HDD Mining Not So Mainstream
The cryptocurrency mining industry is a rapidly changing one. In recent years, the ability to mine cryptocurrencies was always with the people who had GPUs, CPUs, or ASICs. More people getting into the mining business has led to an increased demand for these processors. As a result there have been shortages leading to an increase in the price of these chips. Due to the relative ease of access and setting up, GPUs seem to be the hardest hit. The lesser known alternative to these options is HDD mining.
HDDs, or Hard Disk Drives, are among the core components of a PC. They offer a very economical solution for storage and are readily available in the market. HDDs are widely available because of developments in data storage technologies making them easier and cheaper to manufacture. It is also one of the easiest upgrades anyone could do to their existing PC to boost their available disk space and read/write speeds. As this method of storage is getting dated, PC builders and enthusiasts are looking towards newer alternatives. SSDs or Solid State Drives, are the current points of interest. In addition to their small form factor, they offer superior speeds. The only con to all these pros is their price. Most users tend to go for a dual set up. A large HDD for file storage, and a smaller SSD for the OS and frequently used apps.
HDD mining is still a relatively unexplored branch of cryptocurrency mining, even though it makes practical sense. It is easy to set up and can be used for other purposes. Let’s look at two cryptocurrencies, Burstcoin and Siacoin, which take the full advantage of HDD mining .
Burstcoin is one such cryptocurrency that uses HDDs to mine. Unlike Bitcoin’s Proof of work protocol, which validates every transaction by performing trillions of calculations per second, using a lot of energy and specialized hardware in the process, Burstcoin uses the Proof of capacity protocol, which takes the help of cheap and efficient hard drives to secure its network.
Bitcoin mining tends to use arrays of GPUs and/or ASICs to mine profitably. Their use consumes a lot of energy and generates massive amounts of heat. HDD mining with Burstcoin doesn’t require any of that, with the only actual requirement being HDD storage space. HDDs or Hard disk drives use very little power to begin with. A thing to note is that HDDs only run when they need to, staying idle if no mining is being done.
How Does Burstcoin work?
The way Burstcoin works is quite simple. The first step, after all the hardware installation is complete, is plotting the HDDs. Plotting is a way that miners pre-generate “plots”, which are pieces of data which contain all the computations needed to forge blocks. Plotting is done through a CPU or GPU and is a long, energy hungry process. Good news is that plotting only has to be done once to get the plotting files stored on the Hard Drive(s).
The second step would be setting up your Burst account. A recipient would have to be added, and would receive a reward if your miner finds a block. If pool mining is your thing, you’ll have to set the recipient to the pool’s address. Otherwise, you can set it to your personal address.
The mining then begins. Once the previous steps are complete, it is only a matter of launching the mining software. The plots on the HDDs would be read and an amount of time needed to forge the block. This is known as “deadline” and the process would repeat until the next block. In between mining the blocks, the HDD is idle, which allows it to be energy efficient.
Another coin which runs on HDD power is Siacoin. Siacoin, or Sia, is a decentralized cloud storage service running on blockchain which allows users to “rent out” their unused hard drive space in exchange for Siacoin. They aim to create a peer-to-peer storage solution which is not only reliable, but also cheaper.
Compared to existing cloud storage providers like DropBox and Google, Siacoins main point is to offer complete privacy on the files stored. This means that only the user has access to the stored files. The decentralized nature of the storage network also means the files uploaded are protected against weaknesses of a traditional centralized system. The design also allows for redundant storage, preventing data loss from a single point of failure.
How Does Siacoin Work?
By creating a decentralized storage network where users can rent unused storage space, Siacoin takes a step back from traditional central storage solutions. Depending on how much space a provider has made available for cloud storage, they are paid using the cryptocurrency Siacoin itself. The storage platform is made up of providers and clients. Providers alllocate the storage space, while the clients rent it.
The storage ecosystem aims to provide flexible options and will mostly be market driven. The platform runs on the Proof of storage protocol. This means the payments are only received by the provider upon presenting the specified number of proofs to the client. The proofs are to be submitted in a time frame specified on the contract. If the proof is not submitted within the time period, the payment is sent to a missed proof address until it is received. As Providers, individuals would be able to set their own prices, advertise their reliability and set penalties, in case of data loss and storage problems. They also have the right to deny a client storage space, if the data is of illegal, questionable or sensitive nature. As clients, individuals would be able to have multiple providers for their needs. The data uploaded could be divided between two or more providers to aid in redundancy and security. The two parties can mutually agree upon contracts that will be levied on the provider, in case they don’t provide proof of storage or withhold the data stored.
All business on the Siacoin network is done through file contracts. The contracts outline the terms of an agreement and make sure that the parties cooperate. These contracts are stored on Siacoin’s own blockchain, while the data is stored on the providers HDDs. The contracts allow for flexible data storage options, depending on the need for it. If a client needs to store a large amount of data, while sacrificing reliability, it is doable. The same could be said about the provider, who may ask more for mass data storage but is willing to accept the compromise in reliability. Both parties can see each other’s reputations, and may judge accordingly.
When a client creates a contract, they add an amount of Siacoin in it. This amount acts as advance payments which are deducted as files are uploaded. If the amount transferred to the contract is more than what was used, the remaining coins are returned to the client’s wallet.
HDD mining, though not as profitable right now, could become more popular in the mining community, especially as decentralized cloud storage gains momentum. What isn’t realized is that HDD mining has a big safety net. If an individual’s venture into mining proves unsuccessful, or if they have a change of heart, the HDDs could just be reused for personal use. They could also be sold for money, as HDDs are always in demand.