Mining Software Guide

The following Litecoin mining software guide is designed to help get you started in configuring your mining rig for pooled mining. If you’ve purchased the AMD 7950 graphics card mentioned in the mining rig build guides, you’ll find the best mining settings for your specific card. If you’ve chosen one of the AMD 7950 alternatives, don’t worry; this mining software guide will point you in the right direction to not only set up your mining software and maximize your hash rates, but understand the technology behind all these system tweaks as well.

Like many people, I’m a visual learner, so here’s a diagram to help us understand the ‘layers’ or ‘variables’ in your custom-built Litecoin mining rig:litecoin-bitcoin-mining-software-diagram
In order from the top, we have three layers:

  1. Environmental Variables
  2. Software Variables
  3. Hardware Variables

That’s a lot of variables! No wonder most people who are just getting started, have all kinds of issues tweaking all of these layers to work together properly. For that reason, we are going to go beyond just a quick ‘mining software guide’ and look at each of these variables one by one. Starting from the bottom layer and working up to the top, I am going to do my best to explain each variable, and either show you how to set up the options or link to other resources that can explain it better than I can.

1. Litecoin Mining Hardware

For now, let’s limit the definition of ‘mining hardware’ to GPU-based mining hardware. There are other types of mining hardware such as FGPA’s and ASIC’s, but those are either non-existent, over-priced, or simply out of reach for the average crypto mining enthusiast as of this writing. If you’ve read any of the Litecoin mining guides, you’ll know that the mining hardware I’m referring to is essentially a custom built computer with hardware components selected for both the lowest cost-to-hashing ratio and the lowest power consumption, since we are trying to maximize profits and minimize expenses. Rather than list all the hardware, which I’ve already done in the guides, here are a few specific components to learn about that have the potential to trip you up:

  • System Memory  -  you need 4 GB for a Windows based rig. If you’re using Linux you can get away with less, but 4GB is a good amount to have for Windows and your mining software to run smoothly.
  • Model/Brand of Graphics Card  -  Not all cards are made equal for mining. I recommend the Sapphire 7950 for easy overclocking, good cooling, and optimum power usage. If you can’t find this one in stock, due to its popularity, check out these alternatives.
  • PCI-e Powered Risers  -  These are all made in Asia, but also not made equally. Good sources for these are hard to find, so ask around on the bitcointalk and  litecointalk forums when you’re shopping. You don’t want to save $5 on a ‘cheaper’ riser cable only to have it fry hundreds of dollars worth of hardware due to poor manufacturing standards. If you can, get the powered versions (it takes the load off the motherboard for multi-GPU rigs).
  • Hard Drive  -  If you’re building a dedicated rig and want to save some money here, you might want to look at traditional hard drive alternatives such as a small and fast 32GB Solid State Drive or if you’re really creative, try booting from a USB Thumb Drive.

2. Operating System

There are essentially three options: Windows, Linux and BAMT (which is just a special version of Linux designed specifically for mining). Let’s look at each option:

  1. Windows  -  By far the easiest, this option has two drawbacks: it costs more than Linux ($0 is hard to beat), and if you want to have more than 4 graphics cards per rig, it can be tricky or in some cases impossible to setup. That being said, for most hobbyists who are building one rig and don’t want to spend a couple of days learning Linux, this is a good choice. Once you have Windows installed, here are some things you’ll want to do to setup your rig and improve mining performance
    a.  Install the AMD Catalyst display drivers (64-bit | 32-bit). These are direct download links from AMD’s website to version 12.8. Pick the 64 bit or 32bit download based on which version of Windows you are running. Version 12.8 is a known stable driver version, but feel free to install the latest version directly from the AMD site, if it doesn’t cause any issues for you.
    b.  Install version 2.7 of the Catalyst App SDK (64-bit | 32-bit). Again, pick the version to download and install based on which version of Windows you have.
    c.  Check your power settings and set them so your PC doesn’t ‘go to sleep’ while mining. :)
    d.  Skip the password and enable auto-logon.
    e.  Download and install Google Chrome (better browser than IE, plus lots of cool plugins)
    f.  Install the Chrome Remote Desktop browser plug-in for administering your rig from another computer. This is better than Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP) because it doesn’t affect your graphics card performance negatively.
  2. Linux  -  I’ve chosen to link to Xubuntu as it is one of the easier versions of Linux to learn on and doesn’t take much space on your hard drive, SSD or USB thumb drive. It has a nice clean, modern graphical user interface or GUI. Since I’m more of a Windows guy, I will point you to an excellent article HERE on how to set up a mining rig using Linux.
  3. BAMT  -  So this version has probably the oddest name you ever heard given to an operating system, Big A Miner Thing, or as I prefer to call it, simply BAMT. :) This customized version of Linux is specifically designed to work well controlling LOTS of mining rigs all running at the same location. This setup is known as a ‘mining rig farm’ and is not for the faint of heart to setup. However, if you’d like to give it a go, you can learn more and download the latest version of BAMT here.

 

 3. Litecoin / Bitcoin Mining Software Settings for Windows

First, overclocking/undervolting tools. There are a number of ways to overclock your graphics cards. You can use the AMD Vision Engine software that came with your drivers, you can use Trixx or MSI Afterburner, or you can use the mining software itself. I’ve chosen to just use the mining software for this part of configuring my mining rigs, since it is simpler (I don’t like installing lots of software if I don’t have to). There are guides on the forums showing you how to use these other overclocking tools if that interests you. I just mentioned them in passing as yet another option/variable.

Let’s get the inevitable question out of the way, what is the best mining software? The most popular mining software for Bitcoin or Litecoin mining seems to be cgminer and Reaper. Either option works well if configured properly. In my experience, Reaper is a memory hog, so after initially recommending it, my preference at this point is cgminer. It can be a bit trickier to setup, but the stability is worth it in the end. I prefer the non-GUI version (ie command line version). Here are the step-by-step instructions for both Bitcoin Mining and Litecoin Mining. You can find find which crypto-currency is the most profitable to mine using the tools listed on the resource page.

Bitcoin Mining Software Configuration (cgminer):

  1. Download the latest version of cgminer (3.1.1 as of this writing) here:
    http://ck.kolivas.org/apps/cgminer/
  2. Extract the zip file to some place easy to remember like your desktop.
  3. Open the folder and create a new text document in the folder containing the cgminer executable (ends in ‘.exe’).
  4. Rename the text document bitcoin-mining.bat (change the .txt to .bat).
  5. Right-click on the file and click ‘Edit’ to open in a text editor.
  6. Copy/Paste the following line of code and save the file:
    cgminer -I 13 -o stratum+tcp://stratum.btcguild.com:3333 -u xxxx -p xxxx
    Be sure to replace the xxxx with your pooled mining account’s username and password. I use http://www.btcguild.com as an example, but you can enter any pool’s URL.
  7. Double-clicking the bitcoin-mining.bat file will start cgminer with the settings you have saved.
  8. Once cgminer is running and mining, you can tweak it further:
    a. Press ‘g’ on your keyboard
    b. Press ‘i’ to change intensity (20 is what I use for Litecoin mining)
    c. Press ‘c’ to change other settings and select the GPU you want to configure by pressing 0,1,2, etc. Use the E, F, M, V, or P keys to change the associated engine overclock, fan speed, memory clock speed, voltage (for undervolted power savings) and power tune settings for that card.

Since folks have asked in the comments, here are the Bitcoin mining settings I use for my Sapphire 7950 and 7970 cards:
7950 – 575+Mh/s stable, engine:1060, memory: 800, powertune: 18, intensity: 13
7970 – 700+Mh/s stable, engine: 1210, memory: 685, powertune 18, intensity: 14

Feel free to use those settings, but your mileage may vary. Try different options and be sure to check out the bitcoin mining software settings from other users here.

For more information on the cgminer in use as bitcoin mining software, be sure to check out the original ‘read-me’ file at: https://github.com/ckolivas/cgminer/blob/master/GPU-README

 

Litecoin Mining Software Configuration (cgminer):

  1. Download the latest version of cgminer (3.1.1 as of this writing) here:
    http://ck.kolivas.org/apps/cgminer/
  2. Extract the zip file to some place easy to remember like your desktop.
  3. Open the folder and create a new text document in the folder containing the cgminer executable (ends in ‘.exe’).
  4. Rename the text document litecoin-mining.bat (change the .txt to .bat).
  5. Right-click on the file and click ‘Edit’ to open in a text editor.
  6. Copy/Paste the following text and save the file:
    cgminer –-scrypt -I 20 -o stratum+tcp://stratum.give-me-ltc.com:3334 -u xxxx -p xxxx
    Be sure to replace the xxxx with your pooled mining account’s username and password. I use give-me-ltc.com as an example, but you can enter any pool’s URL.
  7. Double-clicking the litecoin-mining.bat file will start cgminer with the settings you have saved.
  8. Once cgminer is running and mining, you can tweak it further:
    a. Press ‘g’ on your keyboard
    b. Press ‘i’ to change intensity (20 is what I use for Litecoin mining)
    c. Press ‘c’ to change other settings and select GPU by pressing 0,1,2, etc. Use the E, F, M, V, or P keys to change the associated engine overclock, fan speed, memory clock speed, voltage (for undervolted power savings) and power tune settings for that card.

And as requested, here are the Litecoin mining settings I use for my Sapphire 7950 and 7970 cards:
7950 – 550+Kh/s stable, engine:1025, memory: 1480, powertune: 18, intensity: 20
7970 – 700+Kh/s stable, engine: 1085, memory: 1500, powertune 18, intensity: 20

Feel free to use those settings, but your mileage may vary. Try different options and be sure to check out the litecoin mining software settings others are using here.

For more information on the cgminer in use as bitcoin mining software, be sure to check out the original ‘read-me’ file at: https://github.com/ckolivas/cgminer/blob/master/GPU-README

Now that we have the mining software figured out, let’s look at environmental variables.

4. GPU Spacing

The first environmental variable we’ll look at is GPU spacing. Keeping your graphics cards spaced far enough apart can be difficult on a multi gpu rig. This is where an ‘out of the box’ approach (pun intended) is best. Packing all those overclocked, oversized GPU’s next to each other on a motherboard stuffed into a traditional computer case will reduce your hash rate significantly, and has the potential to burn out your components quickly. That’s why I recommend either no case, or a cheap DIY ‘milk crate case’ in the guides. This approach, combined with some good PCI-e powered risers to spread the cards out a little, will keep your cards much cooler and those hash rates at maximum speeds.

 

5. Ambient Temperature

The ambient temperature where your rig is will have some effect on performance. This is something you might not be able to do much about. We aren’t all lucky enough to have an air-conditioned server room to run our mining rigs in. Even if you are closer to the equator than might be optimal, you can get creative by using a box fan in a window as an exhaust and opening another window for ‘cooler’ air intake. Unless your electricity is free, I’d advise against using AC. The additional cost of power isn’t worth it, IMHO.

 

6. Cooling Options for Bitcoin or Litecoin Mining

And lastly, what extra cooling options are available to keep your mining rigs from overheating? Since the gaming community uses watercooling, that is one option (it would also reduce noise pollution from your rigs). I don’t personally have experience in this area, but there are folks on the forums doing this (one guy keeps his swimming pool heated this way with a complex interconnection of pipes). The cheapest option is to just get a couple of cheap box fans, and point them at your rigs and as was mentioned earlier, stick one in a windows as an exhaust fan.

 

In Conclusion:

This is by far, not an exhaustive mining software guide. I also touched on several non-software, yet crucial, issues to help you get the ‘big picture’ of configuring your mining rig and understanding some of the technology behind it. If you found this guide helpful, please share it with others using the social media links on the left. Many Thanks!  – Josh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24 thoughts on “Mining Software Guide

  1. SockMunkee

    Josh,

    Many thanks for creating these well written and informative guides for us newbs. After first hearing of Bitcoins a few years ago, I finally got into the crypto scene just recently in November 2013 (I wish I had done this earlier). I also utilized Cryptobadger’s guides as well for my first LTC rig. You guys are both awesome to the community! Sending some BTC your way!

    Reply
  2. George

    Hey Josh,

    First of all, thank you for putting together such a high quality site. Now that all of the parts for a 6-card setup are on the way, I almost wish the information is not as easily available for the competition :)…

    I wanted to ask you if you could please give me your advice on the specific settings I could use to lower the voltage on my Sapphire 7950 cards? Also, I didn’t see any mention in your instructions of whether or not I need to put dummy load/DVI caps on the cards that will not be connected to a monitor, in order to have them activate, or is that something that the drivers in Windows 8 take care of automatically? Lastly, do I need to bridge the cards together in an SLI setup (I’ll be using the mobo you recommended) or not?

    Thanks again for your invaluable help.
    -George

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi George! Dummy plugs are not necessary. Sometimes you’ll need to activate each card by plugging your monitor into each card one by one to activate them. Dummy plugs basically just eliminate this extra step. To lower the voltage, I would recommend using either Sapphire Trixx or MSI Afterburner. Then lower the power on each card to as low as it can go while remaining stable. You’ll have to experiment a bit with this.

      Reply
    2. joe

      This is by far the best place to figure out how to build a rig! You have inspired me and I got online and was able to score 12 Radeon 7950s and I am building my first 2 rigs next week! I will document the process as I go with pics. Thanks again!

      Reply
  3. Gilles

    Hi, i’m new in the litecoin mining world, and i just buy 2 HD7950, but when i put more than 13 in intensity, i have too much HW, so i have to stay at 12/13. But with that i have only 290kh/card, cans you help me a little bit please ? :)

    Reply
  4. Mike

    How funny…I looked back at the blog earlier and i saw the addition and thought i was an idiot for missing that. I am glad to know you added it. I now understand the differences between bitcoin and the others.

    Reply
  5. Mike

    I am new to bitcoin and ran across this site. I also ran across the possibility of just using erupter USB sticks at 330MH/s. These are on amazon for $35 and a good 10 port usb hub will set you back $60. That’s 3300MH/s for just over $400. I would assume the electric bill would be MUCH less also. Is this post no longer relevant with these usb sticks on the market? The one benefit to buying video cards is they will be useful once they are no longer needed for mining whereas the usb sticks will be much less useful. But again its only a $400 dollar investment compared to an investment costing anywhere from 1k to 4k. If its actually true that you can recoupe your costs in 6 months for the rig then wouldn’t it better to buy the usb sticks and pay them off in one month and buy more usb sticks? I am asking because all this seems confusing to me. Then I see posts where people say none of the hardware will EVER pay for itself. I do understand there is a diminished return as time goes on. I really look at this as a hobby but it sure would be nice to recoupe some costs.

    usb option:
    http://www.amazon.com/s/?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&field-keywords=asic%20bitcoin%20miner&index=blended&linkCode=ur2&sourceid=Mozilla-search&tag=onsimobicomps-20

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Mike! Yes, for Bitcoin mining, I would recommend one of the newer ASIC’s that are coming on the market. GPU based miners are no longer profitable for Bitcoin mining. These how-to guides still apply for scrypt based mining. Thanks for asking. I’ve added some text specifying this to the guides.

      Reply
  6. Ruairi

    Dummy plugs were the solution. All 3 at full speed now, however Chrome remote crashes system instanly when it connects now. Not sure why u published my follow up and not the original but meh

    Reply
  7. Ty

    Thanks Josh for all the great information you’ve shared. I’m currently building a Litecoin mining rig. I have the ASRock MB-970EX4 motherboard, AMD Athlon II X2 CPU, 8GB RAM, and 4 Sapphire 7970 OC 3GB. I’ve only put 1 card in the rig right now as I try to figure out settings and optimize the hash rate and reliability as best as possible.

    The best I can do right now is 590Kh/s with the 1 card with Intensity at 13. If I go above 13 I just get “Invalid nonce – HW error” errors. My settings to get 590Kh/s are engine: 1100, memory: 1600 by the way.

    I haven’t been able to figure out why I can’t get to a 20 Intensity while others can. I’ve done a lot of Google and forum searches, but can’t seem to find a post on this specific issue.

    I tried your settings above

    and can verify that it does hang right around 700Kh/s, of course all I’m getting is HW errors so it doesn’t matter.

    Any idea why I can’t go above 13 for intensity? Does the Catalyst or SDK versions matter? I have Catalyst 12.8, not sure what the SDK is. I’ve tried cgminer 3.2.0 and 3.1.1.

    Thanks for your help, I appreciate it!

    Reply
    1. Ty

      After a little more investigating, it seems like this is probably a BIOS issue. Some Sapphire 7970 OC 3GB’s are “good” and some are “bad”. The good cards show up as “7900 Series” in MSI Afterburner, while the bad cards show up as “7900 Lightning”.

      So it looks like I have a “bad” card and would have to flash the BIOS. I’m going to install MSI Afterburner and check to see if my card indeed shows up as “7900 Lightning”.

      Resources:
      https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=174036.0
      https://www.weminecryptos.com/forum/index.php?/topic/129-sapphire-7970-vapor-x-ghz-low-hash/

      Reply
    2. admin Post author

      Try another pool just to eliminate that possibility. And use the latest Catalyst and SDK from the AMD site. That’s what worked for me. Hope this helps.

      Reply
  8. Ruairi

    Thanks very much for the guide, the information’s proved very useful and straightforward so thanks a million. I wonder if I could ask you for some help? I suspect/hope this may be a simple hiccup for someone who knows cgminer better but, anyway:
    I have installed 3x 7950s in a small rig. One card is in a PCI-E x16 and two are in risers from PCI-E x1 slots. The two in risers are performing fine, mining at over 500 Mhash apiece. However the one in the 16x is stuck at half speed for some reason. I can’t alter the speeds within cgminer (I can with the other two).
    I tried shuffling the cards around to see what that did and I got an error message which I think preceded the x16 card going to half speed ( I think it had been working fine in isolation).

    “ADl found less devices than opencl!
    There is possibly more than one display attached to a GPU
    Use the GPU map feature reliably map Opencl to ADL
    WARNING The number of Opencl and ADL devices did not match!
    Hardware monitoring may not match up with devices!”

    Do you have any idea how to fix this?

    Reply
  9. Wei

    Hello,

    Thank you for the excellent guild. I just bought two HD 7970 cards and a Arsrock 970 Extreme 3 motherboard. And other components as you suggested in your hardware guild.

    But I could not get the second GPU to work. It seems that the second PCI-e slot would not work even when only one GPU is plugged in. Therefore, I am running the rig now with one GPU in the first PCI-e slot. Could you please give me some help on this. I am not a good computer guy.

    Thank you,

    Wei

    Reply
  10. GTRsdk

    I noticed that you recommend opening a window and putting a fan in place. Would you recommend placing a filter just after the intake fan to reduce dust intake?

    I left the window open for my hosting room and my solo GPU system got some noticeable dust within 24 hours :-/

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      It all depends where you live, I suppose. If I lived in a dusty area (say the Southwestern US for example), I’d probably use some sort of filter to keep the dust off the cards. The fans I use push hot air OUT the window, not in. Across the room I have an open window with screen to pull fresh air IN to the room.

      Reply
  11. Pingback: Bitcoin vs Litecoin

  12. billibob

    Hi Admin,
    Really good stuff you got here and I intend to return the favor shortly.
    Criticism if I dare. You assume that I know how to unzip a file… I don’t. At least for free.
    I am not a member of any mining group yet so I don’t have a user name and a password. OK i just saw your link at the bottom of the page.
    I am building this rig scaled down…2 GPU’s. So if I get more GPU’s, I hope its just a plug n play deal. Thanks a bunch.

    Reply
  13. Dylan

    So you create a document called bitcoin mining.bat
    That text file is supposed to say

    cgminer–scrypt-I 20-o stratum+tcp://stratum.give-me-ltc.com:3334 -u xxxx -p xxxx

    Should it look like this for example..

    3334 -nodoubt22 -qwerty218

    Or 3334 -u nodoubt22 – p qwerty218

    Let me know Alittle confused

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Here’s how it would look for you:
      cgminer --scrypt -I 20 -o stratum+tcp://stratum.give-me-ltc.com:3334 -u nodoubt22 -p qwerty218

      Reply
  14. Dylan

    What is the text document supposed to contain? Words or do I leave it blank and add that one short line with user and pass? And does that line work for all bitcoin pool sites?

    Reply

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