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For example, the SHA-256 of the term BUTTERFLY (origin ) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers has three important properties:

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

Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed previously. In fact, the block would contain a list of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin utilizes a deceptively simple test: If the HASH result of the block begins with a certain number of zeros, then the cube is considered verified.

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For instance, lets say that we have a mining difficulty of just two, ie, our HASH must begin with two zeros. .

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The problem: BUTTERFLY will always return the exact same HASH, and it doesnt start with two zeros. So what we need is the next variable, a random number (known as a NONCE). We carry this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt begin with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and since changing one little number changes the entire HASH outcome, there's absolutely 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, gives us a HASH that starts 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 supplies the solution is what makes bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the harder it gets. As of November 2017, a normal home computer working alone, ie, not an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) and not part of a cloud mining network, would take 2.7 million years into mine one block. .

This has caused the rise of ASIC computers constructed specifically for mining and to an increase in cloud mining.

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CPU mining. In the first days of bitcoin, mining difficulty was low and not a great deal of miners were competing for blocks and rewards. This made it rewarding 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 potent processor whose sole objective is to assist your computers graphics card in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not built for executive decisions (like CPUs) but to be somewhat good labourers, hence GPUs are able to execute over 800 times more instructions in the same amount of time as a CPU.

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

ASIC mining. Comparable to their website FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are processors 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're the best processors available for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in electricity consumption. .

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

Cloud mining. Clouds provide potential miners the capability to buy mining channels in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no energy costs, no excess heat and nothing to sell when you opt to hang your virtual pickaxe.

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

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Desktop wallets. Software such as Bitcoin Core lets you send and read this store bitcoin addresses and connects to the network to track transactions.

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

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

Paper wallets. Some sites provide paper wallet solutions, generating a piece of paper with two QR codes on it. One code is the public address at which you get bitcoin and the other one is the personal address you can use for spending.