How to Mine Zcash – 2019 Updated Guide

Most of you would have been wondering how to mine Zcash but before that, there are a few things you need to know. Zcash (ZEC) is a fork (split) of the Bitcoin protocol further extended with optionally private (“shielded”) transactions that use a zero-knowledge proof construction to conceal information about the sender, receiver, their respective balances and the amount transacted.  

In the case of ZCash, shielded transactions are guaranteed to be compliant with the underlying protocol (no double-spends, etc.) and also afford private transactors optional “selective disclosure” should it ever be necessary (for audit purposes, etc.)The benefit of mining Zcash is that you can use your existing CPU, which you can’t do with other options, such as Bitcoin. 

Mining Zcash basics

Mining Equipment

  • CPU – earlier version of mining equipment that is moderately slow
  • GPU – upgraded version which performs much faster than the CPU

You can use your existing CPU to start mining immediately and upgrade later to a GPU, which is a piece of rather expensive mining equipment. If you’re more experienced with mining and want to maximize your profits from Zcash mining faster, you might consider purchasing a GPU right away. The potential to earn more exists with the GPU setup but it isn’t necessary if you simply want to try the water for mining.

GPU mining is faster and more efficient than CPU mining. When you’ve decided to use GPU equipment, check the hashing power of the unit (which is directly tied to how much you’ll earn). Purchasing a used setup is an option but GPUs get hot and if the cooling isn’t working properly, you could lose your investment. Ensure for both types of equipment that all fans are working correctly.

Mining Zcash on GPU mining rigs

Pros: faster process, low cost per core

Cons: higher price

Much of the mining in Zcash is still done on GPU mining rigs and it used to be considered one of the most affordable and easy to mine PoW coins, though maybe not as much anymore after going from around 900$ beginning 2018 to 40$ at the time of writing this. Coinbase UK also recently dropped support for Zcash completely. 

Also perhaps worth mentioning too is the fact that ZCash launched back in 2016 with the provision of founders taking 20% of block rewards until November 2020, when block rewards will at the same time be halved from 12.5 ZEC/block to 6.25 ZEC/block. ZClassic (ZCL) is a Zcash fork which eliminated the hefty founders’ fee and slow start but is otherwise identical and mineable just the same.

Process of Mining Zcash

The whole process of setting things up for starting to mine Zcash is a fairly straightforward affair

  1. Install the GPUs and configure the machine
  2. Get a Zcash wallet address (non-custodial, preferably the official provided Zcash wallet) 
  3. Download/install a mining program (usually executed from the command-line/shell). 
  4. After all that, just connect to a Zcash mining pool and start mining. 

Most individual miners usually tend to pool their resources together and share in block rewards proportionate to the hash rate contributed to the pool, as that way increasing their chances for turning a profit.

Picking GPU Cards

Now, when it comes to picking GPU cards, Nvidia (EWBF Miner) is usually the one to get for mining Zcash on Equihash (AMDs outperform Nvidia for Ethereum) — and should make sure it is at least 1 GB of RAM. After setting up your rig with your graphic cards, get and install a compatible Zcash miner. EWBF’s Cuda Zcash miner is the most popular Equihash one that works with Nvidia. 

Picking Wallets

As for wallets, get one of the Zcash dedicated ones (only they support private transactions and addresses) or else Exodus and generate an address for receiving payouts.

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ZecWallet, the official desktop Zcash wallet. Wait for the blockchain to download and pick the type of address to use/generate – regular t-Addr or private/zero-knowledge z-Addr.

Choosing your mining pool

Now head to a mining pool of your choosing. Flypool and Nanopool are two of the Zcash dedicated ones that also have the option of paying out in private/shielded addresses (z_addr). Both pools take 1% in fees.

How to Mine Zcash - 2019 Updated Guide 2

The above shows the Flypool front page displaying the information needed. Open up a terminal or a command-line (whether Linux or Windows) and extract/locate the miner executable and run it with the relevant parameters.

miner –server asia1-zcash.flypool.org –port 3333 –user zs17x5wrzekudc0jqmhwr68xl3tv6vx5jdqu270se7t5e7kzjk6ewqs2y7yhvml280zukdncsevkfg

If running on Linux, prefix so: ./miner And if it all works properly you should be displayed a screen that looks like that:

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You should then be able to locate yourself from the front page of zcash.flypool.org.

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Zcash has 2.5 minute block time intervals and Flypool does instant payouts. The hashrate is a measure of how much hardware or computational resource is dedicated to mining ZEC at any given time (and the hash rate naturally correlates with the level of PoW difficulty due to the nature of how the system is architected).

Estimating profit

Lastly, you can approximate how much you could profit by checking at CryptoCompare — the site shows the value of the asset/currency and its estimate in US dollars for certain processing power or electricity costs.

Additional Background

ZKPs or optionally private transactions 

Zero-knowledge proofs are a category of cryptographic voodoo magic where a prover is capable of proving to a verifier the validity/truthfulness of a statement/claim without actually revealing anything about it (and given they both conform to the constraints of the same protocol). The classic anecdote used to illustrate the basic principle of ZKPs is the cave of Alibaba

ZKPs tend to be application-specific constructions and Zcash uses one called zk-SNARKs, an acronym for “Zero-Knowledge Succinct Non-Interactive Argument of Knowledge”. Zk-SNARKs are non-interactive and short enough to publish onto a PoW blockchain (more detailed description of the schema can be found here). 

More efficient and quantum-proof ZKPs

The work of the ZCash team in developing the zk-SNARKs libraries has been widely acknowledged in the crypto space as many other experiments and projects have gone to use them in implementing their own ZKP applications. 

Meanwhile, the people involved with ZCash seem to focus much of their efforts on coming up with and refining more efficient and quantum-proof ZKPs (since zk-SNARKs is vulnerable to in that respect, as are many of the existing blockchain systems).

Proof-of-Work mining but using Equihash algorithm

All that aside, ZCash doesn’t much fundamentally differ from the original Bitcoin protocol/implementation and transactions are validated via the same process of Proof-of-Work mining but using the specifically designed Equihash algorithm instead of the regular SHA-256 hash function Bitcoin does. 

Equihash had been designed with ASIC resistance in mind (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits, or dedicated custom hardware for a specific purpose), but it didn’t take too long before ASIC miners were optimized for the purpose regardless. If opting for ASIC mining, there are two options, Bitmain’s Z9 mini ASIC and the Innosilicon A9 Zmaster.

Conclusion

Some would just be contented in buying Zcash. Personally, I think Zcash is just a chance to set a playground on top of which to research and experiment with zero-knowledge cryptography in the wild, i.e. it’s not really so much about Zcash the cryptocurrency, but about the research and development around it which is extremely valuable in many other fields and areas (e.g., there’s heavy Israeli involvement in terms of the academia invested).

Frequently asked questions

Is mining Zcash still profitable?

The answer depends on the source, but most of them agree that mining ZCash is more profitable than mining Bitcoin in 2019. It seems like ZCash is the best option to start mining if you’re thinking about it right now.

How many Zcash will be mined?

Zcash follows the Bitcoin protocol, so the answer is quite easy – 21 million coins. It’s expected that all 21 million coins will be mined by the year 2032. 

Why is the Equihash algorithm a plus for new miners?

Equihash had been designed with ASIC resistance in mind (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits, or dedicated custom hardware for a specific purpose), but it didn’t take too long before ASIC miners were optimized for the purpose regardless. 

What’s the advantage of using a GPU versus a CPU for mining?

The most straightforward answer is SPEED. Mining with GPU is way faster than with CPU, and most of the coins are mined with GPU. Plus, the GPU cost per core is less than the CPU cost per core. Some might even say that today, you won’t be able to mine anything with the CPU. 

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