How to mine Bitcoin with your Mac

How to mine Bitcoin with your Mac

Summary: Here's how to cash in on the Bitcoin craze by mining on your Mac. But beware, it's neither simple nor cheap.

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TOPICS: Apple
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The 5Gh/s ASIC miner from Butterfly Labs - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Jason O'Grady)

Apple stock?

Twitter stock?

How about Tesla?

Pfft. Forget about them. Bitcoin is where it's at.

Bitcoin is a crypto currency that's been exploding in value since the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke said that it "may hold long-term promise" at last week's U.S. Senate hearing on the Potential Risks, Threats, and Promises of Virtual Currencies (which aired on C-SPAN). Other U.S. regulatory power houses (including the Treasury and Department of Justice) agreed.

It's not without controversy, however. Bitcoin was the currency of choice at former Internet drug bazaar Silk Road and remains the currency of choice of crypto locker hackers that hold people's computers hostage for money. But don't let that discourage you. 

When I first researched Bitcoin (at the end of 2012) the price of a single Bitcoin was $13.50. In May 2013 it was selling for around $200/BTC. When I finally got around to buying some Bitcoin (on November 10) it had jumped to $460/BTC, and as I write this on November 26 the price has skyrocketed to $920/BTC. Not too shabby.

But enough on the background of Bitcoin, there's plenty of places to read about that. Let's get down to business and how to mine Bitcoin using your Mac. 

The 25Gh/s ASIC miner from Butterfly Labs - Jason O'Grady
(Photo: Jason O'Grady)

First, some bad news. While it's technically possible to mine for BTC using your Mac's GPU, it's not profitable. The hashing difficulty has increased to a point where you'll spend more on electricity than you'll get in Bitcoin in return. It's possible that the new Mac Pro (with it's dual AMD FirePro GPUs) might be able to mine for Bitcoin profitably, no one's benchmarked its hashing performance yet.

The good news is that you can purchase purpose-built mining hardware that will mine Bitcoin. While potentially profitable, there are several caveats. ASIC mining hardware is backordered, expensive, power hungry and loud. I backordered a 5Gh/s and a 25Gh/s ASIC (both pictured above) from ButterFly Labs in May and just got them this month, a six month backorder. If you're serious about getting into Bitcoin mining I suggest that you either purchase a BFL miner on eBay, or place a pre-order for one of the rip-snortin' fast 300 or 600Gh/s miners that Butterfly Labs will begin shipping in January. 

If I haven't scared you off and you're still reading, here's what you need to do to begin mining for Bitcoin on your Mac.

Step 1. Create a wallet

Create a Bitcoin wallet at BlockChain.info and note your Bitcoin address. You'll need it in step 2. A wallet is used to store your Bitcoin and you can have as many wallets as you want. Remember that security is paramount and losing your credentials is akin to losing your physical wallet, except that no one's going to return it to you. Also, if you lose your credentials, your Bitcoin is gone forever, there's no way to recover your password. There are many options for online and offline wallets and an offline wallets are more secure, but if you're starting at zero an online wallet is fine for the time being. (If you plan on purchasing Bitcoin with real money, then I recommend that you educate yourself on the risks and store your Bitcoin in an offline wallet that is backed up.)

Step 2. Join a pool

Join a mining pool, like BitcoinCZ Mining (aka Slush’s pool). Bitcoin pooled mining is a way for multiple users to work together to mine Bitcoin, and to share the benefits fairly. Create and record logins and passwords for as many workers as you need. If you purchased ASIC hardware to run on one Mac, one worker is sufficient. If you want use a bunch of computers in your home or office to mine, then create a worker account for each machine that you plan to enlist.  

Step 3. Install the mining software

There aren't a lot of Bitcoin mining clients for the Mac and if you uncomfortable with the command line/Terminal (or would just like a little more feedback) I recommend a free OS X mining client called MacMiner. Download it, install it and configure it to send rewards to your BlockChain wallet and to work in the pool that you joined. Here's how. 

Step 4. Connect your ASIC miner to your Mac's USB port.

Step 5. Configure Mac Miner's Pool Settings

  • Open the FPGA/ASIC Miner window (from the View menu).
The FPGA/ASIC Miner window in MacMiner. Currently rocking 36Gh/s! Jason O'Grady
  • Click on "Pool Settings" in the upper-left of the FPGA/ASIC Miner window.
The MacMiner Pool Settings window - Jason O'Grady
  • Enter your BTC address for rewards (from your wallet in Step 1)
  • In the BTC area (bottom left) select your mining pool from the drop down menu
  • Enter your miner username and password from your mining pool (Step 2 above)
  • Click "Save & start"

Step 6. Configure Mac Miner's Miner Settings

  1. Click on "Miner Settings" in the FPGA/ASIC Miner window
  2. Enter "-S all" (without the quotes, capital "P") in the Devices/manual flags field
  3. Click Apply
MacMiner's Miner Options - Jason O'Grady

Step 7. Click Start

In the FPGA/ASIC Miner window (in Step 5 above).

Step 8. Watch the Bitcoin roll in

To monitor your progress, log into your mining pool account and watch the "My Account" page. I have Slush's Pool set to transfer my BTC rewards to my wallet every 0.1 BTC (the "Send threshold" below) and as you can see by the screenshots, I've been getting 35-36Gh/s hashing performance from my two BFL miners pictured above. At 36Gh/s I've been able to mine 0.1 BTC every four days and I'm on a pace to mine 1BTC/40 days at the current difficulty level.

The "My Account" page at Slush's Pool - Jason O'Grady

The next generation of mining hardware from Butterfly Labs are a pair of PCI cards based filled with 28nm ASICs that are capable of mining at 300Gh/s ($2,800) and 600Gh/s ($4,680) respectively. Orders places today for the new "Monarch" cards are expected to begin shipping in February 2014. KnCMiner, based in of Stockholm Sweden, is taking pre-orders for a 3 Terahash miner called Neptune, only 1200 units are being made and one will set you back $12,995. According to the founders, Neptune can mine 2.1 Bitcoin per day at current difficulty levels. 

Happy mining!

Update 2013-1203: I've switched from using MacMiner to Asteroid, a new Bitcoin mining client for Mac. More on Asteroid in a future blog post. 

FAQ

Q: Can I set up MacMiner on a bunch of computers and mine BTC that way? (ala SETI@home)

A: While you can, it's not economically feasible with the current level of hashing difficulty and the cost of electricity.

Q: Where can I buy Bitcoin?

A: If you're in the U.S., you can buy BTC at Coinbase.com. They’re US-based and raised $5M in venture capital in May 2013 (WSJ article

Q: Where can I purchase ASIC mining hardware?

A: I purchased two minging rigs (pictured above) from Butterfly Labs and they rock -- to the tune of 36Gh. Note: BFL is running a Black Friday Special with 25 percent off mining hardware Friday only (in your local time zone). Minr.info maintains a list of currently discussed ASIC bitcoin mining hardware.

Q: Where can I follow what's happening in the Bitcoin community?

A: I recommend the Bitcoin Talk forums, Bitcoin sub-Reddit, The Genesis Block, CoinDesk, and Bitcoin on Stack Exchange.

Topic: Apple

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25 comments
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  • Of course all this same information with small tweaks work on a PC

    This same information with small modifications would apply to a PC (Windows or Linux). Note that GPU mining is over they are too inefficient. Even FPGA mining is falling behind as the chips are not only expensive but draw significant power. Now such devices (based on ASICs) as you purchased are the only way to make significant money (enough to pay off the original investment and make a profit) but this will only work for 2 - 3 years before it becomes too slow. That's what discouraged me from getting in to it. That 6 month delay is enough to significantly reduce what you could have made otherwise since it keeps getting harder and harder to find new hashes. In 2 years I suspect that it will become prohibitively expensive to mine. There is nothing new on the horizon besides ASICs.
    DevGuy_z
    • Not to mention the coming bubble burst

      I don't really get why this is always over looked... Why do we promote this as a constant 'sure thing' the kind of inflation listed is totally unsustainable - it just can't continue for ever. Given that bitcoins are not secured or managed, that no government has any interest in assuring their value... They are far more volitile than the stock markets people are reluctant to play.

      A btc is no different to a stock in that it's worth what someone is willing to pay - more people want it, worth more, less people want it, worth less... Except ... A stock means you own part of a conpany, companies have assets and income and revenue and debts and you should be revieving these to get an idea of the true value of your share... A btc has a worth of $0, it's value comes from demand and the assumption demand will keep growing.

      It would seem we have learnt little from the last exonomic crash - there is no such thing as a sure fast buck, an easy million for all; this is very hogh risk pyramid investment, that stands a good chance of costing a lot of people a lot of money.

      All this reporting without properly covering the risks is irrisponsible - btc in a nutshell is giving real mobey for a raffle ticket and hoping when you want to get rid of it more people want that raffle ticket than the day you bought it. It should only be used for short term high risk investing of disposable funds - please do not consider bit coin investing in terms of 'years' sure - you could see a 50x return, or you could loose every penny.. Please be careful.
      MarknWill
      • Caveat Emptor

        Of course, in all things there is much to consider. Nothing above indicates any profit from having the botcoins, just an basis for the cost of mining them (at current prices), the same can be said for gold/metal detectors and like those this can be a toy or something to play with, if not make a little money from.
        Will there be a bubble burst for bitcoins... probably, is the future assured... no, Are either of us a licensed financial advisor... Not.
        Rexel99
  • Bitcoins are great

    Today I was able to get my first Bitcoin. Needless to say I almost lost over $1,000 when trying to buy one off eBay, so please do yourselves a favor and do not buy Bitcoins or any other virtual currencies using Paypal/eBay, as Paypal do not protect buyers when ordering virtual items. I recommend buying your BTCs from one of the top sellers, even if it will cost more, but that way you know for sure that you will get your Bitcoins. I really hope that it keeps going like some people are claiming it will. Thankfully I didn't pay for it, a site called FreeBitcoinsWorld.com is giving out 1BTC, as of now that is more than $800.
    King Damico
    • Free ?

      Sell it and run, don't walk to the exit.
      n781lc
    • I think...

      suckers being taken for real cash is where the actual money is behind bitcoin. i'm selling air if anyone would like to buy some.
      jasona93
      • Air is unlimited

        Bitcoin is not... there are only so many bitcoins available to mine, 21 Million; each is unique and cannot be copied or falsified unlike dollars or Euros. Sure you can make dud notes but it's damn hard to do and passing a fake test is next to impossible, Bitcoin is unfakeable. I bought one Bitcoin a couple of months back for 85 Euro. If it proves to be a load of baloney so what... I've lost a few Euro. If it continues to grow at the current rate of almost a hundred Euro a month in a few years I'll have enough coin to start trading and making extra dough. Plus I'll have learnt a thing or three in that time.
        Neville Scollop
    • Freebitcionsworld?

      How did you get that program to work. I did what it said and then loaded it. It's not even a program listed on my computer. How long did you wait until you got you Coin?
      theputterman55
  • Buying Bitcoin

    I fully agree that GPU mining is not cost effective and ASICs are spendy, hot and hard to fit. If you want to just buy some Bitcoin and you're located in the U.S. forget about eBay, set up an account on Coinbase.com and buy BTC from them. They’re US-based and have venture capital.
    http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2013/05/07/coinbase-nabs-5m-in-biggest-funding-for-bitcoin-startup/
    Jason D. O'Grady
  • Bitcoin are great

    I have been sending Bitcoins to a company who keep hold of them for 7 days then return them to you with 10% profit. Not sure exactly what they do with them but think they are a mining company and offer profit back to you. I have already doubled my Bitcoins in 10 weeks! If anyone wants to give it a try the address is 1LziFrFc5vTuYRkWUiWfzevzRxcfKtMcNh
    Arthinventor
    • Very clever Art! ;o)

      I know another company called "Suckers Inc" they invest your coins for you and give you a great return only after 5 weeks, their BTC address is here: 1DhCpPN8deLEx4u36gbdvqWxxcYU3p8ijM

      But seriously,... if people are interested in buying BTC I can give you a few good pointers. I bought my bitcoin off a registered and identified bonafide seller at Bitcoin DE here's the link: https://www.bitcoin.de/de/r/5zhksn

      To set up an account you should link it to your bank account, Bitcoin DE send you a small amount of money 2cts and a code, you enter the code from the transaction received on your bank statement into their website and verify your bank account.

      I suggest also using the OTP (One Time Password) Google Authenticator to secure your Bitcoin DE account. Use that and a Fort. Knox password and a special Email address just for that account and your good to go. Sounds complicated but if you do it right your account is rock solid.

      I use this site for passwords www.randomkeygen.com and www.howsecureismypassword.net to check how good it is.

      Download a Wallet to your machine, allow it to catch up with the current blockchain info (Sync) and then do a transaction from your Bitcoin DE account to your wallet. I sent 0,05 BTC in my first transaction which worked out at about 17 Euro. The transaction took approximately 10 minutes to appear im my wallet. That beats any bank I know for sending cash.

      Happy Bitcoining!
      Neville Scollop
  • Like stock but limited overhead

    While Bitcoin is most certainly like stock in that its worth is based on what people are willing to pay for it, its stability or instability comes in on two conflicting points...

    We can suggest that Bitcoin is less stable than real stocks because a Bitcoin has no physical value and as such, has no liquidation value. This concept is similar to investing in a company who then goes out of business. Your documentation of stocks in said failed company hold no physical value. On the contrary, a real company such as Microsoft or Apple can have their assets sold off to pay their debts. Generally, this still doesn't help stock holders, as debt is paid from liquidation before anything stock related.

    The conflicting concept is that Bitcoin has no real assets of taxable value. While their business may eventually fall into a taxable scenario based on money transfer and income based taxes, their assets do not. They would not necessarily house a 50k square foot data center. They would not necessarily own a 1 million computer cluster. Their physical assets are capable of being very low. This means that not only do they limit their tax liability for simply existing, but they also limit their need for income just to stay in business.

    If for example, I hand wash cars for a living, I need to ensure that I personally have income to pay rent on my apartment and such, but I have nothing that puts my "car wash" business out of business if I got, say the winter months without customers. The business does not go under, it simply ceases new income. With a small enough investment, I'm not obligated to sell off my rags or other stuff I already paid for. In this scenario, Bitcoin is very stable and has no real threat of disappearing.

    If for example, I owned a large office space, my cost for rent could exceed my income. Inability to pay for ongoing business expense could put me out of business. In this scenario, Bitcoin is equally at risk of going under given a deficit of income.

    While I think Bitcoin remains risky for investing too much money into, I think we need to evaluate the real profit and loss scenarios.

    - At what point am I spending more to power the computer than what it can generate?
    - At what point can I recoup the hardware investment?
    - Can the hardware be repurposed into something useful or profitable once decommissioned from Bitcoin mining use?
    - Can I even do anything with the resulting contents of my Bitcoin wallet? (Physical, Legal, or Practical)
    ct2193@...
  • grand illusions

    This is pathetic. And O'Grady is pathetic for sponsoring more delusional response to the validity of bitcoins, in a forum that is supposed to provide truly useful information about all things computing. Sure, it relies on a digital platform to exist but it's all really about sleazy ways to make money at someone else's expense by doing nothing of real value. Sounds a lot like any other major currency controlled by the perversely rich private central bankers operating a flawed time bomb system that relies on what by any other measure would be considered unethical, immoral and illegal practises.

    I can only imagine O'Grady and his faithful also tried to cash in on the equally sleazy dot com craze. Maybe you guys could also talk some gullible folk into spending exorbitant amounts of cash on developing yet another useless gaming iPad app to milk children of their parents wealth. Oh, the possibilities!
    makemytea
  • Please don't feed the trolls.

    :-)
    Jason D. O'Grady
    • Feed the Trolls?

      Aw come on, Jason. You can't be the only one doing it.
      n781lc
  • No wonder this country is in trouble!!

    Proof of the questionable common sense of recent generations is participation in a scheme (Exactly!!) that performs absolutely the same as a CHAIN LETTER.

    If there is a question as to how those have worked then the force be with you .. although it won't help.

    Barnum proved right again!! He just underestimated how many.
    n781lc
  • $460 per bit coin?

    So, where is the bank where I can go exchange my bit coins for U.S. dollars?
    baggins_z
  • flexible morality?

    I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned the obvious: bitcoin mining is, at bottom, counterfeiting.

    I don't suggest that the US Secret Service should take an interest.
    bobknowlden@...
  • pool vs no pool

    If investing in a good ASIC miner, is it necessary to join a pool?

    I'm a complete noob
    Dr.Bar
  • Cloud mining

    Another great way for mining is to cloud mine. you can buy BTC and trade these for GH/s, imho one of the best options. Check it out https://cex.io/r/1/Centucky/0/
    CoinMine