Bitcoin’s health largely depends on how many people run the decentralized peer-to-peer network globally by participating as a ‘Bitcoin node,’ which vary in size. A node might represent a single individual with a laptop, a company running a single node for mostly symbolic purposes or even a massive Bitcoin mining farm harnessing a large percentage of Bitcoin’s overall hashing power. In short, Bitcoin nodes keep the Bitcoin blockchain’s peer-to-peer network running.
A full bitcoin node fully validates transactions and blocks. It also helps the network to accept transactions and blocks from other full nodes, as well as validate transactions and blocks, and relay them to other nodes. Perhaps their most useful functionality, other than helping to maintain a healthy Bitcoin network, full nodes generally also have built-in wallet functionality.
To run a node today, one needs generally 125 gigabytes of free disk space, 2 gigabytes of memory (RAM), a broadband Internet connection with upload speeds of at least 400 kilobits (50 kilobytes) per second, and a connection with sufficient download limits.
Bitcoin nodes commonly use 200 gigabytes upload or more a month and download around 20 gigabytes per month.
The Bitcoin Blockchain is Currently 113 GB in Size
Active redditor ‘BeijingBitcoins’ calculated two months ago how much it costs for him to run a node. He uses a two-year-old Lenovo T440 Thinkpad with an Intel i5, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. This machine runs $549 brand new on Bitcoin-accepting Newegg. A refurb with 8GB of RAM runs just $340. His internet bill runs $55 per month.
The redditor conjectures the setup uses .48kWh per day or 175.2 kWh per year. He pays $0.26 per kWh. So, the node alone costs $0.125 per day to run. That’s $3.74 per month or $45.55 per year for electricity alone.
‘foragodrolo’, another Redditor, detailed two years ago how he ran a Bitcoin node on Amazon Web Services for $20.43 per month. “Not bad,” he wrote. “And I’m happy to do this for a while giving back for my gains in BTC.”
Reddit user ‘MillionDollarBitcoin’ compiled Bitcoin Unlimited on a raspberry Pi 1 Model b with 512MB. It runs at nearly 100% average load, runs no other processes and draws 2 watts of power. Some users detailed procuring a virtual private server for $5-10/month, though this is less desirable.
People generally encourage bitcoiners to run nodes to increase the network’s decentralization. Nodes that run 24/7 are needed to make sure the blockchain is always available somewhere.
The Cheapest Possible Hardware
BitcoinCatSatoshi documented on Reddit how he ran a Bitcoin full node for just $130. The Redditor used a mini PC he found on Aliexpress. The PC featured a N3150 Celeron quad core processor known for low consumption and the user added 8gb of unused RAM and a 500gb HDD.
Others have discussed how an appropriately outfitted Raspberry Pi runs just $90 and can also be used as a full Bitcoin node.
Potential Bitcoin Node Operators Could Be Priced Out of the Market in Much of the Developing World
Most single nodes do, and will likely continue to come from the developed world, with the remainder being server farms as envisioned by Satoshi.
Nodes help to maintain Bitcoin’s decentralization. If not enough nodes are running, clients won’t as easily connect through the peer-to-peer network that comprises Bitcoin. A centralized service will have to be substituted for this operation. There are, to be certain, potential risks running a Bitcoin node, depending on the digital currency’s legality in the jurisdiction where one resides, particularly in unstable nations of the developing world.
If you already have a computer, a hard drive, and internet connection, then running a node is easy. Indeed, many node operators even use their daily desktop computers to run the Bitcoin network.
Currently, there are currently just over 6,000 nodes serving all of Bitcoin. The top 5 nations are United States, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Canada.
Do you run a full node? Let us know how much it costs you in the comments below.
Images courtesy of Bitnodes, 21.co, Shutterstock, Redditor BitcoinCatSatoshi
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