Mining For Coins
After figuring out which coins make the most sense for you to become invested in, the next step is to actually obtain coins. There are two ways to obtain coins in the world of digital currency. The first way is to purchase coins on an Exchange. The second way is to support the network and underlying technology of the coin(s) you choose and become a miner. What do you need to get started? If you don't know, you're at the right place! The basic steps to begin mining will be left to a different page on this site, while this page will deal with the best hardware to use for each coin.
A word of caution: There are quite a number of "cloud mining" operations that allow you to purchase "hashing power" from a company that has already purchased miners and has them configured to run out of a cloud-accessible datacenter. I would strongly recommend against the purchasing of any kind of cloud hashing contract for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that you have no verification that the miners are running at the hashing power you have contracted for, you have no control over whether your miner solves a block in time (remember, there is worldwide competition to solve blocks), and most importantly the payouts are usually not profitable...not to mention outright fraud is possible.
One additional tip: If a coin can be mined with CPU or a high end GPU and you are tempted to mine using a laptop please do NOT do it. Even if you have a "gaming laptop" don't do it. Most laptops have totally inadequate airflow to cool either a CPU or GPU running at max speeds for extended periods of time, even the high end ones. In the end you will undoubtedly end up with an overheated and destroyed processor or graphics card. What you will mine will not be sufficiently profitable to replace your laptop. Just resist the temptation to do this in general, it's not a good idea.
Before we begin on mining hardware and where to find it, you should know that given the specifications of the mining hardware you choose, you can plug these numbers into a calculator (this is my favorite calculator...select your coin across the top) to figure out how profitable it will be to mine with your system of choice (i.e., how quickly you can repay the miner and begin earning profit). You will need three numbers:
The hashing power (in MegaHash/s, GigaHash/s, or TeraHash/s depending on the coin you are mining)
The power draw of the computer or ASIC (usually provided in Watts)
Your cost per kilowatt hour of electricity (usually in the $0.08 - $0.15 range)
Note that the hardware miners listed below usually DO NOT come with a power supply. Typical high-end computer ATX power supplies will work (most ASICs will require units of 1000W or more). Be sure also that the number of connectors matches. For example, the Antminer L3+ used to mine Litecoin requires an 850W power supply or greater with 10 PCI Express connectors. This is an unusual configuration as most only come with 8. When in doubt, most ASIC manufacturers also provide power supplies with the required specifications to run their miner. These power supplies usually cost a little bit more, but are worth it if you don't want the hassle of trying to find the perfect power supply. Also, most computer power supplies will also require plugging into a motherboard in order to power on. To get around this, a jumper like this one can be purchased from Amazon for a few dollars.
One final note that some of these miners, such as those from Bitmain, include a small board that works as a network and configuration interface. In essence, it is a full computer system used to connect the mining chips to the internet to get work and submit solved blocks. Some of the ASIC manufacturers do not include these logic computers and will require a laptop, desktop, or Raspberry Pi device with specialized software to connect them to the internet to get and submit work. For ASICs which require the setup of these additional systems, please refer to instructions provided by the manufacturer as their setup is beyond the scope of this document. It is important to make a note of whether one of these devices is required and to have that additional cost (and time commitment for setup) factored in to your original purchase cost for any miner.
And now, onto the hardware descriptions!
At one point in time, Bitcoin could be mined using a laptop or desktop processor or CPU. The math equations became more difficult, and eventually the mining programs we re-coded to take advantage of the greater math calculation power of graphics cards or GPUs. With the number of individuals and companies that have setup miners, even GPUs are no longer fast enough to be profitable. The only way to become profitable mining Bitcoin now is to purchase an ASIC.
The best (calculated as a function of power draw per unit of hash power, joule per gigahash or J/GH) ASICs on the market currently are manufactured by Bitmain. There are several different models produced by Bitmain, but the Antminer S9 is currently the industry leader in the W/GH category at 0.098. They also produce the Antminer T9, which is a version of the S9 designed to be more stable. Canaan.io makes the Avalon series, which are also very good miners. Innosilicon is currently also producing their A1 unit, which has good reports as well.
Like Bitcoin, if you want to mine Litecoin with a CPU or GPU that horse has left the barn. To be profitable, Litecoin mining is now ASIC-only. Once again, the best miners are being produced by Bitmain in the form of the Antminer L3+. Interestingly, Bitmain also makes the R1-LTC, which is a router for your home that also mines Litecoin in the background. We're not sure if this is agood combination to have considering the power requirements of Litecoin mining (and the possibility of a back door into your network). Remember, security should always be your first priority. Bitmain's only competitor is Innosilicon, which is soon to release the A4 Dominator. They have been producing the A2 since 2014.
If you've been following along with this web tutorial on what digital currencies are, you will know that Bitcoin Cash is a fork of Bitcoin with larger 8mb block sizes. As such, all existing Bitcoin miners can be used to mine Bitcoin Cash as well. The only thing that needs to be done is the miners need to be pointed to a different mining pool. Bitmain is currently one of the largest Bitcoin Cash mining pools.
Once again, the mining of this coin is no longer profitable if you're using a CPU or GPU. The ASICs are king here as well, with our two main competitors Bitmain and Innosilicon slugging it out. Bitmain makes their D3 unit, while Innosilicon makes their D5 unit.
Ethereum is currently still ASIC-resistant, meaning that no specialized chips have been create to mine this coin. As such, Ethereum can be mined using the GPU in a desktop computer (better make sure it is incredibly fast, like an nVidia 1080 or AMD Rx 580 (or several of them running in parallel). Googling "Ethereum miner" will return a number of results of computers which are purpose-built for mining Ethereum. Expect to pay a premium for these custom machines, though. Once you have the right hardware, a good guide to begin mining Ethereum can be found here.
Monero, like Ethereum, is ASIC-resistant. As such, it can be mined with a desktop or laptop computer with a sufficiently powerful graphics card GPU. A full description of mining with CPU, AMD GPU, or NVidia GPU can be found here.
Ripple is a pre-mined coin. It is not possible at all to mine Ripple. Ripple needs to be purchased.
Dogecoin can not be mined directly anymore. Dogecoin using the same Scrypt hashing algorithm that Litecoin uses. Several years back, because of the decreased value of the coin, most miners of Dogecoin left to mine Litecoin. In order to stabilize and secure their network, an agreement was reached to "merge mine" with Litecoin (I don't understand the technicals of the process enough to explain it here, but I do that as Litecoin is mined, Dogecoin is mined simultaneously). If you want Dogecoin, mine Litecoin with a pool that supports merge mining and you'll get payouts of both cryptocurrencies.