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Author Topic: [Guide] How to run a Bitcoin Core full node for under 50 bucks!  (Read 2068 times)
n0nce (OP)
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October 09, 2021, 02:30:52 AM
Last edit: August 19, 2022, 08:45:54 PM by n0nce
Merited by Welsh (17), hugeblack (15), LoyceV (12), BlackHatCoiner (5), Pmalek (4), hosseinimr93 (4), RickDeckard (4), vapourminer (3), DaveF (3), ABCbits (2), Halab (2), DireWolfM14 (2), NotFuzzyWarm (1), SFR10 (1), DdmrDdmr (1), Husna QA (1), dkbit98 (1), vv181 (1), NotATether (1), Cookdata (1), Andriian (1), binimal (1)
 #1

Everyone should have the opportunity to run a node.

I strongly believe that it's one of Bitcoin's core values to have as many full nodes (and preferably also miners, but that's another story Cheesy) as possible, distributed in as many households as possible.

While cool node boxes, composed of all-new hardware with SSDs and sexy metal cases can be built for between 200€ and 300€ (or dollars!), that might still be too much for many people. Especially in countries where wages are lower, I understand that this can be an infeasibly large sum of money.

MyNode and Argon One m.2 enclosures, full setup ~250€

The good news: it can be achieved much cheaper than the above mentioned figures! In fact, it can even be free if you have old hardware lying around.
The fact of the matter is, Bitcoin Core doesn't need a whole lot of resources and a 10-year-old, decommissioned laptop or Desktop PC might have enough power to run it.

So I would like to encourage everybody that's not running a node yet, to reconsider it if price for the device itself or an SSD was the main deterring factor.

Hardware selection
Almost any kind of desktop PC, laptop, NUC-type device of the last 10 years should suffice.

Make sure you can swap the drive (they are usually dead after such a long time) and you have a working PSU for it.
Anything else - screen, keyboard, trackpad, speakers, it can all be broken. You will SSH into the machine anyway and you can connect to a HDMI screen + USB keyboard during setup.
This kind of hardware is very often given away for free if you ask around friends and family, or got cheaply (or free) on craigslist.

Recommendations
RAM: 4GB - 8GB (Even as little as 1GB can suffice! If you have more, it's better of course Smiley See my graph down below about sync time with 4 vs 8GB)
Drive: 500GB - 1TB (HDD is fine, but SSD will help for faster initial sync. 500 will not last long and not suffice for Lightning and Electrum server - 1TB would be advised!)
CPU: Intel Core i3 (2nd generation or up tested and working just fine) or better - dual core is advised by me

If the machine you acquired, doesn't meet those specs, you can in many cases just add more RAM or swap the hard drive.
I would stay away from Chromebooks with non-replaceable drives and RAM since they're usually too small and USB drives aren't convenient.

Price
Of course, this low price is mainly made possible by relying on free and cheap old & used stuff.
The final price will depend a lot on how many things you can find for free, but it's possible to build a node from scratch for around $50.
I personally built one of my nodes off a gifted laptop that had no charger, so the person wanted to throw it away. I just bought the PSU for ~20€ and added an existing 500GB USB HDD for the bitcoin directory. So that node cost me just 20€. Here's a setup if you really can't find anything for free.

Example setup for $58:[JUST QUICKLY CHECKED EBAY!]
Laptop without RAM and charger for $29:


4GB RAM for $10:


Laptop charger for $10:


500GB HDD for $9:


Of course, shipping adds up and I actually surpassed my $50 limit already. But I just checked eBay 'buy now' section very quickly! If you search locally, ask around, you will easily find someone who will give you an old laptop that doesn't turn on anymore (often broken charger and / or battery) or with cracked screen etc. for free.
Then you just source the charger and a new HDD for a total of $20!

If you actually have a working (but old) laptop already, with charger and everything, maybe invest the full $50 into a new SSD for better performance and longevity!

TL;DR
Get as much free and cheap used, old stuff as possible and slap it together! Cheesy
I know it's not the 'deepest' topic that exists, but it's mainly to explain and show figuratively that running a node can be done very, very cheap and storage size is not an issue either, since HDDs are so damn cheap and can easily be swapped out.

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October 09, 2021, 04:02:23 AM
Merited by hugeblack (1), n0nce (1)
 #2

And keep in mind, if you want to go RPi you don't need the cool looking case. 4GB RPi4, USB drive, microSD and power supply. If you take your time and look for sales you can easily get it for under $130. Which as n0nce pointed out might still be a lot of money for some, but it's still below the $200 to $300 to make it all pretty.

In addition to the getting stuff from friends, or putting it together yourself 2nd hand shops also at times have really good deals, you just have to spend some time to search them out.

-Dave


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October 09, 2021, 07:03:45 AM
Last edit: October 09, 2021, 01:26:51 PM by BlackHatCoiner
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 #3

Great guide n0nce! The headline takes the cake.

And keep in mind, if you want to go RPi you don't need the cool looking case. 4GB RPi4, USB drive, microSD and power supply. If you take your time and look for sales you can easily get it for under $130.

But, isn't the case required? The CPU will be running 24/7/365. It won't live as it would with the cooling case. At this point I'd like to say that many have hard drives lying around, me included. Just use one of those.

This is why it came €90 to me.

  • Raspberry Pi 4 Model 4 - 4GB. (€52)
  • Power Supply of RPi. (€8)
  • Memory card 32GB. (€6.5)
  • Argon One aluminum case. (€24)

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October 09, 2021, 10:48:03 AM
Merited by hugeblack (3), n0nce (1)
 #4

500GB HDD for $9:


Buying used HDD feels like testing your luck, i won't recommend it. Refurbished HDD is better option since the factory perform few test. Additionally, you could visit your local hardware store and might find unused/unsold HDD which produced 10 years ago.

And keep in mind, if you want to go RPi you don't need the cool looking case. 4GB RPi4, USB drive, microSD and power supply. If you take your time and look for sales you can easily get it for under $130.

But, isn't the case required? The CPU will be running 24/7/365. It won't live as it would with the cooling case. In this point I'd like to say that many have hard drives lying around, me included. Just use one of those.

It's optional, passive heatsink and placing it on place with room temperate also works.

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October 09, 2021, 01:35:33 PM
 #5

Great guide n0nce! The headline takes the cake.

And keep in mind, if you want to go RPi you don't need the cool looking case. 4GB RPi4, USB drive, microSD and power supply. If you take your time and look for sales you can easily get it for under $130.

But, isn't the case required? The CPU will be running 24/7/365. It won't live as it would with the cooling case. In this point I'd like to say that many have hard drives lying around, me included. Just use one of those.

This is why it came €90 to me.

  • Raspberry Pi 4 Model 4 - 4GB. (€52)
  • Power Supply of RPi. (€8)
  • Memory card 32GB. (€6.5)
  • Argon One aluminum case. (€24)

You can get a case with a fan for a lot less money:
https://www.amazon.com/TangYY-Raspberry-Case-Heatsink-Blue/dp/B07VGV1D3Z/

Although it's only a dollar or 2 cheaper umbrel and mynode only need a 16GB card, raspiblitz SAYS 32 gb it does fit on a 16GB
Code:
***********************************
* RaspiBlitz Commandline
* Here be dragons .. have fun :)
***********************************
Bitcoin command line options: bitcoin-cli help
LND command line options: lncli -h
Back to main menu use command: raspiblitz

admin@raspberrypi:~ $ df
Filesystem     1K-blocks      Used Available Use% Mounted on
/dev/root       14987608  11983196   2347696  84% /
devtmpfs         3991376         0   3991376   0% /dev
tmpfs            4025968         0   4025968   0% /dev/shm
tmpfs            4025968    369172   3656796  10% /run
tmpfs               5120         0      5120   0% /run/lock
tmpfs            4025968         0   4025968   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
tmpfs              32768         8     32760   1% /var/cache/raspiblitz
/dev/mmcblk0p1    258095     30053    228042  12% /boot
/dev/sda1      960379920 528770100 382755396  59% /mnt/hdd
tmpfs             805192         0    805192   0% /run/user/1000
tmpfs             805192         0    805192   0% /run/user/1001

And if you don't have a drive and can wait a bit for a sale name brand 1TB external drives can be had for $40

Once again, this is US pricing I don't know how much more or less these things are in other parts of the world.

-Dave

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n0nce (OP)
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October 09, 2021, 02:24:54 PM
Last edit: October 09, 2021, 02:36:04 PM by n0nce
 #6

Buying used HDD feels like testing your luck, i won't recommend it. Refurbished HDD is better option since the factory perform few test. Additionally, you could visit your local hardware store and might find unused/unsold HDD which produced 10 years ago.
Yes, it was just an example how to get a sufficient drive quick and cheap Smiley And I mean worst case; if it breaks it was just some bucks and you replace the HDD. It's not like you're going to be storing personal data or BTC on it. Just replace and resync. But sure - you can get new or barely used disks for around the same price.

But, isn't the case required? The CPU will be running 24/7/365. It won't live as it would with the cooling case.
Depending on the Pi model, a passive heatsink and maybe a fan will suffice. Case is mostly for looks.

Just an example for a case that doesn't aid in cooling, but is still widely used:

https://www.cryptocloaks.com/product/mynodeshell/

Keep in mind that the node will not be under any significant load after IBD as well. So you could probably just put a PC case fan on it during the initial block download and then run it passively.

However all these precautions are not needed when just acquiring an old x86 machine, be it desktop or laptop Grin

And if you don't have a drive and can wait a bit for a sale name brand 1TB external drives can be had for $40
Once again, this is US pricing I don't know how much more or less these things are in other parts of the world.
I checked Amazon US and EU really quickly and it seems without any deals etc. it's around $35 or 35€ for a brand-new USB 3.0 500GB HDD.
I'm sure on Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day etc. there will be 1TB drives for around the 40 mark.

To check a lower-wage country, I had a look at numbers for Turkey. The lowest wage range is around 2000TL and a 500GB USB HDD is 337TL. So it's not cheap; they can go for a SATA drive that only costs 270TL instead, shaves off quite a bit of cost if you don't need USB.

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October 09, 2021, 03:41:59 PM
 #7

This is still too complex and expensive for broad adoption. I built a Raspiblitz some time ago, then disconnected it and used the HDD for something else. This post made me think about re-building my Raspiblitz but just checking the instructions was like "No way, I don't have time for that".

We need someone coming up with a plug-n-play solution that anyone can buy and run. The Casa Node was promising, but expensive. They stopped manufacturing it.
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October 09, 2021, 03:46:44 PM
Merited by Welsh (5), hugeblack (3), vapourminer (1), ABCbits (1)
 #8

See Setting up a workspace for Bitcoin Core patching for less than $5 which will allow you to cheaply make Bitcoin Core regression tests, bugfixes and stuff for a comparable price.

Also, be very careful with the laptop charger you buy. You don't want to buy some non-certified charger that'll blow a fuse and potentially start a house fire. Hence your charger options will probably become more expensive.

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October 09, 2021, 04:04:26 PM
 #9

This is still too complex and expensive for broad adoption. I built a Raspiblitz some time ago, then disconnected it and used the HDD for something else. This post made me think about re-building my Raspiblitz but just checking the instructions was like "No way, I don't have time for that".

We need someone coming up with a plug-n-play solution that anyone can buy and run. The Casa Node was promising, but expensive. They stopped manufacturing it.
Keep in mind this topic is not about 'getting a node without setup needed'. It's about getting it done as cheap as possible. These things completely contradict each other.

If you want someone to build your node, you will have to pay them. There's no such thing as a free lunch!
So the easiest way to save money on a project like this is to do it yourself.

We can compare it quite well when looking at the The Bitcoin Machine. It was shown multiple times in that thread how it can be built yourself 1:1 for much less.

Since they build it for you, you pay $429.
If you buy their case for $100 and build the rest yourself (1:1 identical machine), it costs ~$300.
If you get a cheaper case and build the rest yourself (no screen, maybe less cool), it costs ~$240.
You can shave off almost $200 by DIYing.

There is no way someone will sell you a pre-made node in a box at less than multiple hundred bucks, because the parts needed for a plug-n-play solution that anyone can buy and run alone cost $150+, then there's labour, taxes, shipping, company costs, and you're looking at at least $300.

If you're still interested in paying this amount of money, that's not a problem. Maybe check Nodes in a Box thread. However this topic is about getting it done as cheap as humanly possible so there's no budget for paying a company to build you your device.

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October 10, 2021, 05:33:43 PM
 #10

it can even be free if you have old hardware lying around.
For the most part, you're right but we have to also consider its bandwidth usage [depending on where you live and the type of internet plan that you have, it could come close to or even exceed the amount you've mentioned on the subject field].

If the machine you acquired, doesn't meet those specs, you can in many cases just add more RAM or swap the hard drive.
Without going into details, I would like to mention a couple of things to "newbies":

  • There's no problem with changing/upgrading your hard drive with another type [keep the old one], but never do a straight swap!
  • Don't go out there and purchase the cheapest one [make sure they're compatible first].

RAM: 4GB - 8GB
Not sure if the ones you've listed are the minimum requirements or not, but on "this page" it says 2GB while on "this one" it's 1GB.

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October 10, 2021, 07:14:51 PM
 #11

it can even be free if you have old hardware lying around.
For the most part, you're right but we have to also consider its bandwidth usage [depending on where you live and the type of internet plan that you have, it could come close to or even exceed the amount you've mentioned on the subject field].
You're right - I made the (maybe wrong) assumption that everyone these days has an unlimited data plan anyway. If it's a huge issue though; it should be possible to do IBD in a place with free internet like a friend who has unlimited data plan, then bring the node home. If you aren't able to serve many GB of data to the network, Core can be configured so that it's still useful to you (e.g. when running ElectrumX as well => privacy) with minimal data downloads per month. At ~1.5MB/block, just downloading new blocks and not seeding should be 6,480MB per month / 6GB per month.

RAM: 4GB - 8GB
Not sure if the ones you've listed are the minimum requirements or not, but on "this page" it says 2GB while on "this one" it's 1GB.
From my experience, it doesn't make much sense to use less than 4GB since 4GB is very cheap to buy and it's much better in terms of performance than 2GB. I actually tried it once on a VPS and it was using swap like crazy Cheesy You don't really want to rely this hard on swap if you're already pushing disk I/O like you are during initial block download.. Grin

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October 11, 2021, 11:21:51 AM
Merited by vapourminer (1), n0nce (1)
 #12

From my experience, it doesn't make much sense to use less than 4GB since 4GB is very cheap to buy and it's much better in terms of performance than 2GB. I actually tried it once on a VPS and it was using swap like crazy Cheesy

You could prevent aggressive swap it if you reduce dbcache value (on Bitcoin Core) and swappiness value (on the OS). If you only need to run OS and Bitcoin Core, 1GB can do the job.

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October 15, 2021, 02:46:21 PM
Merited by LoyceV (4)
 #13

From my experience, it doesn't make much sense to use less than 4GB since 4GB is very cheap to buy and it's much better in terms of performance than 2GB. I actually tried it once on a VPS and it was using swap like crazy Cheesy

You could prevent aggressive swap it if you reduce dbcache value (on Bitcoin Core) and swappiness value (on the OS). If you only need to run OS and Bitcoin Core, 1GB can do the job.

I'm not sure aobut dbcache since I haven't used it yet; so I don't know in which range it should be, but I'll look into it in the future for sure.

For now, I would like to share my experience with a node that I've setup a few days ago. It is one of my nodes that needed a bit of maintenance; it was quite cluttered and had outdated software so I rebuilt it from scratch. I will also post a guide about it soon (OpenSUSE node walkthrough).
The hardware is a laptop motherboard with 4GB RAM and 2 500GB HDDs.
After it had taken almost a week to achieve ~40% sync, it was going super slow; around 1-2% a day, so I thought it may be a good idea to just plop in a second stick of RAM and see if it does anything. I kind of expected something to happen, but I was astonished at the speed it was going at afterwards! The HDD arm was moving much less now (audible difference); I suspect it was swapping a ton before, and the log was literally flying.

Here's a graph of some measurements I took; I let you guys guess at which point in time I upgraded the node from 4GB to 8GB Cheesy



The speed at which it's going, makes me think it should be able to do a full sync in 2 days or so (from scratch); even though it's using a HDD.
Sooo.. all these modern hardware - based super fast syncing nodes.... (Pi 4 8GB + SSD + nice case) I think they actually gain most of their speed from the larger RAM and not from the SSD (which I was considering buying for this node actually)! Very impressive; that HDDs are actually this well suited for a fast IBD. I had not expected it.

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October 15, 2021, 03:00:41 PM
 #14

I'm not sure aobut dbcache since I haven't used it yet; so I don't know in which range it should be, but I'll look into it in the future for sure.

Been there, done that: https://bitcointalk.org/index.php?topic=5246078.0
Really is kind of interesting how some conversations keep coming around and around.

And, yes I know I never finished the testing in the other thread, as the hardware was needed elsewhere and it was the middle of the pandemic and getting stuff was hard.
I didn't go back since it would have to be started from scratch for a new baseline.

-Dave

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October 15, 2021, 04:13:45 PM
 #15

For all intents and purposes, Pi will synchronize just fine. Just note that while the processor is relatively decent, it is built with passive cooling in mind and the TDP isn't a lot. It won't provide for a blazing fast synchronization but should definitely be better than using something that isn't technically designed to be powered-on 24/7.

I'm not sure whether the dbcache allocation is dynamic or fixed, but IIRC it is fixed. Your Core wouldn't use more than that for synchronization no matter how much ram you have. I could be wrong though. I've found that HDD vs SSD still makes quite a huge difference in synchronization; with similar parameters, the SSD took 5 hours to synchronize while the HDD took more than a day.

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October 17, 2021, 01:27:31 PM
 #16

As discussed in another thread, you should have 1TB of disk space.

1/2TB will run out in less than the next 12 months.

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November 01, 2021, 07:38:28 PM
 #17

For all intents and purposes, Pi will synchronize just fine. Just note that while the processor is relatively decent, it is built with passive cooling in mind and the TDP isn't a lot. It won't provide for a blazing fast synchronization but should definitely be better than using something that isn't technically designed to be powered-on 24/7.
I don't think that's right. These are all general-purpose computers in different shapes and sizes. And you just said Pi only has passive cooling out of the box, while random old laptops or PCs have active cooling all set up and ready to go. Computers don't really care if they run 24/7 or not, as long as they're not running at the thermal limit all the time, and even then, they're quite durable.

I've found that HDD vs SSD still makes quite a huge difference in synchronization; with similar parameters, the SSD took 5 hours to synchronize while the HDD took more than a day.
Yeah; SSD is also a good speedup, but since everyone's hopping on the 'GET AN SSD' train and nobody mentions RAM, I wanted to show how much of an effect more memory can have. It may be significantly cheaper e.g. to get a 8GB Pi and (maybe existing) HDD instead of a 4GB Pi and an SSD.

As discussed in another thread, you should have 1TB of disk space.

1/2TB will run out in less than the next 12 months.
I will add that info, thanks! I noticed myself; 500 is enough for now for just Core, but Lightning and Electrum need a lot of space as well.

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November 01, 2021, 11:09:28 PM
Last edit: November 02, 2021, 11:00:30 AM by DaveF
 #18

For all intents and purposes, Pi will synchronize just fine. Just note that while the processor is relatively decent, it is built with passive cooling in mind and the TDP isn't a lot. It won't provide for a blazing fast synchronization but should definitely be better than using something that isn't technically designed to be powered-on 24/7.

Yes with a but or no with a however.
If you are talking new and good that is one thing. We are discussing old used laptops and PCs.
Power supplies that have been through who knows what. Fans that may or may not have been abused, etc.
I did treat my old laptop well, but in the end set it up to mine some crap CPU coins. Had it screaming for months.
Could have sold it on eBay and the buyer would never have known. Not my style to do something like that, but other people.....

-Dave

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November 02, 2021, 12:24:36 AM
 #19

A couple of other advantages that the single board units like the Pi have is "size" and "power draw"... Even with a case on it, the Pi is a very compact unit, and easily fits on my desk behind my monitor etc. I don't have a lot of room in my workstation area (or anywhere else in my apartment for that matter) and having a unit like a laptop or old desktop in addition to my actual PC isn't really practical.

Then there is the power draw... the Pi runs on a 5V USB charger. It uses next to nothing in terms of power draw... at max load, the CPU is only consuming something like 6 or 7W! Shocked And an external drive will only be adding ~5W more at most.

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November 02, 2021, 03:30:01 AM
 #20

A couple of other advantages that the single board units like the Pi have is "size" and "power draw"... Even with a case on it, the Pi is a very compact unit, and easily fits on my desk behind my monitor etc. I don't have a lot of room in my workstation area (or anywhere else in my apartment for that matter) and having a unit like a laptop or old desktop in addition to my actual PC isn't really practical.

Then there is the power draw... the Pi runs on a 5V USB charger. It uses next to nothing in terms of power draw... at max load, the CPU is only consuming something like 6 or 7W! Shocked And an external drive will only be adding ~5W more at most.
I know all of this. But the whole point of this little 'guide' is to make it as cheap and accessible as possible. Especially in developing countries, brand new hardware (even Raspberry Pis) is prohibitively expensive. On the other hand, for example schools almost anywhere, give away their old hardware, which may be Pentium desktops or something like that, which can be upgraded for a few bucks with more storage and RAM to be able to run a Bitcoin node.

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