Comprehensive Guide to Cryptocurrency Mining: From Basics to Advanced

Table of Contents

What is Cryptocurrency Mining?

Cryptocurrency mining, often referred to simply as “mining,” is a decentralized process where new cryptocurrency coins or tokens are introduced into circulation and where transactions are added to a public ledger, known as the blockchain. It involves validating and recording transactions by solving complex mathematical problems, for which miners are rewarded with new cryptocurrency coins as an incentive.

History of Cryptocurrency Mining

The Early Days of Bitcoin and the First Miners

When Bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency, was introduced by the pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, mining was a much simpler task. Early adopters could mine Bitcoin using regular personal computers. In those days, the Bitcoin mining community was small, and the rewards were substantial due to the novelty of the technology and the limited competition.

Evolution of Mining Techniques and Hardware

As the popularity of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies grew, so did the competition among miners. This increase in competition led to the need for more efficient ways to mine. It began with miners transitioning from CPUs (Central Processing Units) to GPUs (Graphics Processing Units), which offered faster and more efficient mining capabilities. Over time, specialized hardware called ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits) were developed specifically for mining purposes, further escalating the mining arms race.

Milestones and Significant Changes in the Mining Landscape

The mining ecosystem witnessed several key milestones. These include the introduction of mining pools, where individual miners combined their computational resources to increase their chances of earning rewards. Additionally, periodic “halving” events in Bitcoin’s history reduced the block rewards for miners, further shaping the dynamics of the mining economy.

The Role of Miners in a Blockchain Network

Miners play a crucial role in ensuring the security and stability of a blockchain network. They perform two main functions:

  • Transaction Validation: Miners validate and verify the authenticity of transactions. By doing so, they prevent double-spending, where someone tries to use the same cryptocurrency coins more than once.
  • Consensus Achievement: Through mining, participants in the network come to an agreement (or consensus) about the state of the blockchain. This consensus mechanism ensures that only valid transactions are added to the blockchain.

Basics of Computational Puzzles and Proof-of-Work

At the heart of mining lies a computational puzzle that miners race to solve. This puzzle requires miners to find a specific value (called a “nonce”), which, when hashed, produces a result that meets certain conditions. Solving the puzzle proves that the miner has done the necessary “work” and is, hence, eligible for a reward. This system, known as proof-of-work, ensures that it’s computationally difficult to add new blocks to the chain, making the blockchain secure against tampering.

Introduction to Hashrate: Understanding Computational Power in Mining

Hashrate represents the computational power a miner or a mining pool uses to solve these puzzles. It’s typically measured in hashes per second (H/s) and indicates how many attempts a miner can make to solve the puzzle in one second. A higher hashrate increases the chances of solving the puzzle and earning a reward, but it also means a greater consumption of energy. As the crypto mining ecosystem has grown and evolved, the importance of hashrate in determining mining profitability and network security has become paramount.

Mining Hardware: ASICs vs. GPUs vs. FPGAs

What is Mining Hardware and Why is it Important?

Mining hardware refers to the specialized equipment that miners use to solve the complex mathematical problems required to validate and record transactions on a blockchain network. The type and capability of mining hardware determine how efficiently a miner can operate. Efficient hardware can solve problems faster, leading to more rewards. As the difficulty of these problems has increased over time due to the growing number of miners and transactions, the demand for powerful mining hardware has risen.

ASICs (Application-Specific Integrated Circuits): Introduction, Pros, Cons, and Use Cases

ASICs, or Application-Specific Integrated Circuits, are specialized hardware devices tailored for a particular task. In the realm of cryptocurrency, ASICs are developed specifically for mining certain cryptocurrencies. These custom chips are optimized to perform the specific computations required in mining, like the SHA-256 algorithm used by Bitcoin.

Bitcoin Miner Antminer S19j XP
Antminer S19j XP – Source: Bitmain


    • Highly Efficient: ASICs are designed for mining, rendering them more efficient than general-purpose hardware.
    • Increased Profitability: Their superior efficiency often means higher ROI in favorable market conditions.
    • Compact Design: They are typically more space-saving than expansive GPU rigs, making for simpler storage and cooling solutions.


    • Lack of Versatility: Once constructed, an ASIC’s role is fixed. It can mine only a specific kind of cryptocurrency.
    • High Initial Investment: The most advanced ASIC miners can be considerably costlier than a GPU setup.
    • Obsolescence Risk: Technological progress can render older ASICs obsolete swiftly.

Use Cases

ASICs are chiefly found in large-scale mining farms where top efficiency is essential. They’re predominantly used for mining cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which have high mining difficulty.

Whinstone Bitcoin Mining Farm North America
Whinstone Bitcoin Mining Farm North America – Source: CNBC

GPUs (Graphics Processing Units): Introduction, Pros, Cons, and Use Cases

Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) are components fashioned to manage intricate visual tasks in computing, like video rendering and gaming graphics. Because of their parallel processing prowess, miners have appropriated GPUs to decipher the cryptographic challenges intrinsic to blockchain networks. They are versatile, allowing for the mining of multiple cryptocurrencies.

GeForce RTX 3090
GeForce RTX 3090 – Source: Asus


    • Versatility: Unlike ASICs, GPUs aren’t limited to a single cryptocurrency. Even after Ethereum’s transition to Proof of Stake via the Merge in September 2022, GPUs remain relevant for mining other altcoins.
    • Upgradability: Miners can easily improve their mining capabilities by substituting or adding cards.


    • Lower Efficiency Compared to ASICs: GPUs generally don’t match ASICs in mining efficiency.
    • Increased Space and Cooling Needs: Vast GPU rigs demand ample space and robust cooling.

Use Cases

With Ethereum’s transition to Proof of Stake, the demand for GPU mining has shifted. GPUs are now a favored choice for hobby miners and those delving into altcoin mining.

FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays): Introduction, Pros, Cons, and Use Cases

Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) are integrated circuits designed to be configured after manufacturing. They offer a balance between the specialized efficiency of ASICs and the versatility of GPUs. Since FPGAs can be reprogrammed for various tasks, they’re adaptable to different mining algorithms. This makes them particularly valuable in a rapidly evolving crypto landscape.

AtomMiner AM01 FPGA
AtomMiner AM01 FPGA – Source: AtomMiner


    • Adaptable: FPGAs can be reprogrammed for different mining algorithms, offering flexibility.
    • Efficiency: While not as efficient as ASICs, FPGAs tend to be more efficient than GPUs.


    • Initial Costs: They can be expensive to set up initially, often more than GPUs.
    • Complexity: FPGAs require more technical knowledge to configure and optimize compared to ASICs and GPUs.

Use Cases

  • FPGAs have been used in scenarios where mining algorithms change or for newer cryptocurrencies where ASICs haven’t been developed yet. Their adaptability allows miners to quickly shift to new, potentially profitable mining opportunities.

Hashrate Comparison: Measuring the Power of ASICs, GPUs and FPGAs

  • ASICs: Dominant in the realm of raw computational power, a typical ASIC operates between terahashes per second (TH/s) and petahashes per second (PH/s) when mining Bitcoin. Representing the pinnacle of mining efficiency, a single ASIC device can outperform hundreds of GPUs in sheer hashrate.
  • GPUs: Historically instrumental in Ethereum mining prior to its transition to Proof of Stake, GPUs still hold relevance in altcoin mining. Their hashrates vary based on the specific coin and algorithm, but generally span from megahashes per second (MH/s) to gigahashes per second (GH/s).
  • FPGAs: Bridging the gap between ASICs and GPUs, FPGAs offer a middle-ground solution in terms of computational strength. Their hashrate largely depends on their configuration and the mining algorithm, but they can often outpace GPUs and approach, yet typically not surpass, the lower end of ASIC capabilities.

To summarize, while ASICs provide the highest hashrate, they lack versatility. GPUs, being the most versatile, typically present a lower hashrate. FPGAs find their niche in between, balancing flexibility with competitive computational performance.

Mining Software and Platforms

Role of Software in the Mining Process

Why Mining Software Matters

Mining hardware, while pivotal, is just one half of the equation. Mining software plays an equally vital role, orchestrating the hardware to work on solving cryptographic challenges, managing resources, and communicating with the blockchain network. It acts as an intermediary, converting the raw computational power of the hardware into a focused effort to find new blocks in the blockchain.

Key Functions of Mining Software

  • Blockchain Interaction: Mining software keeps the miner connected to the blockchain, receiving tasks and submitting solutions.
  • Hardware Management: It optimizes the performance of mining hardware, ensuring the highest possible hashrate.
  • Monitoring & Reporting: Mining software provides essential feedback, such as temperature, hashrate, and overall efficiency, allowing for troubleshooting and performance improvement.

Popular Mining Software Options and Their Features


Arguably the most well-known among miners, CGMiner is an open-source software that supports multiple platforms. Its key features are:

  • Compatible with both ASICs and GPUs.
  • Offers advanced detection of new blocks.
  • Provides extensive monitoring and overclocking tools.


A close cousin to CGMiner, BFGMiner offers a similar feel but is primarily tailored for ASICs. Its key features are:

  • Integrated overclocking and fan control.
  • Supports the Stratum mining protocol.
  • Modular ASIC, FPGA, GPU, and CPU mining software.


As its name suggests, EasyMiner appeals to beginners, offering a more user-friendly interface. Its key features are:

  • Visual interface with drag-and-drop function.
  • Supports solo and pool mining.
  • Compatible with both ASIC and GPU hardware.


HiveOS is a centralized mining platform that allows users to manage and monitor their mining rigs with ease. With its Linux-based OS tailored for mining, it stands out as a favorite for many miners. Its key features are:

  • Unified dashboard for managing multiple rigs.
  • Overclocking tools with automated algorithms for performance optimization.
  • Supports a variety of GPUs and mining algorithms.
  • Allows for the creation of custom mining profiles for different cryptocurrencies.

Other Options

Miners are spoiled for choice, with numerous other software options available, including BitMinter, Awesome Miner, and MultiMiner, each with its unique features tailored to different mining requirements.

How to Choose the Right Mining Software for Your Needs


The first checkpoint is compatibility. Ensure the software supports the hardware you possess. Not all software caters to both ASICs and GPUs.

User Experience

While advanced miners may prefer a software offering granular control and detailed statistics, beginners might lean toward platforms that simplify the process with a more intuitive interface.

Features & Flexibility

Some miners prioritize monitoring tools and overclocking capabilities, while others might be looking for software that offers specific mining algorithms or compatibility with certain cryptocurrencies.

Community & Support

Engage with crypto mining communities and forums to gauge the reputation of software. Reliable support, consistent updates, and a vibrant community can make the mining journey smoother. In conclusion, while there are many mining software options, the right choice often boils down to individual requirements and preferences. As with most tech decisions, research and a clear understanding of your goals will guide you to an informed decision.

Proof of Work vs. Other Consensus Mechanisms

Understanding the Significance of Consensus Mechanisms in Blockchain

In any decentralized system, reaching an agreement among disparate entities is essential. This agreement, known as “consensus”, ensures that every participant in a network agrees upon the validity of transactions, making blockchain systems secure and tamper-proof. Consensus mechanisms, therefore, are foundational to the operation and security of blockchain networks.

Introduction to Proof of Work (PoW)

Proof of Work (PoW) was the pioneering consensus mechanism introduced with Bitcoin. It involves miners solving intricate computational problems to validate and add a new block of transactions to the blockchain. By design, PoW requires significant energy and computational power, making malicious attacks costly and thereby securing the network. However, the environmental concerns associated with its energy consumption have been subjects of criticism.

Alternatives to PoW: Proof of Stake, Delegated Proof of Stake, and More

As the blockchain industry evolved, the quest for more energy-efficient consensus mechanisms led to the development of alternatives to PoW:

  • Proof of Stake (PoS): Rather than relying on computational power, PoS depends on the number of coins a person holds and is willing to “stake” or lock up as collateral. Validators are chosen to create a new block based on their stake, making it less energy-intensive than PoW.
  • Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS): A variation of PoS, in DPoS, coin holders vote for a small number of delegates who validate transactions and produce blocks. It’s aimed at achieving faster transactions and less centralization.
  • Others: There are other mechanisms, like Proof of Authority, Proof of Space, and Proof of Burn, each with its own unique approach and advantages.

The Transition from PoW: Ethereum’s Move Towards Proof of Stake

Ethereum, once a flagship for PoW, transitioned to PoS in September 2022 with “The Merge”. This significant shift was driven by the platform’s goal to reduce energy consumption and improve scalability. With the transition, Ethereum ceased its reliance on energy-intensive mining, marking a notable change in the crypto landscape.

Mining Pools and Solo Mining

What is Solo Mining and its Challenges?

Solo mining, as the name suggests, involves an individual miner using their own mining hardware to mine new blocks on a blockchain. By operating independently, solo miners don’t need to share rewards, but they do bear all operational costs themselves. Challenges:

  • Infrequency of Rewards: The probability of a solo miner finding a block is relatively low, especially in large networks like Bitcoin. It might take extended periods before they see a reward.
  • Unpredictable Returns: Due to the competitive nature of mining, solo miners face high variability in returns.
  • High Operational Costs: Solo miners bear all costs, including equipment maintenance, electricity, and cooling.

Introduction to Mining Pools: How Do They Work?

A mining pool is a group of miners who combine their computational power to increase their chances of mining a block. Instead of waiting for an individual miner to solve a block, they work together, increasing the frequency of finding blocks. Here is how it works:

  • Miners in the pool contribute to solving a block.
  • Once solved, the block reward is distributed among pool participants based on their contributed hashrate.
  • The pool typically charges a small fee for coordinating the effort.

Pros and Cons of Joining a Mining Pool


    • More Consistent Rewards: Joining a pool can offer miners more regular and predictable rewards compared to solo mining.
    • Shared Operational Costs: While miners still bear their own electricity and maintenance costs, some shared costs, like that of running a node, may be distributed among pool members.
    • Reduced Risk: Miners in a pool spread the risk of not finding a block.


    • Shared Rewards: While rewards come more frequently, they’re split among all members, so individual payouts are smaller.
    • Potential for Centralization: Large pools can control significant portions of a network’s hashrate, leading to concerns about decentralization.
    • Trust in Pool Operators: Miners must trust the pool to distribute rewards fairly and transparently.

Popular Mining Pools

Over the years, several mining pools have gained popularity due to their reliability, payouts, and user-friendly features. Some of the notable ones include:

F2pool Logo

F2Pool: Founded in 2013, this pool is one of the oldest and is known for its transparent payout policies and support for various cryptocurrencies.

Antpool Logo

Antpool: Run by Bitmain, the producer of the Antminer series of ASIC devices, Antpool has grown into one of the largest Bitcoin mining pools. Logo Known for its advanced statistics and user-friendly dashboard, is a favorite among many miners.

Slush Pool Logo

Slush Pool: Recognized as the world’s first Bitcoin mining pool, Slush Pool remains reputable and widely-used.

Poolin Logo

Poolin: This is a newer pool that has quickly gained traction and offers multi-currency mining options.

These pools have contributed significantly to the mining community, providing miners with a more predictable and steady income source.

Importance of Hashrate in Choosing Solo vs. Pool Mining

Hashrate is the measure of a miner’s computational power. A higher hashrate increases the likelihood of finding the next block in a blockchain network. For solo miners, having a high hashrate is crucial to compete effectively and receive consistent rewards. However, with rising mining difficulties in most major networks, even miners with significant hashrates might find it challenging to mine consistently on their own. On the other hand, crypto mining pools combine the hashrates of many miners, leading to a significantly higher collective hashrate. This makes it more feasible for individual miners with lower hashrates to receive consistent rewards. Thus, understanding one’s own hashrate and the total network hashrate is pivotal when deciding between solo and pool mining.

Cloud Mining: An Alternative Approach

Definition and Fundamentals of Cloud Mining

Cloud mining involves renting computational power from a company that owns mining hardware, instead of purchasing and setting up one’s own equipment. The company manages the infrastructure, while users simply lease a portion of its mining power and get paid based on their contribution.

Comparing Traditional Mining with Cloud Mining

Cloud mining allows individuals to participate without the initial capital investment in hardware. Instead of managing physical hardware, troubleshooting issues, or worrying about electricity costs, cloud miners simply invest in a contract and receive a share of the profits.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Mining


    • Ease of Entry: No need to buy, set up, or maintain expensive equipment.
    • Predictable Costs: Costs are usually fixed based on the contract, without surprise electricity or maintenance bills.
    • No Physical Space Required: Hardware is managed by the provider.


    • Potential for Scams: The cloud mining space has been rife with fraudulent platforms.
    • Lower Profits: Companies take a cut for their services, reducing potential returns.
    • Less Control: Miners can’t switch between currencies or adjust their setups based on market changes.

Popular Cloud Mining Platforms

Several cloud mining platforms have gained attention over the years. Some notable ones include:

  • BeMine: Launched in 2018, BeMine allows to purchase very small shares of equipments, enabling even the smallest budgets to try cloud mining.
  • NiceHash: While primarily known as a marketplace for buying and selling hashing power, NiceHash also provides cloud mining opportunities.
  • Exchanges: Popular centralized exchanges such as Binance or Kucoin offer cloud mining services for a wide array of cryptocurrencies

It’s crucial to research thoroughly and read reviews before investing in any cloud mining platform, given the high potential for scams in the space.

Understanding Cloud Mining Contracts

Cloud mining contracts stipulate the terms of the cloud mining service. They detail the duration, the amount of computational power leased, payouts, and fees. Contracts can range from short-term (days or months) to several years.

Tips for Choosing a Reputable Cloud Mining Provider

With numerous platforms available, it’s imperative to:

  • Conduct Thorough Research: Check reviews, user feedback, and the platform’s history.
  • Understand the Contract: Read terms carefully, noting fees, payouts, and duration.
  • Start Small: Initially, invest a minimal amount to test the platform’s reliability and payout structure.

Energy Consumption and Eco-friendly Mining

The Environmental Impact of Cryptocurrency Mining

Cryptocurrency mining, especially at large scales, is energy-intensive. With the constant demand for computational power to solve complex mathematical problems, large arrays of mining hardware run continuously. This consumes significant amounts of electricity, which, depending on its source, can contribute to CO2 emissions and environmental degradation. Some reports have even compared Bitcoin’s energy consumption to that of entire countries. Additionally, the production and disposal of mining equipment can also have environmental implications.

Bitcoin’s Shift Towards Renewable Energy

A recent development in the crypto mining world is the evident shift of Bitcoin mining towards renewable energy sources. As of last week, it was reported that over 50% of Bitcoin mining energy was derived from renewable sources, highlighting a crucial transition. This move towards green energy can be attributed to several significant developments:

  • China’s Mining Ban in Mid-2021: This ban led to a large exodus of miners from China, with many relocating to regions that offer abundant renewable energy resources.
  • Nations Diving into BTC Mining: Countries such as El Salvador (which also recognized Bitcoin as legal tender in 2021), Bhutan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates have embraced Bitcoin mining, partly to “monetize stranded and excess energy.”

This trend in the Bitcoin mining world has caught the attention of significant players like Elon Musk, who mentioned in 2021 that Tesla would consider accepting Bitcoin payments again when about 50% of the mining energy comes from clean sources and shows a “positive future trend.” Despite reaching this benchmark, at the time of the article, Tesla had not yet reinstated Bitcoin as a payment method.

Initiatives and Innovations for Greener Mining

In response to environmental concerns, several initiatives and innovations aim to reduce the carbon footprint of mining:

  • Renewable Energy Sources: Many mining farms have started to transition to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, or hydropower.
  • Heat Utilization: Innovations are being made to use the heat generated by mining operations, turning what was once waste into a resource. For instance, some setups divert this heat to warm buildings during colder months.
  • Energy-Efficient Hardware: Advances in hardware technology are creating more energy-efficient mining rigs, reducing electricity consumption per hash.
  • Carbon Offset Initiatives: Some mining companies invest in environmental projects to offset their carbon emissions, aiming for a net-zero carbon footprint.

Role of Consensus Mechanisms in Energy Consumption

The consensus mechanism a blockchain utilizes significantly influences its energy consumption. Proof of Work (PoW), being computationally intensive, is often criticized for its environmental impact. Alternatives like Proof of Stake (PoS) or Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) require considerably less energy, as they don’t rely on vast amounts of computational work. Ethereum’s recent transition from PoW to PoS via the Merge is a testament to the crypto community’s push for more eco-friendly consensus mechanisms.

Best Practices for Eco-friendly Mining

For miners who are environmentally conscious, here are some best practices to consider:

  • Opt for Energy-Efficient Hardware: Invest in the latest, most efficient mining rigs or ASICs to reduce energy consumption.
  • Use Renewable Energy: If feasible, power your mining operations using solar, wind, or other renewable sources.
  • Join Green Mining Pools: Support mining pools that prioritize renewable energy sources or invest in carbon offset projects.
  • Stay Updated on Innovations: The mining landscape is constantly evolving, with new eco-friendly technologies and solutions emerging. Stay informed and be prepared to adapt.

Additional Considerations

Economics of Mining

Breaking Down the Profitability

Crypto mining profitability is a critical consideration for any miner. This profitability depends on factors like the current price of the cryptocurrency, block reward, transaction fees, operational costs (like electricity), and the efficiency of the mining hardware. A volatile market can mean significant fluctuations in earnings.

Factors Affecting Mining Rewards

Several factors can influence mining rewards. Apart from block rewards and transaction fees, other considerations like mining difficulty adjustments, competition among miners, and market demand for the cryptocurrency play a role.

The Concept of “Mining Difficulty” and its Impact

Mining difficulty is a measure of how hard it is to find the next block in a blockchain. It adjusts dynamically to ensure that blocks are generated at relatively stable intervals, despite the changing computational power of the network. As more miners join and computational power increases, the difficulty rises to maintain stability, impacting the likelihood of individual miners discovering a new block.

Halvings and Their Economic Implications

Halvings are events in which the reward for mining new blocks is halved, reducing the new supply of a cryptocurrency by 50%. Implemented to control inflation and simulate scarcity, halvings have significant economic implications:

  • Purpose: Halvings aim to create a deflationary environment. By reducing the new coin supply, the goal is for demand to remain steady or rise, possibly leading to price appreciation.
  • Economic Ramifications: Historically, halvings garner attention due to potential bullish implications for cryptocurrency prices. For instance, Bitcoin experienced halvings in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Following each, Bitcoin’s price saw notable appreciation. However, other factors, like growing adoption, also affect prices.
  • Miner Implications: Halvings can challenge miners by halving potential earnings from block rewards. If the crypto’s price doesn’t rise sufficiently, some miners might exit the network. The potential security reduction is often offset by increased transaction fees and a potentially rising cryptocurrency price.

Geographical Implications

Why Certain Regions are Popular for Mining Operations

Factors such as cheap electricity, favorable climate, and supportive regulations make some regions more attractive for mining. For example, regions with cold climates can reduce cooling costs, a significant expense in mining operations

Impact of Local Regulations on Mining

Local regulations can influence the feasibility and profitability of mining. Some countries welcome miners with open arms, offering tax breaks and incentives. In contrast, others impose strict regulations or outright bans, often due to concerns about energy consumption, potential illicit activities, or financial stability.


Cryptocurrency mining, in its essence, is a testament to the innovative spirit of the digital age. As we’ve journeyed through this comprehensive overview, we’ve unearthed the nuances of mining hardware, explored the mechanics behind various consensus algorithms, and delved deep into the world of mining pools, software, and cloud-based alternatives.

The ever-evolving landscape of mining has continually adapted to technological advances, regulatory changes, and market dynamics. As reflected by the notable shift of Ethereum from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake, or the push for more sustainable, eco-friendly mining practices, this industry does not stay static.

It’s also clear that the decentralization ideal embedded in many cryptocurrencies brings along its own set of economic and geographical considerations. With the digital “gold rush” leading to mining hubs in specific global regions, the interplay between local regulations, power costs, and infrastructure becomes ever crucial.

Furthermore, as the narrative around energy consumption intensifies, the crypto community faces pivotal questions about its environmental footprint. The drive towards greener mining solutions and more energy-efficient consensus mechanisms may well shape the future trajectory of this domain.

Ultimately, as with any burgeoning industry, challenges exist side-by-side with opportunities. For those contemplating entering the mining arena, understanding its multifaceted dimensions can be the key to navigating its potential rewards and pitfalls. As for the broader community, staying informed will be essential as we collectively steer the course of this digital revolution.

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