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Chia Plotting and Farming on My 2016 MacBook

If there’s one thing I’m good for, it is the latest Internet sensation.  I started paying with cryptocurrencies several years ago to play the CryptoKitties game, which was based on Ethereum.  Let me tell you, those were some expensive digital cats, and I didn’t bother playing it for very long.

This week, I started farming Chia on my old 2016 MacBook Pro.  Here’s everything I’ve learned along the way and what I’m using for my setup.

What is Chia?

Chia is a crypto currency that is mined, or in this case farmed, by using storage versus a GPU.  That reminds me, I mined some Doge back in the day that I should really take a look at.

If you’re a nerd like me, that means there’s a good chance you have everything you need, or almost everything you need to start farming.

Before you can start farming chia, you need to create your Chia plots.  This is probably the hardest part of being a Chia farmer since it is time intensive.

There are things you can do to speed up the time to make a plot, mainly being sure to use a fast drive, like a SSD.  You can also tweak other settings like memory and, and create plots in parallel (more than one plot at a time)

The finished size of a plot is 101.3 GiB (yes, GiB, thanks storage days, I never though this would come in handy) or 108.8 GB, but it requires 239 GiB of storage during the plot creation process, which is 256.6 GB of storage.

Now that you know the basics, let’s get into the details of what you need to farm Chia on a MacBook.

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What do you need to farm Chia on a MacBook?

First let me say that farming Chia on a MacBook probably isn’t the most ideal setup, but hey, it’s what I have.  The MacBook I am using is a 2016 15″ MacBook Pro with the 2.7 GHz i7 and 16 GB of RAM.  This MacBook has 3 Thunderbolt/USB-C ports onboard, and we’re going to use all of them.

Before you can farm your Chia you need to plot it.

There’s two main things you need besides your trusty MacBook:

  • A fast drive for ‘plotting’ your chia.
  • A cheap drive for storing your plots to farm.

Something to remember is that plotting Chia is something that its I/O intensive for your SSD.  It’s going to fry it over time. DO NOT use your internal MacBook drive for your temporary plotting directory.  Just don’t do it unless you want to fry your MacBook.

SSDs for Plotting Chia on a MacBook

I chose to get a 2TB NVMe drive and case USB-C enclosure to plot my Chia.  This is pretty much my bottleneck, since I’m limited by the speed of the USB-C port.  I started with USB-C since I may want to use this in other configs, and I was trying to do this as cheap as possible.

Plotting Over USBc

I started with USBc, since I figured I may want to use the NVMe drive on other computers.

Here’s what you need for a SSD when it comes to plotting Chia with a MacBook over USB-C.

 
2TB NVMe M2 Drive


USBc M2 Enclosure


1TB NVMe M1 Drive

I chose NVMe over SSD because of the speed, however it was a silly decision because I’m limited by the USB port speed and really can’t take full advantage of the NVMe.  However, this still worked out cheaper than a consumer grade 2TB SSD, and should last longer too.  If I burn it out, I can just swap the chip for a new one.

Plotting Over Thunderbolt

I also got a Thunderbolt enclosure to see if it would be a little faster, since the speed is faster than USBc.  Sure enough, it is, and I shaved a couple hours off my plot time by switching.

 
2TB NVMe M2 Drive


Thunderbolt M2 Enclosure


1TB NVMe M1 Drive

I have a 2TB so I can plot more Chia in parallel, which I’m still trying to optimize for my MacBook to make the most out of time.  

Early data is suggesting this may be overkill, and you can get away with 1TB just fine and reduce your costs significantly.  I went with the 2TB personally just to have the room to mess around with more than just the MacBook.

That’s all I needed to get to get started.

Capacity HDs for Plotting Chia on a MacBook

When it comes to place to Chia on a drive to be farmed, anything will do.  You probably already have something laying around that you can use.  The more plots you can farm, the more chances you have to get some Chia!

Keep in mind we are limited by the MacBook here.  We only have 3 ports, one for power, one for the SSD, and one for the Capacity drive.

I just used what I had laying around, which happens to be a 16TB worth of storage – which will be a lot of plotting.

You can buy an external hard drive packaged nicely, or a drive and adapter to USBc.  If you have some hard drives handy, you can get something like this, which will work with any 2.5″ or 3.5″ drive.

Plotting and Farming Chia

There are two main things when it comes Chia, plotting and farming.  Plotting is what takes the thinking and time and effort, farming just happens afterwards.

The first step is to download and install Chia.  When you launch it for the first time, it will walk you through setting up your wallet (a must for crypto).  Pay special attention to the 24 word phrase you are given, because that is the only way you can recover your wallet if needed.

Plotting is very straightforward through the GUI.

MacBook chia plotting options

Leave the default plot size first of all.  For your first run, leave all of the defaults under step 2 for Choosing Number of Plots.

Step 3, Select Temporary directory should be your EXTERNAL SSD, not your MacBook’s SSD.

Finally, Step 4, Select final directory is your capacity disk.  Be sure you’ve the selected the right disks!

Phases of Chia Plotting

Chia plotting happens in a total of 4 phases, which you can read about here.  I highly recommend reading that guide to better understand how the process works.  The Chia UI has a progress bar to show you how far along you are with your plotting, and based on the % complete, you know what phase you are in:

Phase 1: 1-42% – Computing Tables
Phase 2: 43-61% – Backpropagating Tables
Phase 3: 66-98% – Compressing Tables
Phase 4: 98-100% – Write Checkpoint Tables

When it comes to using the MacBook, phases 1 and 3 take the longest for me.  I’m going to take this into account to try to maximize the plotting potential.

Once your plotting has finished, your plot will begin farming.  You don’t have to do anything, just keep on plotting!

Optimizing Your Chia Plotting

The first step is to plot a single plot of Chia, and figure out how long it takes.  Be sure to also open Activity Monitor on your Mac and see what is going on, and if you are hitting any bottlenecks.  Be sure to close out all other applications to free up as many resources as possible.  My MacBook uses 6GB of RAM just sitting there looking pretty.

This is important to keep an eye on so you understand how resources are used if you choose to plot in parallel later.

When your plot has finished, you can check the logs to see exactly how long each phase of plotting took.

The Chia logs are located in: ~/.chia/mainnet/plotter

Open a terminal and navigate to that directory.  Find the log you want and enter: cat logname | grep “Time” and you can see the amount of time each phase took in seconds.

viewing chia log on Mac

I’m a total nerd and made an Excel spreadsheet with notes to see how long everything took, and track the optimizations I’ve made.

At this point, you can start to experiment.

Here are the advanced options for Step 2, Choose number of plots.

MacBook chia plotting advanced options

From here, you can begin to plot in parallel, and tweak the settings accordingly to see what the sweet spot is.

Disabling bitfield plotting is for old computers, it doesn’t apply to us here, and we want to make sure to put our plot in the final directory to free up or EXTERNAL SSD space, so ignore both those boxes.

Chia Plotting Results with 2016 MacBook Pro

Now, let’s get into what I’ve been seeing with my setup!

So far I’ve plotted:

  • A single plot (9.1 hours)
  • Two plots in parallel (14.1 and 14.4 hours)
  • Three plots in parallel, with an hour delay between start times (14.49 hours, 15.7 hours [16.7 hours], 15.88 hours[17.88 hours])
  • Two plots in parallel (increased ram to 4096 MiB) (13.77 hours and 13.94 hours) [13.94 hours total]
  • Single plot, 4 threads, 6750 MiB RAM (7.71 hours)
  • Two plots in parallel, 5 hour delay (9.42 hours and 10.29 hours) [15.29 hours total]
  • Single plot, Thunderbolt enclosure for NVMe (7.57 hours)
  • Single Plot, 4 Threads, 6750 MiB RAM with Thunderbolt Enclosure (6.79 hours and 6.72 hours)
  • Two plots in Parallel, 3 hour delay, 6750 MiB, 4 Threads with Thunderbolt (9.4 hours and 9.8 hours) [12.8 hours total]

My next steps to tweak also are the RAM settings and to mess with the delay a bit more.  I’ll be sure to come back and update.

Single Chia Plot – 2016 MacBook Pro

Here’s some data on one of my single plots:

  Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 14203.451 236.724183 3.94540306
Phase 2 7874.169 131.23615 2.18726917
Phase 3 9970.789 166.179817 2.76966361
Phase 4 741.426 12.3571 0.20595167
    TOTAL TIME 9.1082875

Not bad at all!

Parallel Plotting on MacBook – Two Plots

Here’s my data for the two plots I plotted in parallel with default settings

Plot 1 Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 15297.677 254.961283 4.24935472
Phase 2 12296.915 204.948583 3.41580972
Phase 3 15847.149 264.11915 4.40198583
Phase 4 8854.874 147.581233 2.45968722
    TOTAL  TIME 14.5268375
Plot 2 Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 15135.985 252.266417 4.20444028
Phase 2 12166.65 202.7775 3.379625
Phase 3 14042.09 234.034833 3.90058056
Phase 4 9668.497 161.141617 2.68569361
    TOTAL TIME 14.1703394

As you can see, we increased to about 14.5 hours to plot two plots.  This does save us some time if we were plotting on at a time.  I have a funny feeling two plots may be the sweet spot for the MacBook.

Parallel Plotting on MacBook – Three Plots

I started parallel plotting three plots, with an hour delay between each start.  It seems like it was a terrible idea.  

MacBook chia plotting parallel three

Now, I have my final data, and it took over 18 hours, for all the plots to finish.

Plot 1, 3 Parallel, 1 Hour Delay Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 17367 289.45 4.82416667
Phase 2 9829.635 163.82725 2.73045417
Phase 3 23949.25 399.154167 6.65256944
Phase 4 1018.803 16.98005 0.28300083
    TOTAL TIME 14.4901911

The first plot was the quickest of the bunch.

Plot 2, 3 Parallel, 1 Hour Delay Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 22534.014 375.5669 6.25944833
Phase 2 11083.938 184.7323 3.07887167
Phase 3 19615.613 326.926883 5.44878139
Phase 4 3279.091 54.6515167 0.91085861
    TOTAL TIME 15.69796

Then we have number two and three, which were fairly close together, but keep in mind there was an hour delay between each plot start.

Plot 3, 3 Parallel, 1 Hour Delay Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 26816.579 446.942983 7.44904972
Phase 2 11297.092 188.284867 3.13808111
Phase 3 18337.058 305.617633 5.09362722
Phase 4 720.324 12.0054 0.20009
    TOTAL TIME 15.8808481

Plot 3 rounds it out.

This actually worked better than I thought after I looked at the data.  I’ve basically added 4 hours to my time to get the third plot.  Of course, I started more plots before I checked the logs :).

Parallel Plotting on MacBook – Two Plots, 4096 MiB RAM

The default for RAM for a plot is 3390 MiB, so I upped it to 4096 MiB, because I didn’t pay attention…I really should have went with 4295 MB.  Oh well, close enough, here’s some data!

Plot 1, Parallel, Two Plots, 4096 MiB RAM Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 15199.351 253.322517 4.22204194
Phase 2 12453.303 207.55505 3.45925083
Phase 3 14120.579 235.342983 3.92238306
Phase 4 7793.76 129.896 2.16493333
    TOTAL TIME 13.7686092

Not that much faster than if I hadn’t increased the RAM.

Plot 2, Parallel, Two Plots, 4096 MiB RAM Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 15305.657 255.094283 4.25157139
Phase 2 12398.889 206.64815 3.44413583
Phase 3 14816.943 246.94905 4.1158175
Phase 4 7690.106 128.168433 2.13614056
    TOTAL TIME 13.9476653

By increasing the RAM a little bit, I shaved an hour off of plotting.

Now compare these to the next single plot I did.

Single Plot, 4 Threads, 6750 MiB RAM

Because why not?  This turned out to be my fastest plot yet, but not *that* much faster.

Single Plot, 4 Threads, 6750 MiB RAM Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 9436.022 157.267033 2.62111722
Phase 2 7704.938 128.415633 2.14026056
Phase 3 9892.831 164.880517 2.74800861
Phase 4 727.886 12.1314333 0.20219056
    TOTAL TIME 7.71157694

That’s actually one of the nice things about Chia as illustrated here. Throwing more resources doesn’t change the outcome too too much, so you really can do a lot with what you already have around the house.

If I compare these to yesterday’s parallel plot, you can see some of the areas I am getting crushed in.  Phase 4 is a huge one since we’re writing to that slow drive.

It seems that delaying the start of plotting by the perfect time is what is going to get us home.

Parallel Plot, Two Plots, Default Settings, Delayed 5 Hours

A parallel plot of two plots, with a 5 hour delay.

Plot 1, 2 in Parallel Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 12042.935 200.715583 3.34525972
Phase 2 8056.029 134.26715 2.23778583
Phase 3 12,986 216.431717 3.60719528
Phase 4 855.357 14.25595 0.23759917
    TOTAL TIME 9.42784

And plot two.  It looks like the 5 hour delay may have been a bit much here.

Plot 2, 2 in Parallel, 5 Hour Delay Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 17799.884 296.664733 4.94441222
Phase 2 7362.693 122.71155 2.0451925
Phase 3 10803.393 180.05655 3.0009425
Phase 4 1098 18.3 0.305
    TOTAL TIME 10.2955472

If we add the 5 hours to 10.29 hours, we end up with 15.29 hours total for two plots.  We actually did worse than two plots in parallel.

Plotting on 2016 MacBook Pro – Thunderbolt NVMe

My Thunderbolt enclosure arrived and I made the switch.  Here’s the baseline plot with Thunderbolt.

Single Plot Over Thunderbolt #1 Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 11234.97 187.2495 3.120825
Phase 2 6236.406 103.9401 1.732335
Phase 3 9110.233 151.837217 2.53062028
Phase 4 673.164 11.2194 0.18699
    TOTAL TIME 7.57077028

Not bad, we’re down an hour and a half by switching to Thunderbolt.

Plotting on MacBook with Thunderbolt NVMe Drive – 4 CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM

I queued up two plots last night with 4 CPU threads and 6750 MiB RAM.  This was not done in parallel.

Thunderbolt NVMe Enclosure, 4CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 8594.701 143.245017 2.38741694
Phase 2 6187.887 103.13145 1.7188575
Phase 3 9013.781 150.229683 2.50382806
Phase 4 662.266 11.0377667 0.18396278
    TOTAL TIME 6.79406528

Clocked in under 7 hours!  Wow!  The second plot had similar results.

Thunderbolt NVMe Enclosure, 4CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 8285.207 138.086783 2.30144639
Phase 2 6235.338 103.9223 1.73203833
Phase 3 9059.177 150.986283 2.51643806
Phase 4 622.508 10.3751333 0.17291889
    TOTAL TIME 6.72284167

Plotting Parallel on MacBook with Thunderbolt – 4CPU Threads, 3 Hour Delay, 6750 MiB RAM

I was expecting around 10 hours per plot with this, and it ended up to be pretty spot on – under 10.  However, when you take into account the 3 hour delay, we’re looking at a total of a little over 12 hours for both plots.

4CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM, Plot 1 Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 8403.219 140.05365 2.3342275
Phase 2 7407.009 123.45015 2.0575025
Phase 3 14952.883 249.214717 4.15357861
Phase 4 3082.014 51.3669 0.856115
    TOTAL TIME 9.40142361

Now for plot 2 in this group.  Notice the time in Phase 1.

4CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM, Plot 2, 3 Hour Delay Seconds Minutes Hours
Phase 1 15869.212 264.486867 4.40811444
Phase 2 9436.891 157.281517 2.62135861
Phase 3 9449.191 157.486517 2.62477528
Phase 4 633.58 10.5596667 0.17599444
      9.83024278

We clock in at 12.8 hours for two plots once we account for the delay.  Our fasted single plot was 6.72 hours, which means we’re slightly ahead of the game still, because we’d be looking at 13.44 hours for two single plots.

Will a third in the mix get me anywhere, or just make things take too long.  The second plot had a longer Phase time, which makes me think going beyond 2 is giving us diminishing returns.

Plotting Maximums on a MacBook Pro

While I’m going to keep playing with things, it seems like the MacBook pro will max out at around 4 plots per 24 hour period.  

Stay tuned while I come up with the best options for plotting to maximize your time, because it will absolutely include a delay between starting plots when plotting in parallel.

Are you plotting with a MacBook?  Let me know how it goes!

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