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For instance, the SHA-256 of this term BUTTERFLY (source) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers contains three important properties:

Bitcoin mining involves three variables: the block, the mining issue and a random number. Heres how it all comes together:

Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In reality, the block could contain a listing of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin uses a deceptively simple test: If the HASH consequence of the block begins with a certain number of zeros, the cube is considered verified.

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For our example, lets say that we have a mining problem of simply two, ie, our HASH should begin with two zeros. .

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The difficulty: BUTTERFLY will return the same HASH, and it doesnt begin with two zeros. Thus what we need is your next factor, a random number (known as a NONCE). We carry this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt start with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and because changing one small number changes the whole HASH result, there is no way to predict the number well need to solve this! .

We repeat this procedure over and over until we find a number that, when combined with BUTTERFLY, provides us a HASH that begins with two zeros. That number is your solution to the block. Here are some attempts:

This arduous process of randomly trying to find a number that gives the solution is what makes bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the tougher it gets. As of November 2017, a regular home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not part of a cloud mining network, would require 2.7 million years into mine one block. .

This has led to the rise of ASIC computers constructed particularly for mining and also to an increase in cloud mining.

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CPU mining. In the early days of bitcoin, mining issue was reduced and not a lot of miners were competing for blocks and rewards. This made it worthwhile to utilize your computers own central processing unit (CPU) to mine bitcoin. However, that approach was soon replaced by GPU mining.

GPU mining. An graphics processing unit (GPU) is a powerful processor whose sole objective is to assist your computers graphics card in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not constructed for executive decisions (such as CPUs) however to be somewhat good labourers, hence GPUs are able to execute over 800 times more instructions in the exact same amount of time as a CPU.

FPGA mining. Next came mining using field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These significantly outperformed GPUs and CPUs in the mining procedure as FPGAs are chips which can be programmed to perform specific instructions and only those instructions (instead of being repurposed for mining, like GPUs were).

ASIC mining. Similar to FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are chips designed for a specific purpose, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they are the best processors out there for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in electricity consumption. .

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Mining pools. To offset the problem of mining a block, miners started organising in cloud or pools mining networks. Whenever a miner in one of these pools solves a block, the reward is shared with everyone page in the pool in a ratio representative of how much work you put into the pool (even though you personally never solved the mystery ). .

Cloud mining. Clouds provide prospective miners the ability to purchase mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no electricity costs, no excess heat and nothing to sell when you decide to hang up your virtual pickaxe.

Once miners receive bitcoin, they are given a digital key to the bitcoin addresses. You can use this digital key to access and validate or approve transactions.

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Desktop wallets. Software such as Bitcoin Core allows you to send and save bitcoin addresses and also connects to the network to monitor transactions.

Online wallets. Bitcoin keys are stored online by exchange platforms like Coinbase or Circle and can be retrieved from anywhere.

Mobile wallets. Apps like Blockchain shop and encrypt your own bitcoin keys so that you can make payments using your mobile device.

Paper wallets. Some Website websites offer paper wallet solutions, generating a bit of paper with just two QR codes on it. One code is the public address where you get bitcoin and the other is the private address you can use for spending.