Zcash is an interesting cryptocurrency that comes with one major benefit over Bitcoin – it managed to completely anonymize transactions. This means only the sender and the recipient will know how much currency was sent and to whom.
However, when it comes to earning Zcash, the process is similar to Bitcoin’s, which means you need to mine it. In this guide, we’ll discuss how to mine Zcash and all the steps you need to take for this purpose.
The good news is, mining Zcash is not too complicated and you won’t need to work with unfriendly command line miners. In fact, you can mine Zcash directly to your hardware wallet or an exchange.
To demonstrate the process of mining Zcash we’ll be using the popular nVidia EWBF Miner. While it is possible to mine Zcash with AMD cards, we recommend using nVidia because they do work best with Equihash, Zcash’s mining algorithm.
With that said, let’s explore some of Zcash’s key concepts and also how it differs from Bitcoin.
Zcash vs. Bitcoin
As I already mentioned, Equihash is Zcash’s hashing algorithm and it differs from Bitcoin’s because it doesn’t support ASIC mining hardware. ASIC resistance is deliberate so Equihash works best with GPU mining.
zk-SNARKS, Zcash’s built-in privacy protocol, is one of the most praised privacy protocols in the industry. Also, Zcash has a 2.5 minute block time compared to Bitcoin’s 10-minute blocks and generates a reward of 10 coins for each solved block.
Zcash difficulty, price, and hashrate
The total hashrate of the Zcash network has been steadily climbing over time. You might be tempted to ask why blocks aren’t mined faster than 2.5 minutes? That’s because the computational difficulty for solving a block is automatically adjusted to maintain the 2.5-minute intervals.
As you can see, the difficulty is dynamically adjusted too, and it has grown quite a bit this year:
If you’re wondering why the hashrate and difficulty needed to rise, the answer is simple. Zcash had a major price boost back in May and June 2017 when it jumped to over $400 from $50 in just a couple of months.
How to mine Zcash
The first step to mining Zcash is choosing the right hardware for the job. This is extremely important and your selection should definitely be based on mining profitability.
You can visit the site Whattomine.com to access the latest data for current prices, block times, and network hashrates. You can use their calculator to test various GPU selections to find the card with the optimal price/performance ratio for you.
Choosing the proper GPU hardware
While AMD cards are more performant than Nvidia cards for Ethereum mining (Ethash), the opposite is true when using the EWBF Miner with Zcash’s Equihash algorithm.
For your Zcash mining operation to run smoothly you will need a GPU with at least 1 GB of RAM, the minimum requirement for EWBF (we recommend at least 3Gb). Regardless, we suggest you check Whattomine’s calculator before purchasing your card(s), especially if you’re looking at older models which might not bring enough profit.
We recommend you check the following graphics cards. For AMD, check the RX 470/480, RX 570/580, R9 Series, and HD 7990/7950. For Nvidia, check the GTX 1060-6GB, 1070, 1080 or 2080 Series.
Once you decide on a specific model it’s a good idea to check online for the best prices, even for used cards. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, the Nvidia 1060-6GB is one of the best choices although for the same reason it’s frequently out of stock or overpriced.
Mining Zcash on Windows
While mining Zcash with Nvidia cards is best, it’s also possible to use AMD cards. Regardless of the manufacturer you’re using, the first thing you need to do is to install the necessary video card drivers. We’ll show you how to do it for both Nvidia and AMD cards.
Installing AMD video card drivers
We always recommend getting software from the official source, so head over to amd.com to download your drivers. Select Drivers & Support from the top menu, find your GPU in the scrolling menus and hit the “Submit” button.
On the next page, choose your operating system and hit the Download button. For some cards, you might have an option for downloading previous drivers which can be good depending on your card.
If you have an AMD R9 or older card we recommend you use version 15.2, and for the RX 400 series use v. 16.9.2 or 16.10.3. Since the RX 500 series are newer your best bet is to use the current driver version.
Installing drivers for Nvidia GPUs
Go to https://www.geforce.com/drivers and enter your card info. Hit the “Start Search” button and download the current driver version from the results.
After the GPU drivers finish installing you will need to reboot your PC to finish the process. You can make sure your GPU is properly recognized by Windows by going to the Device Manager in Control Panel (or via the Start search). There, check under Display Adapters that your GPU appears there with no warning signs.
For installing multiple GPUs, some miners have had issues when attempting to install them all at once. If that doesn’t work for you, try installing them one by one with system reboots in between. Also, if an installation fails, make sure to remove the existing drivers before giving it another try.
Get a Zcash wallet address
Having a Zcash wallet is mandatory as that is where you will be sending those mined coins. A quick way to get one is from the official Zcash website. There, you can download the Zcash client.
Even so, you can mine your ZEC to a hardware wallet such as the Ledger Nano S, Trezor, and even the popular web wallet Jaxx. There are even some exchanges that allow you to mine directly to them, such as Bittrex or Binance for example.
Download Zcash EWBF Miner
Now you can finally download the Zcash EWBF Miner from its official BitcoinTalk thread. In that thread, you have several download options (we used the Mega option).
Once you select one you can choose the latest version of the miner and download it to your PC. Then, unzip the downloaded archive and run it to start the installation.
Note: Windows may issue a warning when downloading self-contained miner files. However, if you downloaded the EWBF Miner from one of the official download links you can ignore the warning.
Optimize Windows settings
For your mining to run smoothly, some Windows settings need tweaking. The most important one is to prevent your PC from entering sleep since that’s not something you’d want to happen if it’s mining.
Go to Settings – > System -> Power & Sleep and set the “Sleep” option to “Never”.
Then, you’ll need to change the system page file to 16 GB, To do this, you’ll need to access the Advanced System Settings. The quickest way to do that is to search for it in the Start menu.
On the Advanced tab, select “Settings” under Performance. Select the Advanced tab in the new pop-up window and click “Change” under “Virtual Memory”. Uncheck “Automatically manage paging file size…” and click the Custom Size option. Enter 16384 for both Initial Size and Maximum Size. Hit the OK button, then click Apply and one more time OK to save the changes.
Optionally, you can also disable Windows updates just to make sure your mining process and settings can carry on uninterrupted. For security purposes, you might want to keep those on, which is fine except the mining process will be interrupted more frequently by the reboots required to finish updates.
Last, but not least, you should definitely add the EWBF folder to the exclusion list of your antivirus program to make sure it will run properly.
Join a mining pool
With everything set up on your PC, you’re finally ready to join a mining pool since solo mining is not very efficient unless you have a huge number of GPUs at your disposal.
There are multiple Zcash mining pools you can choose from, but we recommend Nanopool or Flypool. If you opt for a different pool, you will find instructions on how to mine there on their official website.
Visit the help section of Nanopool and scroll down to the EWBF Miner. Make sure you’re on the Windows CUDA tab.
There you will find an example script that looks like this:
miner.exe --server zec-eu1.nanopool.org --user YOUR_WALLET_ADDRESS.YOUR_WORKER_NAME/YOUR_EMAIL --pass z --port 6666
You will need to copy and paste this script into the file called start.bat (you can open it in Notepad for editing), located in your EWBF folder on your PC. However, before copy-pasting, make sure you replace the YOUR_WALLET_ADDRESS string with your valid Zcash wallet address, YOUR_WORKER_NAME with a simple worker name (this is optional), and YOUR_EMAIL with your email address but only if you want to receive notifications when the miner is down or it stopped mining.
To save the .bat file, use the Save As dialogue in Notepad. You can optionally make a desktop shortcut for your .bat file so you can easily start the mining process.
Start the miner
To start the miner you simply need to double-click the .bat file or its shortcut if you made one.
Whenever you want to check your status, simply enter your wallet address in the upper-right corner of the page. That’s it!