How to mine LTC
While it is now considered too late for hobbyists without expensive ASIC processors to start mining bitcoins, many of the alternative digital currencies are still well suited for mining on your home PC.
In this guide, we’ll take you through all you need to know to start digging up a few litecoins, feathercoins or dogecoins without any costly extra equipment.
For the most part, cryptocurrencies employ either SHA-256 or scrypt as their proof-of-work hashing algorithm, but many of the newer currencies have opted for scrypt.
Scrypt tends to be the more memory intensive of the two – however, home PCs with reasonably powerful graphics cards can still mine those cryptocurrencies quite effectively, as there are no dedicated ASICs to compete with – yet.
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s still possible to use just your computer’s CPU to mine some of the digital currencies. This holds true, even if you have only a laptop with integrated graphics; though this may not prove terribly effective and is not a set-up we would recommend.
Wallets are ready
Before you start mining, you will need a wallet to keep your hard-earned coins in (see our guide to storing bitcoin). A good option is to head to the homepage of the currency you intend to mine and seek out the download link for the default wallet app. If you would like to do more research into litecoin specifically, we have a guide on how to get started.
If you find yourself in need of help and advice, most altcoins have community forums, as well as their own subreddit. The majority of wallets are based on the original Bitcoin-Qt client. Be warned, though, that before these wallets are truly usable, you may face a lengthy wait while the coin’s entire block chain downloads.
The need for speed
Unless you possess specific mining hardware, there are two ways to mine cryptocurrencies: with your central processing unit (CPU) or with your graphics processing unit (GPU) – the latter being sited, of course, on your graphics card.
Of the two, a GPU offers far better performance for the cryptographic calculations required. However, if you are making your first foray into mining and don’t possess a souped-up gaming computer – a laptop with Intel integrated graphics, perhaps – it will still be possible to mine those altcoins, but at a far slower rate.
The catch with GPU mining is that it requires a dedicated graphics processor, such as you may have fitted inside your desktop PC – the Intel integrated graphics cards found in most laptops are just not suitable for the task. To keep speeds up to a respectable level, most altcoin miners build dedicated machines using motherboards that can house multiple graphics cards, usually via riser cables.
Be aware, too, that mining digital coins is very system intensive and can reduce the lifespan of your electronic components. It’s a good idea to make sure you have adequate cooling in place, keep an eye on those temperatures and keep hold of any warranties – just in case.