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Bitcoin mining is the process of validating transactions on the Bitcoin blockchain. You give up some (or all) of your computer’s computational power to help validate these transactions, and in return you’re rewarded with cryptocurrency.
But solo mining is tough. You might be better off in a mining pool, where you can join forces with other miners. Together, rewards can be mined more regularly, which are then split between everyone. Learn more in Gavin’s introduction to cryptocurrency mining pools.
Here are some of the best Bitcoin mining pools. While “best” is a subjective term, the mining pools listed here are each good in their own way.
1. The Best Overall Mining Pool: F2Pool
F2Pool handles a significant amount of the transactions on the Bitcoin network. With over 9% of the network hash rate at the time of writing, F2Pool is one of the biggest mining pools around. Based in China, the simple English interface ensures you won’t get confused.
F2Pool uses the Stratum mining protocol, which is also used by the Electrum wallet. Stratum supports “thin clients”, so you can mine on low-powered hardware if you so desire—but we don’t recommend it, as any potential profits will be tiny.
F2Pool offer regular payouts, with a very low payout threshold of 0.001 BTC. Fees are on the high side at 4%, but you can also mine Litecoin, Ethereum, or Zcash if you’d prefer. Profits get paid out every day (providing you reach the payout threshold).
F2Pool supports mining on ports 25 and 80. This makes it easier to get around any ISP blocking or other firewalls preventing you from mining.
2. The Most Popular Mining Pool: Slush Pool
Slush Pool was the first mining pool to hit the scene in 2010. It’s maintained by Satoshi Labs, makers of the Trezor, one of the best Bitcoin wallets.
Based in the Czech Republic, Slush Pool is one of the best mining pools around. With a 2% fee, high reliability, two-factor-authentication, professional support, and more, it’s not surprising that Slush Pool users have together mined over 1,000,000 Bitcoins!
Formally known as “Bitcoin.cz Mining,” Slush Pool initially targeted the Chinese market—but don’t worry, it’s a pretty massive pool now with plenty of English support. Not only that but Slush Pool has a long track record of stability and reliability when it comes to paying out. For these reasons, it’s easy to see why so many people use and recommend Slush Pool.
3. The Easiest Mining Pool: MinerGate
MinerGate makes the list thanks to the vast number of coins it supports. At the last count, there were 11: Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Zcash, Bitcoin Gold, Bytecoin, Monero, Monero Original, Fantom Coin, and Aeon. Its servers are in the United States.
Because MinerGate has a downloadable GUI miner, it’s one of the best ways for amateurs to get involved. You can run it on your laptop rather than needing special ASIC hardware. Sure, your payouts might not be very big, but it’s a great way to learn the ropes.
The GUI itself is beginner friendly. It lacks the complexity of other miners. Just tell the app how much of your total computing power you want to dedicate, and MinerGate will take care of the rest.
The pool uses merged mining. It means you can mine for multiple altcoins at the same time without hurting your Bitcoin hash rate. It can even use both your GUI and CPU at the same time to maximize your mining capabilities and consequently, your profit.
4. The Second Largest Mining Pool: Antpool
Antpool is the second largest Bitcoin mining pool in the world. It currently holds around 14% of the total hashing power. The company is based in China but has servers all over the world. You can use Antpool to mine Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum.
While the size of Antpool is impressive, it also has a negative side: because the rewards are shared between more people, the size of the payout is typically smaller than some of its competitors.
Antpool offers four reward types: PPS, PPS+, PPLNS, and SOLO. If you use PPS or PPS+, you will receive an instant payout every time you contribute a share. (You get paid on what is statistically probable rather than what actually happens.) PPLNS stands for “Pay Per Last N Shares.” It calculates your payout based on the percent of shares you contribute to the total number of shares. (It favors long-term members over pool hoppers.) SOLO pay out the entire block reward to the person who mined it.
Fees vary depending which token you’re mining. For Bitcoin, Antpool charges 4% for PPS and PPS+, 1% for SOLO, and 0% for PPLNS. Other noteworthy features include two-factor authentication, email alerts, and wallet locks.
5. The Best Mining Pool for Beginners: KanoPool
Despite a rather basic website, KanoPool is simple and easy to use. Registration is optional but does provide further mining statistics. All you have to provide is your wallet address if you don’t want to register.
The basic website clearly highlights the information you need to join the pool, along with a variety of mining ports, and even a miner configuration example. This pool doesn’t support CPU or GPU mining, so make sure you have the necessary hardware if you want to join.
Fees are on the low side at 0.9%, and with slightly over 1000 users, KanoPool represents a mere 0.3% of the total Bitcoin network hash power. Still, these fees and generous payouts mean KanoPool has its share of loyal users. You can view the most recently mined blocks, even without registering.
6. The Best Anonymous Mining Pool: CKPool
With low fees of 1%, no registration required, and the potential for much larger payouts than other pools*, it’s easy to see why CKPool is highly regarded by many. Con Kolivas runs the website and pool, but you can read the code on Bitbucket if you’d like to double-check things first.
This pool isn’t for beginners. There’s no user-friendly website or a 24/7 support team. The website tells you everything you need to get mining, but if you’ve never done so before, you may have more questions than answers.
CKPool is quick to update their code to support newer versions of Bitcoin Core. This ensures that any blocks mined with this pool are fully validated, with no shady business happening.
*If you find a block when mining on CKPool, you’ll keep 99% of the reward (this isn’t the case with other mining pools).
7. The Cheapest Mining Pool: P2Pool
Founded in 2011, P2Pool operates as a “decentralized Bitcoin mining pool”. This eliminates the risk of the pool owner stealing your funds, and helps to prevent the centralization of Bitcoin—this pool can’t dictate the future of Bitcoin core.
P2Pool never own your rewards, so there are no fees, and any block rewards get paid instantly and directly to you. It’s technically possible to join this pool with any hardware at all, there is a “minimum hash rate threshold”. This changes regularly, but it’s mostly a recommend hash power if you want to actually earn anything. You can mine on inadequate systems, just don’t expect to earn a great deal, if anything.
Written in Python, and publicly hosted on its GitHub repository, P2Pool has a team of over 40 volunteers. With over 1,700 commits and support from the Bitcoin Foundation and the Litecoin project, P2Pool represents an outstanding alternative to centralized mining pools.
8. The Third Largest Mining Pool: ViaBTC
ViaBTC is a China-based company that controls 13% of the total hashing power of Bitcoin. It offers three payment methods: PPS+, PPLNS, and SOLO. The fees are 4%, 2%, and 1%, respectively.
ViaBTC lets you mine nine different cryptocurrencies. You can choose from Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Zcash, Dash, Monero, and Bitmark.
The mining pool also offers merged mining. If you mine Bitcoin, you will also receive Namecoin, Syscoin, and Emercoin for free. Bitcoin Cash miners will get free Syscoin, and Litecoin miners will receive free Dogecoin.
Which Bitcoin Mining Pool Will You Join?
If you’re considering a mining pool that isn’t on this list, make sure it’s not a scam! Always research a mining pool’s reputation before signing up. Let us know your experiences with mining pools in the comments section below.
And if you’re thinking of mining on your smartphone, see our article on why mining cryptocurrency on mobile isn’t such a good idea.