Conventional currencies, such as the U.S. dollar or euro, are issued by central banks, which can mint new coins or bills at any time. Unlike traditional currencies, miners create new cryptocurrencies by solving increasingly tricky computational challenges. The difficulty of these challenges limits the supply of new cryptocurrencies.
Let's look at how crypto mining works, the best crypto mining software, and some tax implications to keep in mind.
What is Crypto Mining?
Cryptocurrencies rely on a decentralized network to process transactions. Each network node maintains a copy of the blockchain ledger, which contains every transaction ever made. The process of adding new transactions to the blockchain involves making trillions of computationally intensive guesses to solve a complex math problem.
Miners are the ones that solve these complex math problems using specialized computer hardware. If they're successful, the network can quickly verify the answer and reward the miner with newly minted cryptocurrency. The miner can immediately trade or sell the cryptocurrency or hold it in their wallet.
A network's hash rate quantifies its mining power. As the hash rate increases, mining difficulty will increase to compensate. Conversely, as the hash rate decreases, mining difficulty will decrease. Miners often look at a network's hash rate when comparing different opportunities since it influences the ease of generating income.
Crypto Mining Hardware
Finding the best software for crypto mining is essential, but before we jump to the best software, let's understand how hardware often plays an even more critical role. For example, Bitcoin miners would make less than a penny per year, on average, using a standard computer or smartphone. That's why every serious Bitcoin miner uses specialized ASIC hardware capable of running far more calculations per second.
The most popular types of Bitcoin mining hardware include:
- CPU Mining
- GPU Missing
- FPGA Mining
- ASIC Mining
- Gridseed Mining
Of course, all crypto mining hardware consumes electricity—and sometimes a lot of it. Renewable energy sources may provide a more sustainable source of low-cost power than fossil fuels while reducing the environmental impact—particularly in large operations. After all, energy tends to be the highest long-term cost for miners.
While it's possible to mine Bitcoin with a single ASIC machine, most Bitcoin mining operations consist of entire warehouses of ASIC machines running 24/7. As a result, the only way for most individuals to compete is to participate in mining pools that pool computational resources across hundreds of thousands of participants and split the rewards.
Best Crypto Mining Software
There are many paid as well as free crypto mining software solutions out there, but what's the best crypto mining software? The answer depends on your hardware investment, target cryptocurrencies, and income goals. For example, gamers looking for a little extra reward may want to try Salad, whereas solo miners might consider EasyMiner.
Some of the best software solutions for crypto mining include:
- Salad makes it easy for gamers to mine cryptocurrency during their off-time using their GPU hardware. Participants can earn games, gift cards, subscriptions, DLC, and more.
- MinerGate is a well-known mining pool for altcoins (e.g., non-Bitcoins). You can even auto-mine coins with the most attractive exchange rates to maximize profits.
- NiceHash is one of the easiest to use crypto mining pools, supporting auto-detection for CPUs and GPUs and a convenient mobile app to keep track of your earnings.
The best free and open-source and crypto mining software solutions include:
- CGMiner is one of the original pools for Bitcoin miners. While its maintainer has discontinued the project, the code may still be helpful for those looking to operate a mining pool.
- EasyMiner provides a GUI frontend for mining Bitcoin and various altcoins. You can use either CPU or GPU mining and easily select between mining pools and individual mining.
- NeemosMiner is a tool to help those with NVIDIA GPUs maximize their profitability by using the most profitable algorithms. Estimates look at actual and estimated hash pool prices.
- MultiMiner is another option to help you create your own mining pools. The only downside is that you need additional software to run the program on MacOS or Linux if you don’t use Windows.
Some platforms also enable anyone to rent crypto mining hardware in the cloud. For example, ProMining enables anyone to lease an actual GPU dedicated to crypto mining in exchange for a monthly fee, creating opportunities for individuals to profit, depending on the altcoins and their performance after mining takes place.
Evaluating Crypto Mining Software
You should look beyond price when evaluating the best crypto mining software. After all, a modest performance improvement could significantly outweigh a small investment in the form of a subscription or transaction cost. Depending on the price of hardware, it might also make sense to rent hardware rather than buying it.
Start by answering a few critical questions:
- What operating system does the software run on? Make sure that the operating system is compatible with the hardware you run, whether it’s Windows, Linux, or MacOS, while some software only works with ASIC or GPU hardware.
- Are the software and hardware compatible with your target crypto? Bitcoin requires ASICs that can run the SHA-256 algorithm, while other hardware and software may require special hardware and/or software.
- What wallet and exchange will you use? Wallets are necessary to receive mined coins. When choosing mining software, you should ensure that it’s compatible with the wallets and exchanges that you plan on using.
After building a shortlist, you should consider the user-friendliness, cost (including mining pool fees), and features that set apart each solution. Again, the right choice often depends on your specific requirements and income goals for crypto mining. You can also try out multiple solutions to help make a more educated decision.
Crypto Mining Tax Implications
The IRS taxes cryptocurrencies as "property," meaning crypto miners owe income and capital gains taxes on any mining income.
Most miners must pay income tax on mining income. For example, if you successfully mine $10,000 worth of Bitcoin and fall in the 25% tax bracket during a given year, you will owe $2,500 in income tax—even if you didn't sell it. If the Bitcoin appreciates by $5,000 and you sell it a year later, you may owe capital gains tax on the $5,000 increase in value.
Unfortunately, crypto mining can result in significant losses if you're not careful. For example, you might mine $10,000 worth of an altcoin—and pay income tax on that amount—only to have the altcoin's value fall sharply lower. In that case, the amount of tax you paid could be worth more than the value of the remaining altcoins!
ZenLedger makes it easy to aggregate transactions across wallets and exchanges and compute your tax liabilities. You can even integrate with TurboTax or print out relevant IRS tax forms for your accountant, as well as implement strategies like tax-loss harvesting to offset capital gains taxes or up to $3,000 per year of regular income taxes.
The Bottom Line
Crypto mining enables anyone with computational and energy resources to earn money processing crypto transactions. While the process is complex under the hood, there are many paid and free crypto mining software solutions out there to choose from. The best option depends on your hardware, target cryptocurrencies, and income goals.
Crypto miners should keep in mind the cost of energy and hardware and the tax implications of their activities to maximize profitability.