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For instance, the SHA-256 of the word BUTTERFLY (source) is 8c62ace4f9ef8ccd08ca6fb992a8524bb7dbdc0530654bd254c9da07a660949a (HASH). This seemingly random string of letters and numbers contains 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 earlier. In fact, the cube would contain a list of recent, unverified transactions, but lets keep it simple. In order for the block to be solved, bitcoin uses a deceptively simple test: If the HASH result of the block starts with a certain number of zeros, the cube is considered confirmed.

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For our example, lets say that we've 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 factor, a random number (known as a NONCE). We take this number, combine it with BUTTERFLY, and HASH again. If it doesnt start with two zeros, we change the number and try again, and since changing one small number changes the whole HASH outcome, there is no way to predict the number well need to solve this! .

We repeat this process 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 the solution to the block. Here are some tries:

This arduous process of randomly trying to find a number that supplies the solution is what creates 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 a part of a cloud mining network, would require 2.7 million years into mine one block. .

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

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CPU mining. In the first days of bitcoin, mining issue was low and not a lot of miners were competing for blocks and rewards. This made it worthwhile to use your computers own central processing unit (CPU) to mine bitcoin. However, that approach was soon replaced by GPU mining.

GPU mining. A graphics processing unit (GPU) is a potent processor whose sole objective is to help your computers graphics card site here in rendering 3D graphics. GPUs are not constructed for executive decisions (such as CPUs) however to be very click for info great labourers, hence GPUs can execute over 800 times more instructions in precisely the same amount of time as a CPU.

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

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

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Mining pools. To cancel the problem of mining a block, miners started organising in cloud or pools mining networks. Whenever a miner in one of these pools solves a block, the payoff is shared with everyone in the swimming pool in a ratio representative of just 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 purchase mining rigs in a remote data centre location. There are many obvious advantages, the most obvious being: no electricity costs, no extra heat and nothing to sell when you opt to hang your digital pickaxe.

Once miners get 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 allows you to send and store bitcoin addresses and connects to the network to monitor transactions.

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

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

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