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Most discussion about mining is from the perspective of serious Bitcoin users who are trying to profit from it. I’m curious to try mining, only to experiment and become more familiar with cryptocurrencies. I’m not interested in being profitable over the long term, but I am interested in verifying success, namely in seeing my wallet balance nudge a tiny bit.

How can I best use my regular computer (~18Mhash/s GPU, via this) to mine Bitcoin or Litecoin? Specific questions:

  • If joining a pool, a centrally coordinated one or a P2P pool?
  • What mining pool payment system(s) would make the most sense?
  • I’ve got cgminer operating. Any parameters / tweaks I should use?

From what I’ve read, with a slow hash rate, it’s easy to just waste all your compute time on dead pool shares and whatnot. How can I avoid that? Is there anything else I should watch out for?

  • If it is only for learning anyways: How about mining in testnet (e.g. the worthless but technically identical variant of Bitcoin)? Then maybe you don't even need to join a pool... – pyramids Nov 26 '13 at 7:10
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If it's for learning I recommend starting with the simplest options and then moving up to more elaborate settings.

Start with a centralized pool with PPS payments. Then you can move on to any other hopping-proof method such as PPLNS or DGM. Then you can try p2pool.

Having a low hashrate should have no affect on the relative portion of stale shares.

  • Thanks! I went with coinrelay.com, which has an anonymous PPS pool hosted near me. I can see why people don't mine on regular computers though; it'll be a month before I earn 1 LTC. – duozmo Jul 25 '13 at 3:38
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I created my mining pool, BitMinter, to be very easy to use but without hiding the details of bitcoin mining. It's designed to be easy for beginners to get going.

The pool has a miner that needs no installation beyond java from java.com. So you will be mining in no time. I see you have cgminer already set up - that works too. :)

The PPLNS reward system we use exposes you to the nature of bitcoin mining. You will see blocks being found and coins paid out when that happens. This way you can see how mining really works, whereas a PPS reward system hides this from you.

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