By Patricia Bajis
Ever since 2009, coders, developers and your computer-savvy friends have been mining cryptocurrencies in order to gain the currency themselves. With the cap of the amount of Bitcoin in the world being 21 million, miners are seeing diminishing returns on their work as we approach the cap and more people join in on the fun.
If you’re unfamiliar with the process of mining, Bitcoin is not printed like paper money. In order for more Bitcoin to exist, it has to be mined from blocks. These blocks are comprised of transactions that have taken place with Bitcoin; miners verify the purchase authenticity. To do this, they work as a middleman between the buyer and seller to make sure each side of the deal is cleared. However, this doesn’t resemble any clearing services you’ve likely encountered. Miner work to discover a 64-digit code (either exactly or a value lesser than) which verifies the transaction.
As competition adds to the difficulty of earning a substantial reward, miners have turned to purchasing GPUs to better their chances of mining blocks first. But why is the use of of a graphics card able to do more work than a typical computer CPU and should you get one?
What is a GPU?
Your computer has a GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, built into it right now. It is responsible for rendering all the graphic elements of your device. It works for the CPU, or the Computer Processing Unit, which acts as the “boss” of your computer. When graphics need to be rendered, the CPU tells the GPU and it takes over from there.
In their journey to be the fastest and most accurate miner, people have started utilizing GPUs in order to speed up their processing power, which can run about 800 times faster than a CPU. Getting the correct 64-digit code is a lot of guesswork, meaning that miners need to do a lot of quick, repetitive tasks. This is something a GPU is great at. A CPU, however, works best when delegating many different tasks, and thus moves slower.
Should I get a GPU?
Graphics cards, about 2 years ago, had a pretty select target audience of dedicated gamers. When the popularity of using a GPU for mining launched into the mainstream, it rocked the market. Demand for these processors was so high that you had two choices—shell out hundreds of dollars to match the market price or stick to your slow CPU.
As the craze seems to be dying down, and the value of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has greatly decreased, prices of GPUs seem to be normalizing again. If you’re into mining for not only the financial gain, but the fun, getting a GPU to assist your mining could be a smart move as prices go back down. However, if you’re still strapped for cash but want to increase your mining chances, you can purchase a used GPU or continue using a CPU and join a mining pool.