Build your own Litecoin Mining Rig, part 1: Hardware

Litecoin mining rig in plastic crates

One of my finished mining rigs. Using plastic crates instead of a standard PC case helps improve airflow and cooling.

So you’re interested in mining cryptocurrency, but you’re not sure where to start? No problem, this guide is all you need to set up your own headless litecoin mining rig—even if you have absolutely no experience with this sort of thing.

First, let’s get the obvious question out of the way: why litecoins? After all, bitcoins are worth more, right? The simple answer is that at the time of this writing, litecoins are currently the most profitable cryptocurrency to mine when you take into account how much each coin is worth, and the time required to mine one. Rest assured that if the situation changes, and another cryptocurrency suddenly surpasses litecoin as the best mining option, the rig outlined in the guide should have no problem switching over to a new coin.

This guide will be broken into several parts, each focusing on a different aspect of building your first mining rig. First, let’s take a look at what you’ll need in terms of hardware to put a respectable miner together.

Build your own Litecoin Mining Rig, part 1:  Hardware

Here is the list of hardware that I recommend:

Motherboard ASRock 970 Extreme4 $98
Processor AMD Sempron 145 $38
Memory 4GB G.SKILL DDR3 SDRAM (2 x 2GB) $46
Power Supply Seasonic 860w Platinum PSU $199
GPUs 3 x MSI Radeon HD 7950 3GB GDDR5 (Twin Frozr) $319 each
(optional) 3 x PCI-E riser cable $5 each
(for dummy plugs) 68 ohm 1/2 watt resistors $3

Update 11/26/2013: The Radeon 7950 video cards are sold out pretty much everywhere. They’re still the best option for mining if you can find them, but if you can’t, then the new Radeon R9 280X cards are likely your best option. They do consume a fair bit more power though, so you”ll want to upgrade your power supply as well (this 1250w Seasonic should support three 280X GPUs without problems). As for brands, I recommend these Sapphire, Gigabyte, and MSI 280X cards for now. I’ll be updating the rest of my guide at some point in the near future with optimal settings for the 280X, so stay tuned.

Update 12/01/2013: If you’re trying to put a rig together, you’ve probably noticed that the above video cards have become nearly impossible to find. I’ve received a few messages from folks that are having some good results using the R9 290 cards, although they’re a fair bit more expensive than the 280X. If you’re itching to build a rig ASAP and can’t find a 7950 or 280X, then you might consider the 290. It looks like all of the current 290 cards are using AMD’s reference cooling design at the moment, so brand probably doesn’t matter too much. Although given a choice, you usually can’t go wrong with Sapphire, Gigabyte, and MSI. Again, remember to pick up a fairly powerful PSU if you’re going to run 3 of these in a rig.

You will also need a USB stick (8GB or larger, this one is fine) if you’re using Linux as your OS, or a harddrive (a cheap SATA drive of any size will do) if you’re using Windows. I will cover setup on both Linux and Windows in the next sections of this guide, as well as the pros and cons of each.

The video cards may be difficult to find, as they’re popular and often sell out. You can substitute nearly any 7950-based GPU, but if you have a choice, go for the MSI or Sapphire cards. They’re not voltage-locked and will save you some electricity in the long run. I have the MSI card that I recommended in all of my rigs, but I’m told that this (and also this) Sapphire card is also a good choice.

The motherboard, CPU, and RAM are all relatively unimportant. The motherboard simply needs to have enough PCI-E slots to host your three GPUs (if the recommended board isn’t available, here is another, or if you can’t find either ASRock, this Gigabyte board is a good alternative). The CPU will essentially sit idle, as all of the actual mining is done by the GPUs. The Sempron 145 is an excellent choice here because it’s cheap and draws very little power (if the Sempron is unavailable, this one is also a fine choice). If you’re going with Linux, you can get away with even less than 4GB of RAM, but I’d stick to that as a realistic minimum on Windows.

The power supply is important, and you don’t want to skimp on it. The Seasonic that I’ve recommended is extremely solid and 93% efficient, which will help keep power consumption to a minimum. It’s also modular, which is really nice if you’re putting this together in a plastic crate like I recommend.

The PCI-E risers aren’t strictly necessary, as all 3 GPUs will fit on the motherboard without them. However, airflow will be extremely limited due to the close proximity of the cards, and I really don’t recommend setting them up that way long-term. The riser cables allow you to position the GPUs off of the motherboard in a more spaced-out fashion. I dropped the temperature of my GPUs by nearly 10 degrees Celcius by simply using risers to separate them. Availability and pricing on Amazon is constantly changing, so check eBay if you can’t find them.

Important: you may also need to create dummy plugs for each of your GPUs. Some operating systems will idle video cards that do not have an active monitor connection, which will obviously kill your mining performance. Dummy plugs “trick” your OS into thinking a monitor is connected, thus preventing attached GPUs from being idled. You just need a few resistors ($1-2 at Radio Shack if they’re not available at Amazon) and these instructions to create your own plugs.

So you’ve got nearly $1400 worth of hardware, but no place to put it, as I haven’t mentioned a case. I highly recommend against trying to cram 3 GPUs into a conventional PC case. A plastic crate or two works far better due to the tremendous heat that the video cards will give off. Added bonus: they’re cheap!

Here is what you’ll need to create a simple DIY plastic crate housing for your miner:

Plastic Crate (get 2 if you want a place for your PSU) $5 each
Plastic stand-offs $4
6 x #4 3/8″ wood or metal screws $1
Brace to rest GPUs on (I used two of these) $4
a few cable ties (8″ or so) $2
power switch & LED (optional) $6

You can get plastic crates in most home improvement stores if you don’t want to ship it from Amazon. I picked mine up at Lowe’s for under $5 each. You should be able to get everything else on the list at Lowe’s if you happen to have one near you, too. As far as tools go, you’ll need a drill and a knife capable of cutting into whatever plastic crate you buy.

 Assembly Steps:

First, attach your CPU & heatsink/fan to your motherboard, and place your RAM into the memory slot(s). Then follow the general steps below to mount everything into your plastic crate.

Click the images for a close-up look at each step.

  1. Step 1Place plastic standoffs on the bottom of your plastic crate, and rest your motherboard on top of them. Make sure that all of the essential ports are accessible (SATA, USB, keyboard, mouse, etc). Use your knife to cut away pieces of the crate if necessary so that all ports you plan to use are exposed. Then plug your riser cables into the PCI-E slots of your motherboard.
  2. Step 2Place your brace (either the plastic guards that I recommended, or a cut yardstick, or whatever you have that works) so that it is sitting above the motherboard, high enough for your GPUs to rest on. Cut the brace so that an inch or two sticks out on either end of the crate.
  3. Step 3Drill holes in your brace so that you can secure it with cable ties (see image). Do not simply rest the brace on the crate! An accidental bump can cause it to fall into the crate, along with ~$1000 worth of GPUs if you do that!
  4. Step 4Connect each GPU to it’s corresponding riser cable, resting the bracket end on the lip of the crate and the other end on your brace.
  5. Step 5Screw each GPU down into the lip of the crate. If you drill small pilot holes ahead of time (mark where to drill with a sharpie), this is much easier.
  6. Step 6If you have a power switch and LED, mount them into one of the crate’s corners. I was pretty sloppy with mine, but it’s functional.

 

You’re done! Simply connect everything to your power supply and you should be ready to power your rig on for the first time. If you have a second crate, you can put your power supply in there (along with your harddrive if you’re using Windows), and stack it under your main crate to save some space.

In the next part of this guide, I’ll show you everything you need to do to start mining under Linux (and Windows will follow shortly after)!

1,287 Responses to Build your own Litecoin Mining Rig, part 1: Hardware

  1. taltamir says:

    All 11 different models of R9 290X on newegg have DVI-D ports only and are incompatible with dummy plugs.
    Every R9 290 non X that I looked at has the same issue.

  2. Mr. Needs your help says:

    Is it even worth it to build a mining rig now with the increased price of the hardware and the new asic scrypt miners?

    • Joan says:

      Hello Mr. Needs,

      I built my rig following this guide about 3 months ago.
      On a good day I am now generating 0.25 LTC.
      Since I started 3 months ago I have had a mix of problems.
      First, my pool ripped me off and did not pay-out, so I was down 2 weeks mining.
      Also, my rig keeps crashing, and I don’t know why.
      I can sit and watch it for days and it’s OK, but then I leave for a 2 week trip, and it crashes as soon as I go out the door.

      So far in 3 months of mining I have accumulated 20 LTC. so I have not even paid off one of my 3 GPU’s, never mind motherboard, PS or the rest of the bits and bobs.

      If you ask me, the I would say;
      No, mining does not pay off so it would not be worth your while to build a rig.
      It is good fun however, and I can use the hardware later on for other things.

      I am now going to invest $17,500 in an ASIC.
      I won’t get it until Q3 of this year, ( I’m on a promise here ) but when I get it, my expected 500MH/s will allow me to solo mine.

      A rig like this, doing 1.5MH/s will not compete with the asics which are being sold in their thousands.

      • Mr. Needs your help says:

        Yea thanks for the advice. Unfortunately I can’t buy Asics because I am a broke college student. I guess the only way to be involved now is trading. I hope that someday 0.1 BTC can buy a house. <– Going of the 1 million prediction.

        • staffnsnake says:

          You can buy scrypt asics without breaking the bank:

          Fibonacci.io

          Then look them up on the litecoin talk.org forum.

  3. Joan says:

    I have a 3 card rig using Saphire 7950′s

    After 3 months mining one of the fans on my GPU #2 is rattling a bit, and sometimes stops.

    Any idea what is causing this ?

    Do I need to strip it down and oil something somewhere ?

    any ideas ?

    thanks,
    -joan

    • Edwardf says:

      Joan,
      I have 8 Sapphire 7950 cards running and one of the fans on one card began to make a noise and wobble so I took it apart to see if it could be oiled and/or tightened. No, there is no way to oil the fans on Sapphire 7950 cards that I can see and I read that someone who tried to bore a hole in the center of one card, ruined the card. The strange thing is, I put the card back in the rig and it has been running fine for about 3 weeks now. Sometime it will begin to wobble a little but no noise and after a while it straightens out and runs fine.. ????

      I agree with your reply to Mr. Needs Help that it is no longer economically feasible to invest in GPU mining equipment for the return received. I am, however; no so sure that ASIC will be any better after a few more months and hundreds or thousands of people put them online mining.

      • joan says:

        Hi Edwardf,
        thanks for your comments.
        Going on what you said I took the GPU card out of my rig and have now got it mounted into my tower PC.
        My rig has the GPU’s stacked vertically, so the fan axles are horizontal.
        In my PC the card is mounted horizontal, so the GPU fan axle is vertical.
        ( are you with me ? )

        Bingo !
        as you say, the rattling and the noise went away. Sure it rattled and scraped a bit, but after about 1/2hr. it seemed to settle down, and is now running smoothly.
        I will see what happens if I keep it running overnight.

        wrt Asics, yes big changes ahead for all of us.
        GPU mining will not be able to compete. I have decided to take the gamble and go for one.
        If I don’t, then it effectively means that I give up mining Litecoin.
        The pool I am with just now has a combined hash rate of about 300KH/s. We are finding a block at a rate of about 1 per day.
        My rational is that if I solo mine with an asic at 500MH/s, then I too could get 1 block of 50LTC per day. That’s say $500 per day, and that would pay my asic off in about 35 days.
        The big unknown as you quite rightly point out, is the increased difficulty that will result from thousands of miners each hashing at 500MH/s-plus ! with their own asics. The first guys that get their asics up-and-running will be able to make some coins, so it will depend on how far down the foodchain that my order is.
        I’m going to need some luck !

        • ezpacer says:

          Hi Joan,
          are you the same Joan that I offered some help to prior to Christmas? If so, congratulations on your success in getting your rigs running. You and Edward have addressed the quandary we are all facing regarding the future feasibility of profit from mining. I’ve got my GPU rigs mining at middlecoin.com, which pays in BTC. As a personal strategy, I’ve invested in an account at Bitcoin trader. I send each accumulation to my account there, buy shares at $20 each, which are currently generating around 1 to 1.5 percent each week day, and then roll the cash generated into more shares. I encourage you to take a look at Bitcoin trader.
          https://bitcoin-trader.biz/?ref=ezpacer
          If you are interested, and will be so kind as to use this referral link from me, there is a small referral benefit to me, which I would appreciate.
          Joan, I’ve also put down for the small 16 Mh/s miner that Alpha Technologies is offering. Time will tell.
          Personally, I feel that trading on the exchanges, while also using the miners as long as they will turn a profit, is the most effective way to go.
          Cheers and good luck to you both

          • staffnsnake says:

            I have ordered four fibonnaci chips (each about 8.4MH/s) and bought a boatload of hardware profit shares.

            I sold 8 of my 10 XFX 280X cards (they were unreliable cards anyway, and on two occasions caused fires in the PSU end of the PCIe leads). One of my machines is being transformed into an Ubuntu monster, with a 2TB hard drive replacing the USB, a faster CPU (6 core) and more RAM on the way. I used one graphics card to run graphics, of all things.

            The second rig will keep one GPU and run off USB. Once my chips are sent out following hosted mining period, I will run them off the this rig. So at least part of my capital has been recouped to compensate for the electricity I used and the fact that I could have burned my house down twice. That and the 126 litecoins I mined in three months, I’m not down too much (especially as said litecoins have been invested into asics anyway).

          • Edwardf says:

            Hi ezpacer, I read your message to Joan. Good luck with your new approach. I am still using GPU miners and speaking of that shortly after I responded to Joan’s inquiry, my two rigs shut down from mining after running continuously for several weeks. They had switched to the “failover” pool a week ago when the primary pool shut down for repairs. I do not see any problem and they both are connected via Putty. I checked my script and entered the “failover” pool as the primary pool, rebooted, and still they will not go into cgminer. I am still using cgminer 3.7.2 and xubuntu 12.10. This has been working great all along but now even though the rigs are connected to my network and are running they do not connect to cgminer for some reason. Any ideas?

          • joan says:

            Yes,Ezpacer.
            Same Joan.
            and without your help I would have needed a hair transplant by now !

            As I have posted about, I did eventually get up and running, averaging about 1500KH/s, but I am dogged by system crashes which I cannot explain. Average effective mining time is about 75%.
            It’s Ok, but nothing great. It has been fun though, and also very educational.

          • joan says:

            Ezpacer, posted my reply to you in the wrong box, sorry.
            Look at my reply to Edwardf below.
            I am looking at getting an Excalibur-5 from Mining Asics BV in the Netherlands.
            They are offering 500MH/s power for an outlay of Eur 10,000, ( that is about US $ 13,500 ) promised delivery date is July-August 2014.

            Big outlay and also a big gamble, but I think that hashing with a few MH/s will not cover your electricity soon.

            The Excalibur is scrypt based, so it can mine other scrypt coins too.

  4. Edwardf says:

    Responding to my own comment and question. When I entered the working pool into the primary position in cgminer I also added another back-up pool as “failover only”. Well it turns out that was the problem. I deleted the “failover” portion of the script, rebooted.Now cgminer is working and both of my rigs are back to mining as before. ???

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