In Part 1 we covered some basics about the mining rig. If you found yourself on this page and didn’t start at step 1, we’re building a 6 GPU mining rig with Nvidia GTX 1070 video cards and Windows 10 as the operating system.
If you did come from step 1 and are waiting on some of your mining rig’s components to arrive there’s still things that you can do in the mean time. They’ll actually save some frustration later depending on how much you want to get done in a sitting. If you have everything then you’ll be able to move through everything in Part 2.
If you’re a seasoned computer builder you will probably skim through this section. The only thing you might want to be aware of is that we will only be connecting power for one of the GPUs until we get the BIOS and OS squared away.
Editor’s note: Part 1 was far more popular than we thought, so we’re moving a bit faster to get this part up. We realize some of the instructions are hard to visualize and will be adding photos to help illustrate anything that might not be straightforward. Please be patient as we continue to evolve each step in the series. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re happy to send you a picture or answer a question while we get those photos added.
6 GPU Mining Rig Build – Part 2 Overview
Here’s what’s next for the GPU mining rig build. If you’ve read our long, boring disclaimer already you can click on any of the topics to move straight to that section.
- Create a bootable Windows 10 USB stick (10 minutes)
- Build the mining rig frame (0-10 minutes)
- Install the processor, RAM and SSD on the motherboard (10 minutes)
- Mount the motherboard and power supply to the rig frame (10 minutes)
- Prepare the GTX 1070 video cards and the powered PCI-e risers (10-15 minutes)
- Add the video cards to the mining rig frame (15 minutes)
- Connect components to the PSU (15-20 minutes)
- First boot up (5 minutes)
There’s a lot to read. As we mentioned in Part 1 that is because we’re trying to be detailed so a beginner could follow along. Move through the steps as fast as you like.
A reasonably long, boring disclaimer
Static electricity kills (computer hardware) and your build is your build
Once you’re unwrapping boxes there’s a few things to note. First, you can fry computer hardware with static electricity. We’ve never had the displeasure of destroying perfectly good hardware, but it is possible. We aren’t authorities on static electricity. If you’re new to the topic and/or assembling computers. Turn to Google and find a good, reputable source such as How to Geek and please do look into it.
The other disclaimer is that you have to be sure about what you are doing. We’ve done this build many times and will continue to. We will try to help as much as we can, but one thing we can’t take responsibility for is what happens when you’re assembling your miner. Someone out there is going to get a bad board… or video card… or cable something incorrectly, or… their dog will fry their motherboard with static electricity because the build is happening on a sheepskin rug for some reason. Anyway. You get the picture.
If you’ve never built a computer you can do it. But. You do need to heed precautions about static electricity, fragility of computer parts, and understand that exposed electronics that come into contact accidentally while you’re assembling your rig can destroy them. We’re sharing our experiences to help and hopefully every build goes well from a no-damage-of-parts standpoint. On the flip side, we can’t build it for you (actually, we could, but that’s another topic entirely). And, we can’t answer to your sister-in-law, weed guy or child who wouldn’t do it the way we do.
If you think we’re doing something wrong, look it up, get some advice, and do it in a way you believe is sound. Of course, if there is anything ambiguous, technically incorrect or erroneous do point it out!
Create a Windows 10 installation USB flash drive
Not fun. But, you’re going to have to make one of these at some point. And, for those that are waiting for a part or five to arrive, this is one of those things you can get out of the way.
To create the Windows 10 installation flash drive you need:
- A Windows PC
- An 8 GB or larger USB flash drive that you can erase
- 10 or 15 minutes
Microsoft has this down to a pretty easy to follow experience. Here it is:
- On a Windows PC, visit the Windows 10 media creation tool page.
- Follow the instructions to create the bootable Windows 10 installation USB drive. You can select any version of Windows 10 you’re interested in. We go for the most stripped down one we can find.
- While the media creation tool is doing it’s thing you can move on.
Build the mining rig frame
We’re not even going to list steps on this one. Do what you need to do.
If you are building a frame of your own, or if you went with our incredibly-cheap-but-strangely-effective Home Depot wire shelving unit option, do make sure you leave enough space between the upper and lower shelves so everything fits. From here on out we will refer to it as the Home Depot Cheapo Rack.
We are just using the upper section of the Home Depot Cheapo Rack. We set it up so it has right about 8 1/2″ of space between the lower and upper shelf. We wouldn’t go with any less space than that. You may have to do some quick measurements if you’re going another DIY route. If you want to assemble the whole rack or do something different, go for it.
Metal Parts PSA: If you’re using a metal frame of any kind or have metal parts on the frame (such as the completely metal one we are using), make sure you don’t inadvertently set the motherboard, graphics cards, or anything else that has exposed connections, down in a way that is or could accidentally make contact with the metal.
Install the processor, RAM and SSD
First and foremost, do each step of your build going forward on a clean, non-conductive surface.
Now we will be installing the CPU and RAM on the motherboard. For a home computer, the CPU and RAM would be doing a lot of grunt work. Not on our build. The processor is really just running the OS and a few programs and you barely need any RAM for a mining rig. But, these are sensitive parts, so take your time.
While working on the motherboard right up until you mount it to the mining rig frame we often empty the cardboard box it came in and keep it there.
- Unbox the motherboard and remove it from the anti-static bag/ESD bag.
- Unbox the Intel 1151 processor. Be careful not to smudge away the grey thermal paste that is on the cooling fan that comes with the processor.
- Following the directions that came with the processor, carefully seat the processor on the motherboard. If doesn’t feel right when clamping it down don’t force it. The pins on the processor can bend or damage the processor or motherboard.
- Again using the directions that came with the processor, mount the cooing fan heatsink to the motherboard. you will get a clear snap when each fastener seats. Be careful to not apply too much pressure. If you need to undo one or more of the fasteners learn the correct way on Intel’s website.
- Finally, connect the CPU fan’s 4-pin power cable to the 4-pin fan connector on the motherboard. On ASUS Prime motherboards it is between the fan and the closest edge of the motherboard (and is appropriately labeled CPU FAN). If in doubt, there is a diagram of all the connectors in the manual.
- Unbox the RAM stick.
- Install the 4GB RAM memory module into one of the motherboard’s RAM sockets firmly, snapping the toggles on each end of the channel once the RAM is seated. ASUS recommends using one of the grey channels on the motherboard.
- Unbox the SSD
- Identify the data cable that it came with the SSD. If for some reason the SSD you purchase does not have one check the motherboard box. All ASUS Z390 motherboards comes with one (or at least did at the tine of writing this).
- Connect the SSD’s data cable to a SATA port on the motherboard. The SATA port to use may have a sticker on it indicating that it is the one to use. If not, when looking at the board from the side, it is the top leftmost SATA port. Have a different motherboard or aren’t sure which port we’re describing? Look it up in the motherboard’s manual.
If this is your first time building a computer you’ve come a long way!
Mount the motherboard and power supply
Mounting the motherboard and powers supply (PSU) to the mining rig frame will obviously vary by what frame you’ve decided on.
Mounting to a purpose-build mining rig frame
Follow the instructions that came with the mining rig frame and mount the PSU and motherboard.
Mounting to the Home Depot Cheapo Rack
- The frame is metal, so be careful whenever mounting anything.
- Select a non-conductive barrier to place between the motherboard and the wire rack. If you want to continue on the budget approach, the cardboard* top of the box the motherboard came in is the perfect size (go figure).
- Mark, then make small holes in your barrier (cardboard in our case) that match the outer four mounting holes on the motherboard.
- Fasten the motherboard and cardboard barrier to the lower rack with zip ties. You may want to leave it a bit loose in case you end up moving it around.
- Orient the power supply so it is at one end of the frame, on it’s side, with the fan blowing exhaust away from the mining rig
- Attach the power supply to the wire rack using zip ties. You can chain a few zip ties together to create one long enough to get around the whole PSU. Or, you can mount it with something else suitable.
- Do not plug the power supply to an outlet on the wall.
* Won’t the cardboard catch fire? Google it. If you’re still not convinced, use another material you are comfortable with. Also, there are many heated arguments online saying you should not use an anti-static/ESD bag as a barrier because the outside of the bag may be a conductor. We have no idea what the truth is on that one so we don’t do it or recommend anyone else does.
Prepare the GTX 1070 video cards
Before mounting the 1070s you may need to mate them with the powered riser cards. In our example rig, the cards hang from the top rack with space-age zip tie technology. Even with more space than we have available it would be a hassle to mate the GPUs to the riser cards once hung. So, we’ll just quickly take care of it now.
Check with the documentation with the mining rig frame you purchased and do what you need to do. We’ve spelled out what we’re doing below:
- Hold one of the video cards in one hand and gently push the riser card’s counterpart onto it. If there is resistance check to see if the toggle or toggles on the riser card are closed.
- Close the toggle or toggles that keep it secured in place. If you put the riser card on incorrectly, make sure the toggle hasn’t closed on it’s own and gently remove the riser card and reattach it.
- Connect the USB cable that came with the riser card to the part of the riser card affixed to the video card.
- You do not need to connect the power cable if using the risers specified in Part 1 as we’ll directly go from the PCI-e connector on the card to the PSU later in the build. If you are using SATA-powered risers ** (read below if you are), connect the power cable that came with the risers.
- Complete steps 1 through 4 for each of the six video cards. When you are done, you will be left with the 6 small boards that came with riser cards. Set these aside for now.
** There’s plenty of people who recommend not using SATA-powered risers. This forum thread quickly presents the varying arguments and justification without any arrogance. We have used SATA-powered risers and have some in place today. We don’t put more than two of them on a run from the PSU. They don’t have hot wiring and we’ve have ever had an issue.
Regardless, safety is the most important thing, which is why we went with 6-pin risers on the build sheet. To that end, we’ll be going 6-pin on this and future builds and will retro what we have up and running today. A friendly Redditor asked a question that led us look into this more closely and beyond this build, go back and replace the risers we have on previous builds.
Add the video cards to the mining rig frame
Again, unless you’re going with the Home Depot Cheapo Rack, follow the directions on your open air frame and mount the graphics card to it. Here’s a play-by-play for our GPUs which will hang from the upper shelf.
- Spacing the video cards between 5/8ths of an inch and an inch apart, hang each of the 6 GTX 1070 video cards onto the mining rig frame. If not using a purpose-built open air frame use zip ties to affix each end of the video cards to your frame. It’s often helpful to leave the zip ties open a bit until the build is complete, or to use something temporary, such as wire ties that bind the cables that came with your PSU. We often find ourselves rearranging things before the job is complete. In this build, we were forced to use wire ties as the SC 1070s didn’t have anything we could hang one end from. You may have to cut sections of wire to ensure you can connect power to the video cards.
- Take note: We recommend that the single video card you connect in the steps below is the second of your six. This is a suggestion, not a requirement. We suggest it as we’ll be connecting the video card to the second PCI-e slot on the motherboard. It will make for more logical (and neater) cabling when the mining rig is complete, especially when debugging is necessary.
- Get one of the six small boards that we set aside when prepping the video cards. Connect it to the free end of the USB cable that is attached to the riser card on the second video card.
- Connect one video card to the motherboard using the slot suggested when doing a single GPU build. For the Z390 it is the grey colored slot. Inserting the end of the small board from step 14 into that PCI-e slot identified in the step above.
- Do NOT connect the other video cards to the motherboard yet.
Connect components to the PSU
For the first boot-up we just want to get the computer running with a single GTX 1070. So, we won’t be wiring all of the video cards up, just the one that we connected to the motherboard in the previous steps. There’s plenty more we need to power.
Important: When you are making these connections, do look at the labeling on the cables and verify you are using the correct one. There is an 8-pin cable that runs from the PSU to the motherboard that at a glance looks just like the 8-pin cable that runs from the PSU to the GPUs. They are wired differently.
- Connect the motherboard to the power supply using the 24-pin power cable that came with the power supply.
- Make the second connection between the motherboard and power supply using an 8-pin cable that came with the power supply labeled “CPU.”
- Connect the SSD to the power supply using one of the power supply’s SATA cables. The SATA power cable will have three or four of the flat SATA connections on it.
- If you’re using the powered risers with a 6-pin connector, run a 6-pin cable from the PSU’s cable pack from the PSU to the riser. If after understanding the risks you went with the SATA option, use another SATA cable like the one we used in step 3 above and connect the SATA power connection on the riser card to the power supply just for this single video card.
- Using a PCI-e cable from the power supply, make a connection from the single video card that is connected to the motherboard to the power supply. The GTX 1070 cards should only require a single 8-pin PCI-e power connection. Depending on your specific GTX 1070 model you may need to run a second cable to the power supply or use PCI-e Y-splitters. Leave the remaining video cards unpowered for now.
- Make sure that there are no dangling cables from the video cards (or anything else) that might inadvertently make an electrical connection. Also, be sure no cables are resting on the CPU heatsink fan. We’re not done with cabling yet, but you may want to use some of the twist-ties that were on components you unwrapped to keep cables out of the way temporarily.
- Making sure the PSU’s power switch is in the off position, connect the 120v power cable to the PSU.
Is this your first computer (and mining rig) build?
Okay. We said it earlier. But, honestly… If you’ve never build a computer before you’ve really come a long way. What you’ve built so far is a computer. It might give us some hassles when we power it up the first time. And, there’s a very good chance that getting it to recognize all 6 GPUs will challenge your sanity. Before you move on to the next step to realize you have built your first computer. Ok. Now, let’s see if it works.
First boot up
For the first boot up all we are going to be looking for are the correct signs of life. Hopefully, the rig powers right up and you move right on to part 3. If not, we’ll be adding troubleshooting tips here as we hear of them. This step has yet to give us a failing grade (yet). But, it can for a variety of reasons, most of which don’t mean anything more than something needs to be rechecked, or tightened. If you get a bad boot on this first shot, no big deal. We’ll figure it out.
- Connect your mouse and keyboard to the motherboard.
- Connect the monitor to the motherboard’s on-board video connection.
- Plug the PSU power cord into an outlet.
- Turn the PSU on.
- Grab the motherboard manual and locate the power button that is on the motherboard.
- Power it up!
When you power up, if after 15 seconds or so you see anything beyond a black screen you’re probably in good shape. “Anything beyond a black screen” should actually be a few messages from the motherboard bios, likely complaining that there is no operating system. If that’s what you’re seeing, you’re ready for Part 3.
If you don’t, turn off the computer by pressing the power button on the motherboard, and then turn off the power on the PSU.
Uh oh. No good?
First, whatever you do try not to get frustrated. Next, turn to the troubleshooting section of your motherboard’s manual. See if your situation matches a symptom well and try the suggested fix.
If you’re good and stuck, drop us a line and explain what happens when you boot up as well as you can (lights, sounds, etc.). We’ll do our best to try to help you diagnose what’s wrong.
Yes, it sucks, but, one recommendation is to scan through the instructions and make sure you got it all. A good next step is to check all the connections between components, the motherboard and PSU.
What’s next? Part 3: BIOS and OS
If your boot up went well you’re ready to move on. We’ll be posting detailed instructions for setting up the motherboard’s BIOS, and installing and configuring Windows. Finally, we’ll get the remaining 5 cards recognized by Windows so you can start mining!