Monthly Archives: May 2021

Getting Start with Chia Farming

One of the latest interest in the crypto mining scene is Chia. It is easier to start, and many people are keen to get into it, hoping to get good early rewards. As I write this, we are already into the second week of May 2021, and Chia mainnet has been live for nearly 2 months. Unless you have a pretty powerful plotting set up, it’s really hard to catch up.

What is Chia Farming?

Chia Farming, pay attention, the term here is Farming. It’s not mining, unlike Bitcoin and Ethereum. Chia is based on Proof of Space and Time, rather than Proof of Work, which Bitcoin and Ethereum are based on. Proof of Work, simply put is having a good amount of compute power, mining blocks for the relevant networks. Hence it’s common to see GPU and ASICs being used in the PoW type mining, and they do consume a fair amount of electricity.

Chia Farming on the other hand, is designed to be “green”, eco friendly. It ought to take a lot less power to farm, and it does. Where it hurts more is burning through your SSDs. More on that to come later in this post. So how farming works is this, your computer system will have generated plot files, and the Harvester process will constantly listen in on the Chia blockchain for challenges. The harvester will then scan the local plot files to any hash that matches the challenge. If a successful proof is found, and the harvester is able to report in time, it earns a coin.

The above is a highly summarised version, if you’d like to know more, do read up the Chia FAQ section.

The rate of winning depends on how many plot files you own. The more plot files you have, the higher your chance. However, the winning chance is also relative to the overall size of the network, meaning all the plot files across the entire network. The network grows, and your plots don’t, your winning chance will keep declining.

The plot files have pre-defined sizes. The common and accepted ones now are known as the k32 plots, and are about 100GiB each. So, to store 10 of these files, you’ll need 1TiB of disk space. The more space you have, the more plots you can have, and your chance of winning is better.

Generating your first Chia Plot

So, how do you generate your first Chia plot. If you new to crypto mining, or not an advanced computer expert, I’d suggest just follow the installation guidelines for Windows or Mac.

First immediate tip here, avoid plotting on your primary SSD based OS drive. Repeated plotting (which you will likely do), will quickly wear your SSD, and can eventually affect your OS. Always try to plot on secondary SSD, dedicated ones will be good, and certainly not on those which you have precious data on.

What resources are needed to plot?

So, you’ve noticed I started describing with the end process, which is farming the plot files. That is the goal, to have as many plot files as you can afford to store.

The point now, is how to generate all those plot files, quickly. This we’ll talk about the plotting process.

Plotting involves 3 key elements of your computer, the CPU (processor), RAM (memory), and Storage (fast SSD). In order to to multiple plots in parallel and without compromising on speed, you want a good amount of all these 3.

A plotting process by default will need the following:-

  • CPU – 2 threads (default), this means you need at least 2 cores dedicated for each plotting process. You can increase this to 4 threads (and hence 4 cores), with marginal improvement. I find that it’s more worth while to dedicate the additional 2 cores to a second plot process instead.
  • RAM – 3390 MiB (default), this is the maximum RAM a plotting process will use. The highest useful value you can increase to is 6750 3400 MiB. (update: looks like the value has been adjusted here)
  • Storage – the location for your temp folder would be your fastest drive. Go with SSD if you want speed, otherwise a regular spinning disk will work too, just take more time. For k32 plots, you’ll need 300GiB + of usable space. During the whole plotting process, there will be significant amount of re-writes, amounting up to 1.5TiB. Which means for each plot generated, your SSD will go through 1.5TiB of writes. For a device with say, 150TBW, it means after 100 plots, your SSD becomes out of warranty. Hence, the warning about the SSD wear. How well it performs from this point on varies with manufacturers and model.

How I am plotting?

Let’s start with the SPECs of my computer.

  • CPU – Intel i9-10900K (10 cores / 20 threads)
  • Memory – 32GB
  • Storage – 1x PNY 1TB M.2 NVMe (C:), 1x PNY 500GB M.2 NVMe (D:), 1x PNY 2TB M.2 NVMe (E:), 1x 14TB HDD (F:)

With this, I will run 5 plots in parallel. Each plotting process with the following settings.

  • Threads – 2
  • Max Memory – 6750 (3 plots), 3390 MiB (2 plots) 3400MiB
  • Temp Folder – either in C:, D:, or E:
  • Final Folder – F:

I know I said not to plot on C:, so I’m monitoring carefully how much I’m burning through, and stopping when I’m 50% there. This is my personal risk I’m taking, and if I’m to recommend, don’t plot on your C:. My D: and E: are fully reserved for plotting, with no data on it.

All my plots are stored on my F:. The plots do not need to be stored on SSD, speed doesn’t matter that much here, just a lot of space. Eventually I’ll need to add more HDD.

I have 3 plots running on parallel on my E:, the overall performance does take a 10% hit, but it does allow me to maximise the number if plots I can generate a day.

How to plot fast?

I didn’t build my computer specifically for plotting, hence the mixed bag of components. If I am to build one now specifically for plotting, here is what I will do.

Decide how many plots you want to do in parallel, then you can calculate how much CPU, RAM and SSD you need. So, let’s say like mine, I’m doing 5 in parallel, and let’s use that as an example

CPU – As each plot process needs 2 cores, I’ll find something with 10 cores. Buy the fastest and with the most cores you can accord. I generally don’t count on hyperthreads. That’s how I arrived with my i9-10900K.

RAM – my system already had 32GB of RAM, and I stuck with that. However, If I want to maximise plotting speed, I will need at least 3400 x 5 = 17,000MiB. This is easily satisfied with 32GB of RAM, which I will go with either 2x 16GB or 4x 8GB DIMMs. Never go with an odd number of DIMMs.

Storage – have 3 SSD devices. Each with at least 1TiB of space. These are just for temp spaces. Add on 1 more SSD for your OS if you like. For final storage, as many large HDD as you can afford.

Wrapping up…

The other critical component you’ll need to pay attention to, of course, is the motherboard. You’ll need one that can fit all these together. I am using the MSI Meg Z490 Ace.

There’s a lot more to farming, but this should hopefully give you a good start. If you like what you read here, or have any comments, please let me know.