There are various hardware choices and methods to use to mine bitcoin. Whatever hardware and method you choose, you’ll either use your CPU or GPU, an FPGA, or the new ASICs. With the current difficulty of 11,187,257.5 (as of 5/15/13), and going up every two weeks, it is getting harder and harder to mine with the first two types of hardware.
For example, a decent CPU today can get 300Khps (Kilohashes per second), while a good GPU can get 500Mhps.
An FPGA might get anywhere from 100-800Mhps and higher, and an ASIC can get 4.5Ghps up to 1.5Thps! See the Mining hardware comparison wiki page for details.
Check the Bitcoin mining profitability calculator to see if your hardware or the hardware you’re looking at getting is worth purchasing, and if the energy use will still make it profitable or not.
Since bitcoins can only be harvested when solving a block, it can take an individual months, even a year, to solve a block on their own. Unless they are running a huge mining rig with hundreds or thousands of Ghps, it’s not really worth it. That is what is great about mining pools.
A mining pool is a group of miners all working together to solve blocks, and then sharing the rewards. The more work a user contributes, the bigger share of the bitcoins they get. This is great for most users.
I currently use BitMinter because it uses Java and can be started through the browser (though it doesn’t run in the browser). I’m on Linux most of the time, so I was looking for a good miner that is easy to set up and I found this. The interface is nice and it’s simple to set up and use. Just create an account, login with your worker, and start! Currently the pool is running at about 2.7Thps.
Coinotron supports many cryptocurrencies, such as BTC, LTC, PPC, TRC, and FRC.
Pool-X.eu – a great Litecoin pool
Ok, now that you have a mining pool, it’s time to install a miner. Here are some you can choose from. Some pools prefer a certain miner, so check the site to see which one you need.
The Litecoin client has a built-in miner, which is very convenient. I use this when I’m on Linux, and ScryptMiner when I’m on Windows.
Mining Through Your Browser
BitcoinPlus – Mine through your browser!
The longer you wait to start mining, the harder it will be to get the same amount of Bitcoins over time. Even without a dedicated mining rig, the amount you can get today might be worth a lot more next year! Check out Bong-Bitcoin for more info.