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.
USBc M2 Enclosure
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.
Thunderbolt M2 Enclosure
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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.
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|
The first plot was the quickest of the bunch.
|Plot 2, 3 Parallel, 1 Hour Delay||Seconds||Minutes||Hours|
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|
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|
Not that much faster than if I hadn’t increased the RAM.
|Plot 2, Parallel, Two Plots, 4096 MiB RAM||Seconds||Minutes||Hours|
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|
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|
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|
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|
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|
Clocked in under 7 hours! Wow! The second plot had similar results.
|Thunderbolt NVMe Enclosure, 4CPU Threads, 6750 MiB RAM||Seconds||Minutes||Hours|
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|
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|
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!
Melissa is an Independent Technology Analyst & Content Creator, focused on IT infrastructure and information security. She is a VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX-236) and has spent her career focused on the full IT infrastructure stack.