Friday, December 13, 2013

Litecoin vs. Hash Cows: Profitability Compared

There's plenty of interest in mining Litecoin right now, as it's generally considered the most profitable of the alt-coins (Bitcoin being the primary cryptocurrency). In fact, LTC is now at the point where it's basically no longer an alt-coin -- mission accomplished. But there are a ton of other alt-coins that are still being mined, some potentially more profitable than others. Here's a somewhat complete list of the market capitalization of various cryptocurrencies if you're interested -- basically Bitcoin is now at just under $11 billion, and Litecoin is about 7% of that at $764 million. Third place is Peercoin (PPC), at 13% of the value of LTC: $97 million. Quarkcoin (QRK) is fourth, and represents the top coin that can still be mined with CPUs, but it's basically mined out now (despite the recent brouhaha where it increased in value 500% over a few days -- good for those that mined early, but with seven systems I only created about 6 QRK per day, or $1.50 -- maybe just barely enough to pay for electricity for the systems in question).

Anyway, getting on to the point of this post, all of the cryptocoin miners know by now that difficulty and pricing for every coin fluctuates quite a bit. Lately, BTC and LTC are just increasing in difficulty quite rapidly, but that's because for those that have the latest hardware (second-generation ASICs for BTC and 7900 or R9 290 series GPUs for LTC) are making great returns. What if you want to skip the two most popular coins and instead mine something not as well known? What if you created a pool that would look at all of the major Scrypt-based coins (excluding LTC) and choose the one that is currently the most profitable to mine? What if the pool automatically converted all of your alt-coins into BTC every day? That pool is Hash Cows. (Other similar pools exist, but Hash Cows is what I'm testing right now.) From their FAQ:
What Does your Pool Do? The pool automatically mines the most profitable coin from our list of available coins and the miner has the option in their settings page to either be paid out in that coin, or directly in Bitcoin. This decision can be made on a coin by coin basis, with some being paid out as the original coin and some being paid out in Bitcoin, and in any combination.
Sounds great, doesn't it? So here's the deal: I have about 6500KHash/sec that is currently going into LTC mining, which nets me a bit more than 2 LTC per day. At current LTC prices, that's $70 or so per day, with an electricity cost of $10, so a net profit of $60. It's not enough for me to quit my day job by any stretch, and certainly it's not something I would feel confident in depending on right now, but it's a nice bonus -- plus the PCs help heat my house in the winter. (Summer isn't so nice, though!)

By way of comparison, Hash Cows has a profitability chart showing the returns you can expect from their service. Based on that chart, doing 6500KHash (6.5MHash) would get me anywhere from 0.039 BTC (11-16-2013) to as much as 0.24 BTC (12-09-2013) in a day. Even at $900 the first value isn't very interesting: $35 in a day is less than half of what I would get from mining LTC. The second option on the other hand looks really nice, as it would mean a whopping $216 per day -- about three times as much as I make by mining LTC! It was enough for me to point all of my rigs at for the past day and a bit. (Note that I kept LTC mining as a secondary fail-over pool for mining as well.) And the result? Well, that's where we run into problems.

The first day I only had my PCs mining at Hash Cows for maybe a third of the day. Then I noticed that all of my rigs had switched back to LTC mining, and apparently Hash Cows' stratum proxy was having problems. Anyway, my payout for the first day was pretty uninspiring: 0.00913815 BTC ($8.22 at the current price). I hoped that by devoting a full 24 hours to mining I would get a better result, and I did: 0.04457882 BTC ($40.12). That's still about half of what I would have earned mining LTC.

Here's the real problem. Remember that "Profitability Chart" that I linked. Above is the screenshot showing yesterday (12-12-2013). In theory, based on that chart I should have made 0.019 BTC per MHash. If my PCs were doing 100% of their work at Hash Cows, that would yield 0.1235 BTC ($111.15). In practice, I received about one third that amount.

There are some other issues as well, like the bit about automatically mining the most profitable Scrypt-based alt-coin. That's basically false, or their algorithm is really bad, or their statistics chart is totally inaccurate (and has bad math). If I look at the returns from their pool right now, just in the past few hours I see 1:14:10 spent mining WDC generating 0.004423 BTC (that would work out to 0.08588 BTC per day), and then I see another where 43:58 was spent on MEM  generating 0.001778 BTC (that would work out to 0.05823 BTC per day).

You might be inclined to call this a scam of some form, but I'm going to give it a shot for another day and see how it goes. I've also noted my exact LTC balance at my mining pool so I can see how many LTC I mine when (not if!) Hash Cows is a bit too slow at responding and my rigs fail over to Hash Cows. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, but right now it's not looking very good for Hash Cows. There is a lovely disclaimer at the bottom of the profits chart, though:
* Please note, the data above is a somewhat small sample size taken from miners known to have mined 24/7 and auto-exchanged 100% of coins. Your results may vary slightly based on reject rate or receiving non-btc for some coins etc.
Like I said, I mined 24 hours on Hash Cows yesterday and their chart just doesn't match my result. I think part of the problem is inefficiency though -- every time they switch coins, my miners all seem to swap over to my secondary pool for several minutes, and they tend to switch coins every 20-30 minutes on average. That could mean I earned $40 from Hash Cows and another unknown amount from LTC mining (perhaps as much as 1 LTC), which would then be more or less a tie. But if you're looking at the chart above and expecting to make three times as much as you would get mining LTC, you're likely going to be sorely disappointed.

There is an upside however: while it looks like LTC is currently outperforming Hash Cows, if the difficulty of mining LTC continues to go up 5-10% every few days that may not be the case in another month or two. Given the choice between mining 0.5 LTC per day or the 0.045 BTC I got from Hash Cows yesterday, they would come out ahead. That's of course assuming their mining profitability doesn't go to crap in the meantime.

To be continued....


  1. Very Interesting Jarred. Thanks for the review as I've just set up my first rig with 3x 290x's. I've been following your results for a few days while tweaking my own rig, and have managed to get the hashrates up around 900-950 kh/s on each card. I've been bouncing between mining straight LTC and using middlecoin and hashcows, and like you, have been a bit underwhelmed with the results of the "multicoin pools'.

    Even with my hash rate being less than half of yours, I should be seeing around 0.7 - 0.8 LTC per day vs whatever variance of BTC I can make through the multipools.

    I'll be looking forward to hearing your next update to see what your results are like over a longer period of time. For now I'm leaving my rig pointed at hashcows as well, but if I dont see any results in the next few days, I'll be going back to LTC until it becomes too difficult.

  2. Do to unexchanged shares, you will need to run the pool for at least 2 days to see your real return. Ideally, it would take 3 days. I have been making about 0.05-0.07 per day on Hash Cows with 3KH/s.
    Yesterday was a really bad day with servers being down.
    I have tried running Middlecoin, Hash Cows, and LTC split 1KH/sec over 3 days. However, someone's server goes down and the results are void. Generally, Hash Cows pays more when it is up and Middlecoin pays the most in general because it has less down time. After the second day, payout on the alt pools is always 15% more than the LTC pool.

    1. Well thats reassuring. I just found out my rig is not hashing right now, and I havent set up remote access to jump start it from work yet. Arrrrgh! So frustrating!!

      I'll get her running stable and in tip top shape and leave it on hashcow for the weekend and see what happens. Will report back with my findings. Thanks again for all the info here.

    2. Yeah, that's why I'm waiting to see how it goes. I may have to do vs. Middlecoin next to see how it works out. And if you haven't set up fail-over, you need to! If you don't know how, I think I have the topic for my next post. LOL

    3. Hahaha I have a fail over set, but I've been losing massive amounts of sleep just tweaking the clock speeds for the best hashrates I can get out of the cards. I've got numbers I'm happy with, but as you can tell, something has gone a bit off.

      It should either have rebooted on its own and fired up CGminer automatically, or switched to my failover. None of those things have happened so its either frozen at boot, or frozen in windows, or my apartment is burning to the ground. Hopefully option a or b.

      In anycase, failovers would be a good subject to cover, any maybe remote access should be next. I know a bit about how to set it up, but im sure the less tech savvy, new miners will need some guidance =)

    4. Hey funkrush those hashrates sound great, i have 3 sapphire r9 290's only one running at the moment and cant get above 877. what settings are you using?? Did you follow Jarreds config file with cg miner, if so what do you put in your batch file. So far im getting my results just from the batch file and not customising config file.

    5. Hey Mike, unfortunately, those hashrates are pretty unstable on my system, and there is no worse feeling then coming home from work and seeing that your rig has been sitting idle, not mining for most of the day.

      I've since tweaked my settings and my decaying average is hovering right at 890, while my actual hashrates bounce between 875-920. I did use some of Jarred's numbers as a base but, I had to venture out on my own as my cards seem to hate any Thread-Concurrency over 28500. Also, my Sapphire 290x seems to be pretty unstable with a 1500 Memory speed.

      I've set my cards up as follows using the batch file:

      --scrypt -I 20 -g 1 -w 512 --thread-concurrency 28456 --gpu-engine 938 -- gpu-memclock 1500,1500,1400 --gpu-fan 75-85 --gpu-powertune 10

      Hope that helps!

      Also, to note, the first two GPUs are Asus 290x's while the last number in the memory clocks is for the sapphire.

    6. Thanks, ill give it a try, i setup 3 r9 290s last night getting a total hashing power of 2.62 and running really stable would love to get a bit more out of them so ill give it a try. Also couldnt get it running on any cgminer apart from 3.4.3.

      Thanks for the advice

    7. Those settings above are netting me about the same. I can probably squeeze a bit more out of the cards, but worry about stability. Are your cards all clocked at 1500mhz memory right now?

  3. Hashcows seemed to be doing pretty good until the last couple days. I was averaging about 0.00030 BTC per day with my 14kH/s. I'm poor so I can't afford anything better. But now I am hardly getting any accepted shares, still virtually no rejected shares. Maybe they changed things so that the small amount I can do is virtually useless now or they are still having issues. In any case if anyone feels like donating to get me a decent video card and help me help the altcoin community, here is my BTC address 1EBDAQSG7dW4GcrR6cbogWxa4orsgYzbg4

    1. Also, I didn't think you would be able to setup a failover with hashcows as you could only setup failovers if you were mining the same coin and since it changes it would mess up the blockchain. I tried to set one up but when it switched it seemed like it was still also trying to use their server for information. Maybe I had it set wrong, I had tried to failover to a worldcoin pool.

    2. Failover just needs to mine the same hash algorithm, which is why can even do this multicoin pool. When you switch pools, you always ditch any current work and restart, so there's no corrupting of the block chain. As for a GPU, start small and used. Buy a 6900 series for $180 and mine with it until you've more than paid for the card. Some coins might be profitable enough to pay for the card in a week!

    3. I've seen 6900s in the $210 to 280 range in CAD $ on ebay which is far outside my reach. I saw a 6770 for $74 which I though would have been a decent start but didn't have the cash for it. Unemployed right now unfortunately so will have to wait a while on that.

    4. What sort of PC and hardware are you using right now? Send me an email and I can try to throw you a bone or two.... :-)

    5. I sent you a message through Google+. Let me know if you don't get it.

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  6. Hi Jarred,

    Regarding cgminer hanging on closing the program for the 290(X), this only occurs if you set-up the "power" options (e.g. gpuclock, memclock, powertune, etc.) through cgminer. If you leave these out, you'll be able to close the program gracefully.

    Then, these key power settings can still be set / tweaked through another gpu oveclocking program, such as Afterburner 3.0.0 Beta 17 (beta version is needed for the R9 290) without any BSOD.

    hope that helps, and thanks for your effort on the blog.

  7. Hey Jarred, wanted to give you an update. So far, the second day of mining at Hashcows, I seem to be on track with the profit chart you've linked in this article. I am currently hashing around 2.7 Mh/s and as of right now am sitting around 0.04 BTC, with just under 7 hours of the 24 hour period to go.

    I'll be leaving my primary pool here for a few more days so the earnings can average out. Curious to see if your results after the weekend are the same.

    I am contemplating picking up one more r9 290 and flashing it to a 290x bios to bring my rig up to 3.4Mh/s if these numbers continue.

    Keep me posted on your results.

  8. Interestingly, I pulled off most of my rigs to mine other alternative cryptocurrencies, leaving just one PC doing 160KHash (max) on Hashcows. Yesterday I received 0.01266414 BTC, or around $10.75. Considering mining LTC I would have earned perhaps $1.75, that's a pretty awesome alternative. More posts on the subject tomorrow, but if you're curious: FZ mining has been getting me around $300 per day on my combined CPUs and GPUs.

    FZ tip address: FGisQQeTC6r7nDU7Nd9yg5pdRZky9hBMRp

    1. Hi !
      Thanks for the blog, it's very interesting.
      But you just can't tease a new article on FZ coins and not post it xD

  9. Hello Jarred, thank you for the interesting article. Made me think a lot more about altcoins.
    How do you mine FZ? I saw a few gpuminer but im wondering if i could just mine with cgminer as i do now?
    Do you recommend mining only FZ atm to get max profit? Is it easy to exchange FZ to BTC? If yes where do you trade your altcoins into btc or usd?
    I do really like your blog more and more, i will a active reader / commenter from now on :-)

    Thanks in advance.

    Seeme from Switzerland

  10. Hello Jarred, I'd also like to know the best place to trade altcoins to BTC. There are lot's of more profitable new currencies.
    I'm building my rig right now.


    1. You can try Cryptsy, BTC-e, and Vicurex as the three major options.