Inside a Bitcoin mine, fans, silicon, and frigid temperatures keep crypto pumping

Step foot inside a Bitcoin mine, and the first thing you’ll probably notice is the temperature. Depending on what part of the facility you’re standing in, it’ll either be baking hot or freezing cold.

In our case, it was the latter. After descending down a very utilitarian plywood staircase and making our way through a series of locked doors, we emerged in a concrete-floored room where you could see your breath. This was partially because it was winter in Northern Washington state and therefore naturally cold, and partially because there was a giant cooling system blasting frigid air at us from across the room.

It was basically like stepping into a sauna.

We were in the server room: The part of the building where shelves full of highly specialized computers, known as Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), work round the clock to mine bitcoin. They do this by solving extremely difficult math problems, and all that work tends to make them get really, really hot. The solution, of course, is to supply them with a steady supply of cold air to prevent them from overheating.

The second thing we noticed was the noise. In addition to the large cooling system that blasts chilly air around the warehouse, each individual ASIC unit has its own fan, spinning feverishly and putting off a high pitched whine. Together, they build to a thunderous white noise that you have to yell over to communicate with the person standing next to you.

After shouting questions at our tour guide in the rather boring server room (it’s really just a bunch of blinking lights, whirring fans, and jumbled cables) long enough for our fingers to go numb, our guide decided it was time to warm up. We dipped through a heavy door haphazardly fitted into a wall of insulation.

It was basically like stepping into a sauna. This part of the facility, our guide explained, was where they vented all of the hot air from the servers and pumped it out of the building. You could feel the heat coming off each ASIC, which felt like a blow-dryer set to high. We conveniently used it to warm up our frozen hands before it was whisked away and blown into the grey winter skies of Wenatchee.

Almost all the profits gained from the facility we visited are used to buy new equipment

The third thing we noticed was the lack of employees. The whole facility was a ghost town. We were the only people there. Our guide — the guy who owns the place — explained that he employs just two on-call technicians who stop by only whenever something needs to be fixed. Once everything is set up, cryptomines like this one apparently require very little upkeep.

Most of the company’s manpower, we’re told, is dedicated to off-site expansion projects on the other side of town, where a handful of other mining facilities are currently under construction.

Since the bitcoin mining algorithm typically becomes more difficult as more miners come online, this endless expansion is the name of the game. Almost all the profits gained from the facility we visited are used to buy new equipment that can mine more bitcoin — and do it faster and more efficiently than before.

Where does it stop? Nobody knows. But if things keep going at the current pace, the last Bitcoin will be mined around 2,150.

Computing

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Steam streaming hub with Valve’s Steam Link app

Valve's Steam Link app is now fully supported by Raspberry PI hardware, meaning that just about anyone with a few dollars to spare can build their own Steam streaming box in a matter of minutes.
Movies & TV

Can't get enough lightsaber action? Here's how to get your Star Wars fix online

Few of us want to deal with DVDs or Blu-ray discs anymore. Unfortunately, the Star Wars movies are few and far between when it comes to streaming. If you want to watch Star Wars online, check out our guide on where to find the films online.
Outdoors

Drink what nature provides with the best water purifiers

Looking for reliable water purification? Staying hydrated is important, especially when you are hiking or camping far from civilization. Check out our picks of the best water purifiers for your camp, backpack, or pocket.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Computing

Amazon takes $300 off Intel Core i7 Surface Pro 6 in latest sale

If you're looking for savings on the Surface Pro 6, Amazon is the place to shop. It currently is discounting the Intel Core i7 variant of Microsoft's latest 2-in-1 by $300, though no Type Cover is included.
Computing

Latest Facebook bug exposed up to 6.8 million users’ private photos

An API bug recently left an impact on Facebook users. Though the issue has since been fixed, some of the apps on the platform had a wrongful access to consumers photos for 12 days between September 13 and September 25. 
Music

Here's our head-to-head comparison of Pandora and Spotify

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
Computing

Our favorite Chrome themes add some much-needed pizzazz to your boring browser

Sometimes you just want Chrome to show a little personality and ditch the grayscale for something a little more lively. Lucky for you, we've sorted through the Chrome Web Store to find best Chrome themes available.
Computing

Don't keep typing the same thing -- learn to copy and paste with these shortcuts!

Looking for useful Windows keyboard shortcuts? The most common are the cut, copy, paste and undo shortcuts compatible with all kinds of tasks. They can save you an awful lot of time if you learn how to use them.
Computing

You can now get a Surface Laptop 2 for $800 at the Microsoft Store

Along with deals on other variants, starting configurations of Microsoft's Surface Laptop 2 are now going for $800 online at its retail store, cutting $200 from its usual $1,000 starting price. 
Computing

Need a monitor for professional photo-editing? These are the very best

Looking for the best monitor for photo editing? You'll need to factor in brightness, color accuracy, color gamut support and more. Fortunately, we've rounded up the best ones for you, to help you make an educated purchase.
Computing

HDR monitors are beginning to have an impact. Here are the best you can buy

HDR isn't the most common of PC monitor features and is often charged at a premium, but the list of available options is growing. These are the best HDR monitors you can buy right now.
Computing

You’ll soon be able to scribble all over PDFs on your Chromebook

Chrome OS users may soon be able to doodle all over their PDF documents with the possible addition of a new feature in Chrome OS' PDF viewer. The annotation feature is expected to allow users to hand draw or write over their documents.