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What Do You Need to Start Bitcoin Mining

Technically all you need to become a node in the network, and to start printing your own virtual money is a computer with internet access. You can download a free wallet to your computer, one of several free miner programs, and join in.
Sounds great doesn't it? The problem is that the computer power required is phenomenal. If you work by yourself, with only a personal computer, it might be years before you see your first block. For this reason most miners join a pool, where the work and rewards are shared.
In a pool, when a block is solved and new coins created, you will only get a tiny fraction of a coin. But usually several blocks are solved in a day. The person running the pool takes a small percentage as a fee (say 3%), but you get (almost) instant gratification.
One important aspect of mining is that the difficulty of solving the blocks increases with time.
So can you make money bitcoin mining with a personal computer? It does depend on how good your PC is. Strangely enough the processing needed for BTC mining is much better done by a graphics card (GPU), rather than a CPU. So unless you have a gaming computer with a good dedicated graphics card, well you can do it, but you will mine so little that it will hardly make a difference.
There are two GPU manufacturers that provide the chips for all graphic cards, Ati Radeon and Nvidia. It turns out that Radeon cards are much better at bit mining than Nvidia cards. Something to do with the cards' architecture that doesn't really make a difference in rendering graphics in games, but makes a huge difference in mining.

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