Bitcoin mining in 2020 has significant barriers to entry. The hardware costs for dedicated ASICs is astronomical, and the big miners already have a huge head start. You need to invest significant resources upfront and deal with energy costs just to keep up. But Monero is a different story. The developers behind it have made ASIC resistance a top priority, and have achieved that by regularly changing the PoW algorithm. The latest version is called RandomX, and it heavily favours CPUs for mining. This puts mining in reach of anyone with a decent CPU, so I put together this quick guide to show anyone how they can get started mining Monero. You will need a CPU with hardware AES support to make this at all viable. Also I'll assume for this guide that you are using Windows 10. For an idea of what you can expect to make with a single mid-range consumer notebook, I get 1550 h/s on my Intel Core i5-8350 based Dell laptop. With my local power costs of $0.0569 per kwh, it makes ~$0.52 profit per week.
Step 1: Get A Wallet Address
You need a wallet to link with your pool so they can track your shares and pay you out. Go to the https://web.getmonero.org/downloads/ and download the official GUI Wallet. Run through the installer keeping all the defaults. For this tutorial we are going to set it up in Simple Mode so you don't have to wait for the entire Blockchain to download. Once it's installed run it. On the first screen, click continue, then on the next screen click on Simple Mode.
On the next screen check the box and then click next. Then click on Create a new wallet.
Enter a name, leave the location as default. Make sure to copy and save your Seed somewhere secure. You need it to restore your wallet. If you don't save it you risk losing access to your wallet and any money in it. (I've blocked mine out in the screenshots, it will be a series of words). Then click next. On the following screen, enter a strong password and click next. This is the password you need to access your wallet, so make sure to save it somewhere secure.
The final setup screen just shows you a recap of your settings. Click on Open Wallet to go to your new wallet. Next you will want to get your receive address, you will need this for your mining pool. Click on Receive on the left hand side and then click on the icon next to your primary address to copy it to your clipboard. I've blocked it out in the screenshot but there will also be a QR code for your address on this screen.
Now that you have your receive address we can move on.
Step 2: Find a Pool
Solo mining is not practical so we will use a pool. A mining pool is a group of users that share the work of mining a block and then share the rewards from that block based on how much work you contributed (called shares). There are different algorithms used to calculate that, the most common one is PPLNS. You can pick any pool you like, this site has a list. Personally I use MineXMR, so that's what this guide will use. You don't need to sign up for an account at all, it just identifies you with your wallet address.
Which ever pool you choose, make sure to get the correct pool address for your location. For MineXMR you can find that info on the Get Started page. I use: ca.minexmr.com:443 because I'm in Canada and I want to use TLS. Once you've determine your pool address, you can move on to the last step.
Step 3: Installing Mining Software
Now that you have a receiving address and pool address we can get to mining. The most common mining software for Monero is XMRig and XMR-Stak-RX. They both have generally the same performance but I find XMR-Stak-RX easier to setup, so we will use that. One thing to note, all mining software is flagged as a virus by AV software, so make sure to put in an exception if you're using an Anti-Virus program. Visit this website and download the latest XMR-Stak Windows binary. Unzip it wherever you want to keep it (there is no installer). Now right click on your Start Menu and launch an Administrator PowerShell (or Command Prompt) window.
Use the "cd" command to move to the directory you unzipped the binary to. Now simply type ".\xmr-stak-rx.exe" and you will start the deployment wizard which will ask you a series of questions.
Say "Y" to "Use simple setup method?". Enter "monero" for the currency, then enter your pool address (with port). For "Username" enter the wallet address you created earlier, and put "x" for the password. If the pool you picked supports TLS, enter Y for that, and that's it. After that, it will start mining Monero. Make sure to watch the output of that screen, as it may warn you that you need to reboot your computer to enable a feature. If so, simply reboot and then restart PowerShell as an administrator and launch the program again. It won't ask you the setup questions again, since it saved your answers to a config file.
Once you have it running, you can press the 'h' key to report your current hash. That's it, now you are officially a crypto miner. Good luck and enjoy! If you have any questions or comments, let me know below. This guide used the pre-built binaries, but I'll do a more advanced guide in the future that will show you how to compile it yourself for maximum performance. :)