Can You Make Money Bitcoin Mining?

To answer the title question right away: Alas, I don’t recommend mining bitcoin. Only at times can you make money bitcoin mining: when the price of bitcoin happens to be high, and then only if you have quick access to equipment (and an energy supply) that lets you mine faster and cheaper than other people can. If you buy new equipment to mine with, you not only have to pay for it but you have to get it running while conditions for mining are still good. You have to pay for the electricity you use and the wear and tear to your equipment. You will most likely mine as part of a pool of miners, and the pool takes its little cut.

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The reward for mining with any given computer setup decreases at regular intervals, as I explain below, because the amount of computing work you need to do to complete a unit of mining keeps being adjusted upward, to keep the bitcoin production rate constant while the power of the world’s computing stock increases.

So, I’m not saying you absolutely can’t make money, but I’m saying that looking at the past few years and what is likely to happen in the next few years, it isn’t a good bet.

My Experience Bitcoin Mining

In this article I talk about my 2013 adventures in bitcoin mining. At first it seemed promising and I decided to buy some equipment to mine bitcoin. Then the equipment became outdated as month by month the speed needed to mine became greater and the rewards smaller. I believe the lessons I learned still apply today, even though the great recent increase in bitcoin price might make mining tempting.

What Does It Mean to “Mine” Bitcoin?

Most people are now familiar with bitcoin, even if they’ve never used it, as the new virtual currency. Bitcoin (BTC) is the first currency to be controlled by a cryptographic protocol rather than a central bank. Basically you pay for something by sending BTC from a virtual wallet in your computer to the merchant’s computer.

So how can you make money from the creation of bitcoin? Well, theoretically, your computer can become a node in the network that processes and verifies the transactions. The history of all bitcoin transactions is stored in many places in the form of a “blockchain,” an encrypted public ledger. Transactions are processed by “hashing,” by creating an encrypted summary of the transactions, so that they can be added to the blockchain. When a block (batch of transactions) is processed, the person who completes the processing of the block gets 12.5 bitcoins as a reward. Creating these coins by processing transactions is known as bitcoin mining.

In 2013, when this article was first written, every block processed created a reward of 25 coins, a reward worth around $2500 at the prices at the time. In mid-2018, processing a block (which requires much more computer work than in 2013) creates 12.5 coins, a reward of around $75,000 at current prices.

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