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

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

Imagine our cube consists of the word BUTTERFLY discussed earlier. In reality, 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 simple test: If the HASH result of the block starts with a certain number of zeros, the block is considered verified.

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For our example, lets say that we've a mining problem of simply two, ie, our HASH should start with two zeros. .

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The difficulty: BUTTERFLY will return the same HASH, and it doesnt begin with two zeros. Thus what we need is your third factor, a random number (called 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 small number changes the whole HASH result, there is no method 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 begins with two zeros. That number is your solution to the block. Here are some attempts:

This arduous procedure of randomly trying to find a number that gives the solution is what makes bitcoin mining such a computationally expensive procedure, and as more miners join the network, the tougher 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 to mine one block. .

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

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CPU mining. In the first days of bitcoin, mining difficulty was reduced and not a great deal of miners were competing for cubes and rewards. This made it rewarding to use 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 powerful processor whose sole purpose is to assist your own computers graphics card in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not description constructed for executive decisions (such as CPUs) but to be somewhat good labourers, hence GPUs can execute over 800 times more instructions in the exact 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 processors which can be programmed to perform certain instructions and only those instructions (instead of being repurposed for mining, like GPUs were).

ASIC mining. Similar to FPGAs, application-specific integrated circuits are processors designed for a particular function, in our case mining bitcoin, and nothing else. ASICs for bitcoin were introduced in 2013 and, as of November 2017, they are the best processors available for mining bitcoin and they outperform FPGAs in electricity consumption. .

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

Cloud mining. Clouds offer potential miners the ability to buy mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no energy expenses, no excess heat and nothing to sell when you decide to hang your digital pickaxe.

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

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Desktop pockets. Software such as Bitcoin Core allows you to send more tips here and save bitcoin addresses and connects to the network to track transactions.

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

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

Paper wallets. Some sites offer paper wallet services, generating a bit of paper using two QR codes on it. One code is your public address at which you get bitcoin and the other one is the private address you can use for spending.