomic finance analysis, forecasting and planning. He has honed his skills, having worked cross-continental as a finance analyst, which gives him inter-cultural experience. He currently has a strong passion for blockchain regulation and macroeconomic trends as it allows him peek under the global bonnet to see how the world works.