Configuring Mining Software: Updating BIOS, Automatic Rig Activation, Video Card BIOS Firmware, Remote Monitoring, and Control
We are happy to present a series of authors’ articles by our friend, who will tell you about his experience as a miner. He will explain to you step by step how to build a farm, avoid the mistakes of a beginner, and even sell it without significant losses if you decide to quit. Hi there! This is the second article in the series, where I share my experience with beginner miners. In the previous article, we talked about choosing the hardware and the facility; today, we will discuss the software. We’ll learn to set up parts to maximize their efficiency and autonomy, as well as manage mining programs, remote access, and monitoring.
Video Card BIOS Update and Configuration
Before inserting video cards into the rig, you need to update the motherboard’s BIOS; otherwise, some boards won’t be able to start. I usually connect the monitor to the built-in video card; if there is none, then I hook up the video card to the first PCI-E connector. The BIOS update procedure is different for different producers: whereas on legacy boards, you had to burn a floppy disk. The modern ones only need an Ethernet cable to activate the update online. Generally, you have to follow these steps:
- Connect the motherboard to a router with enabled DHCP. Not having to enter the network settings manually will save you quite a bit of time;
- Start the computer and press Del, any of F8-F12 buttons, or Enter multiple times (the required key combo indicator is usually on the screen) until you see the BIOS properties;
- Find the updates section, then select “by Internet” and press the version check button
- If the Internet connection is successful, you will get the information on your BIOS version with a prompt to update, if necessary;
- Click on the update and restart the computer;
- As soon as the computer restarts, enter BIOS again to make sure it is the newest version.
If necessary, you may put the new version onto a flash drive by downloading the image from the motherboard creators' website. Then follow a similar procedure, but instead select update 'by USB.' Updating the BIOS is critical for reliable and efficient mining. Once you have installed the update, it is important to change some settings related to power and port bandwidth. Names of settings may vary from producer to producer but are generally similar.
- In the Power or APM Configuration section, activate automatic restart after a power outage. The parameter is called Restore on AC/Power Loss or something like that. Select Power On. Additionally, deactivate Enable Hibernation, if this option is available;
- Find Max Link Speed or PCIE 2 Link speed (usually hidden in Other settings) and switch from Auto to Gen 2. Sometimes there’s an individual setting for each PCI-E, so change the settings for every port;
- If DMI Max Link Speed option is available, change it to Gen 3;
- Here or in the Periphery section, you will see Above 4G Decoding, set it to Disabled;
- If you are planning to connect a video card to an M.2 connector, find and change M.2 Configuration to PCIE;
- Just in case force enable the built-in video card: — navigate to Internal Graphics and select Enabled; — switch Initial Display Output to IGFX. This parameter is sometimes also called Primary Graphics Adapter; switch it to OnBoard or Internal;
- On some advanced motherboards, you’ll see Mining mode in the chipset settings. Set it to Above 6x VGA.
You can try disabling the following settings, which may affect efficiency, but it has never worked for me:
- Intel USB3.0 Mode;
- OnBoard HD Audio or Azalia audio codec.
That is the final step of BIOS configuration. It’s time we passed on to choosing and installing the operating system. If you are having issues with video card detection, my advice would be to google “mining settings” for your video card model.
Choosing and Configuring the Operating System
When choosing an operating system, any miner has two options:
- Windows 10. A familiar and seemingly simple solution;
- Linux-based systems. A reliable and versatile solution, yet challenging to configure.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the configuration of both.
If you want to mine on Windows, its latest version (Windows 10) is the best option, as it may be challenging to get modern hardware to work with legacy versions. Besides, on Windows 10, gaming efficiency is higher thanks to optimizations, which also means a higher hash rate for mining. However, as I have already mentioned earlier, Windows only seems to be a simple solution. Several issues are lurking behind the familiar interface:
- You often have to install video card drivers one-by-one: you insert one GPU, install the driver, then insert the next GPU, install the driver again, proceed to the third one, and so on;
- After you’ve installed the drivers, you have to patch them to ensure maximum efficiency;
- Persistent system updates which wipe out drivers;
- Different video cards are unlikely to work on one system, especially if you need to combine AMD and Nvidia;
- You need a large, 40–60 GB drive;
- Expensive license;
Most failures I've dealt with were the result of updates. I’ve tried disabling the update service along with the update center, using various utilities and tweakers to disable updates “forever”, blocking Microsoft addresses with Firewall, changing local group policies and editing the registry, but sooner or later some updates would still slip through, causing half of the miners to turn off and blocking remote access. That prompted my decision to switch to Linux, but just in case you want to give it a try anyway, let’s go over Windows configuration.
I recommend installing the latest version of Windows 10; Home Edition will do, too. You don’t have to fragment your hard drive. Installation from a flash drive doesn’t always work, as it involves USB controller drivers. That is why the simplest solution is an external CD drive. If you do not have a CD drive, you need to integrate drivers into the system image using the DISM utility. There’s no need to make an installation flash drive every time. Instead, use the beautiful Easy2Boot tool allowing you to download an ISO image from a flash drive.
To ensure security, after installation, you can update to the latest version before you disable the update center. There is no sure way to do that, as Microsoft will find a loophole to update the system whether the user wants it or not. Here is a promising method that has not failed me so far.
- Win+R → services.msc → OK
- Right-click on Windows Update, select Properties;
- Select Startup type in the pop-up window Manual;
- Press Stop in the same window;
- Navigate to the Log On tab, switch to This account;
- Click Browse... and then Advanced... in the pop-up window;
- Select Find Now and double-click Guest at the bottom of the list;
- Press OK, and you’re back to the Windows Update Properties pane;
- Erase the text in Password and Confirm Password fields.
All done! Now the update service is not supposed to run automatically, but if it does, it will end up in a non-administrator account, where the installation of updates is impossible.
You have to disable sleep and hibernation modes. To do that, go to This PC, and then press System Properties in the Computer tab at the top. On the left select Power & Sleep, and you’ll see the Screen and Sleep settings. Select Never in all drop-down menus. At the very bottom, you’ll see a link to Additional power settings. In the same window on the left, select Choose what the power buttons do, then press Change settings that are currently unavailable and uncheck Turn on fast startup.
Install drivers and the built-in video card onto the chipset as usual. When you install drivers onto the video cards, it’s important to go one-by-one: connect one video card, then install drivers, restart the computer, then proceed to the next video card. You can make the process easier by only disconnecting the riser from the motherboard’s PCI-E connector. If you are connecting over eight video cards, you have to add 2 GB of extra virtual memory per card. But most miners are happy with 7 to 8 cards, which is what I recommend you do.
This one’s easy: download mining software for Windows, configure it as per the instructions using the familiar Notepad and add it to autorun. Let’s try this for the popular Claymore Dual miner:
- Download it from the official repository;
- Copy the ready-made BAT-file appropriate for your pool;
- Edit the BAT file with Notepad, specify your wallet. You can leave the other parameters unchanged;
- Add Claymore to autorun: open Start → Run → shell:startup → OK;
- Put a shortcut to the BAT file into the pop-up window.
All done! Claymore monitors the hash rate and restarts itself as necessary. Other mining software is configured similarly; you can easily google up the instructions. It’s handy to have several BAT files prepared to be able to rapidly switch to another cryptocurrency. You can change the autorun script in a couple of clicks if mining a different currency becomes more profitable at some point. Remote access is your friend here.
After initial configuration, you are most likely to disconnect the monitor from the rig, which is why you need to set up remote access. You can connect to Windows via a built-in Remote Desktop Protocol. However, it requires the router’s firewall configuration (port mapping) and an external IP address for connecting from an external network. You can avoid that by using such programs as Ammyy Admin (15 hours per month free) or TeamViewer (≈ 350 $ per year); they allow you to connect to computers for NAT using a special ID, which is important to put down before you disconnect the monitor. The ID is stored for a long time, so you can connect to the rig and monitor its operation at any moment. In the case of the system freezes, the only automatic restart option is a smart socket. I’ll tell you more about installing a smart home system in one of the next articles; so stay tuned!
Replicating the System Onto Other Miners
If all your rigs are built with the same hardware, deployment of new rigs won’t require installing everything from scratch. Just create a system image and deploy your rig in 15 minutes. Acronis True Image is a perfect tool for that (3 months of the free trial, then 50 $ per year). Connect a data storage device to the first rig, e.g., an SDD with a second SATA cable. Start True Image, either on Windows or from an installation drive, then select Tools → Clone Disk. Select the system hard drive as the source and the new uninitialized drive as the target. In a few minutes, the drive will be completely copied, and you will be able to connect it to the new rig. Now you only need to connect the monitor and take note of the generated remote access ID. That’s about it when it comes to Windows. It’s time we passed on to a more mining-friendly system, Linux.
Linux core-based operating systems are rarely found on personal computers or used for gaming, which must be why many miners do not even consider this amazing system for their farm. They should, though, as it offers some great benefits compared to Windows.
- A free license;
- Faster to install;
- Supports combinations of different models and specifications; AMD and Nvidia can coexist within one rig;
- Highly reliable and safe;
- No updates to wipe out drivers;
- Small system size; you can save on the data storage device.
If you are looking at distributions, consider Ubuntu or Debian: these are popular mining systems, so there are plenty of easy configuration tips on the Internet. I have to admit, even when you have answers to many of your questions, Linux configuration can be a challenge. Luckily, there’s another lifesaver: commercial mining distributions, like SimpleMining OS, MinerOS, and others. Let’s focus on my favorite one: Hive OS.
At first, I was skeptical about this system thinking of the headache compilation of video card drivers for Linux once gave me. But when yet another Windows update caused major downtime for my farm, I decided to give Linux a chance. And I was amazed. I have no idea how Hive OS developers managed to implement this, but it runs incredibly smoothly. You only need to do two things: burn the image onto a USB drive and copy and paste the configuration into a specific folder. That's it! You can load the system from that drive; it will automatically detect the video cards you are using and connect to the control panel so that you can configure the software from your browser. Let’s take this step-by-step.
Registration and Getting Started
Start a background download of the Hive OS image and also the beautiful Balena Etcher utility. In the meantime, we are going to take care of the farm's registration and initial configuration. Set up an account on their website. Do not forget to enable two-factor authentication. Once you have registered, you will see something like that on your screen: Click on it and fill in your first rig’s data. Let’s name it rig1 and generate a password for it. Take note of the password. You will need it later. As soon as you create the rig, you’ll see the configuration data pane, but we’ll take a shortcut here and click Download rig for this worker. Hold on to the downloaded file. You will need it when you are burning the image onto a USB drive.
Now let’s go back to the home screen. Open the Wallets section and press the Add Wallet button on the right. Select a currency, enter your wallet address and give it a name, e. g.: ETH Wallet. Yay! Your first wallet is ready, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. To mine, you’ll also need a Flight Sheet. It's a set of properties containing info on mining currency, wallet, pool, and mining software. If you’re mining Etherium: select ETH, the wallet you've just created, your pool, and ethminer. You can select the pool from an extensive list of supported pools or configure it manually. There is also plenty of mining software options. For Ethereum, I recommend using ethminer or Claymore Dual. The former has a slightly higher hash rate, while the latter offers detailed reports on video card errors. All done! We have completed the Hive configuration. Let's move on to the image burning.
Install Balena Etcher. It’s a simple, reliable, and incredibly user-friendly utility for burning an operating system image onto a data storage device. Both Windows and Mac OS versions are available. Connect the drive to the computer. If it’s an SSD storage device, I recommend you to use a USB SATA adapter. That way, your drive will be recognized as a regular flash drive. If you don't have an adapter, connect the drive to the motherboard using a SATA cable. Once the drive is detected by the system, don’t be in a rush to format it; Etcher will take care of everything. Launch the utility, select the archived Hive OS image, specify the new drive as the destination, and press burn. After the burning is complete, a new section will appear in the system. If you open it, you’ll see the rig.conf configuration file, where you need to enter your Rig ID, your password, etc. Thankfully, we’ve already downloaded the complete file at the previous stage, which is why we can simply copy the downloaded file and replace the existing one. As a result, we get an installation drive with the installed image containing all the required to connect to Hive OS servers. Now we only have to connect the drive to the rig, power it on and refresh the administration panel! In a couple of minutes, you’ll see the hash rate, temperatures, and fan speed in the rig 1 string, which will mean mining is underway.
Unlike with Windows, you won’t need any additional software. Everything you need is already embedded in the Hive OS image; aside from basic functionalities like rebooting, miner change, and configuration update, it offers video card overclocking, VBIOS firmware, detailed monitoring, hash rate, temperature watchdog, and much more. For instance, fast notifications on temperature rise or miner status change on Telegram. As a result, uptime is maximized. ⌘⌘⌘ That’s it for software configuration on the first rig. Next time we’ll look at video card overclocking which will allow us to increase the hash rate while keeping power consumption low. Sign up to the blog to make sure you don't miss it.