How to mine Monero
Read this bit first
Most guides on how to mine Monero are frankly, rubbish. They're often outdated or just plain wrong. I have written this guide to show you the most popular way to mine Monero that is used by real people.
This guide is written with Windows 10 users in mind but most of it will apply to other OSs too.
Monero uses an algorithm for mining that is specifically designed to work optimally on CPUs. Other websites will advise mining on a GPU - this is wrong. Most of those websites are outdated. This guide will give you the sensible way to mine Monero.
1. The first thing you need is a wallet. A wallet is a software application that shows your Monero balance, lets you send it to others, and lets others send to you. I recommend either MyMonero because it's quick and easy to use, or the GUI wallet from here. Be careful with where you get a wallet from - if you just download one from any old website, it might be designed to steal your Monero from you. Only download from a source that is trusted.
2. Follow the instructions that come with whichever wallet software you choose, to create a new wallet. It's a good idea to write down your seed phrase, which you'll be given during the setup of the wallet, and keep it somewhere safe. This allows you to restore the wallet in case your computer breaks. It also allows anyone else to restore your wallet and control all your Monero, so keep it secret. Most importantly you'll need your Monero address later on.
3. Download XMRig from their website, selecting the appropriate version for the operating system you're using. There are a number of different Monero miners out there but XMRig is the most commonly used. Most of them work similarly so you should find it easy to change miner later on if you decide to. XMRig takes a minimum of 1% fee as a donation to the developers. If you don't like this, you can compile it yourself. But for now just download XMRig and use it as is. You can look into that once you have everything working.
4. Extract XMRig into a folder somewhere you'll remember.
5. Choose a pool. A pool will let you work with other miners and share the rewards. It's a bit like being in a lottery syndicate. When you mine a block in Monero, the reward is quite large, but it's extremely difficult to mine a block by yourself. That's why it makes the most sense to join a pool. When anyone in the pool mines a block, the reward is shared proportionally to how much work each miner did. See my post on how to choose a pool. Try to avoid the most popular one or two pools so you help keep monero decentralised - if one pool controls over 50% of all mining hashrate then they can control which transactions are accepted.
6. Use the XMRig config wizard to generate a config file for you. Add the pool you chose in the previous step. You may need to set it as custom pool in the wizard. The host and port should be on the pool's website. Below that, enter your Monero address. This is so the pool knows where to send any Monero you earn. You can normally leave the other options on this page as the defaults.
7. Go to the misc page (along the top) and change the donate amount if you want. Personally I think 5% is too much. Pick what you want. I set it to 1%. This is taken as a percentage of time spent mining as a donation to the people who write and maintain the XMRig software.
8. Go to result and download the config file. Save it into the folder where you extracted XMRig earlier. If there is a config file already in the folder, delete it first.
9. Start XMRig by right clicking on it and clicking run as administrator. This is necessary to get the highest possible speed (hashrate). You can run it without, but you'll be leaving some speed on the table. You may need to restart the computer at this point to apply one of the optimisations. Do so if needed.
You do not need to use a .bat file or any of the other files in the folder, so just leave them as they are. The only files you need to touch are the config file in case you want to change settings, and XMRig.exe to run it.
10. Assuming you restarted, open XMRig again. You should now be mining.
11. Go to the website of the pool you chose. You will usually need to paste in your Monero address here too. This lets you see your statistics. Check that your miner is showing up here. You can also check your earnings so far.
12. Keep mining until you have enough to pay out. The pool will pay out once you reach the set amount, or when you request it. The earnings do not appear in your wallet until the pool pays out. There is a fee for each Monero transaction, so the pools do not pay out for tiny amount because it wouldn't be worth it - the fees would take up a large percentage of the payment. Request a payment from the pool's website when you have enough, and open your wallet. You should see the payment appear within about 30 minutes, depending on how often the pool sends payments.
If anything in this guide was unclear, please leave me a comment below so I can improve it.