Bitcoin Node Options

Why do you need to run a node?

The reasons you need to run a node vary:

  • You want to verify your own transactions in a self-sovereign way.
  • You want to coinjoin in a self-sovereign way.
  • You want to spend via the Lightning network.
  • You want to run a Lightning routing node, meaning you want to earn fees for helping others transact.
  • You want to run BTCPay Server.

It could be any of those things, or all of them. Depending on how much you need to do with your Bitcoin Node, there has never been more options out there.

Types of Bitcoin Nodes

There are a few different ways to run a node.

Run Bitcoin core on your PC or Laptop

This is a simple and effective way to run your own software capable of verifying Bitcoin transactions in a self sovereign way. Paired with Sparrow Wallet, or Spectre, it’s a great setup for the minimalist node runner. The initial setup takes some time because you need to download the timechain history, but it’s as simple as downloading Bitcoin core and picking a software wallet to pair it with (I recommend Sparrow Wallet.) You will have to dig in a little on how to pair the wallet, but Sparrow does a good job of describing how to do that. No command line stuff at all.

Run a pre-built Bitcoin Node Stack on a Raspberry Pi

There are a growing number of pre-built Bitcoin node stacks that run not only Bitcoin Core, but also have several other app offerings. They all offer both a software download that you can install on your Raspberry Pi, and they also offer to ship you a Raspberry Pi prebuilt and pre-loaded with their software.

If you are going to use any of these in DIY fashion you will need to buy a Raspberry Pi 4. Best bet is to get an 8gb version or better. Currently prices are a little crazy for these computers, and that could be temporary due to supply chain stuff, I don’t know the answer to that.

Here is a list of the pre-built Bitcoin Node stacks that I know about:

  • MyNode – Easy install. Flash an SD card and put that into your Rasperry Pi. $99 for “premium” apps, which includes being able to run tor, btcpay server, and mempool. They also offer software for an AMD64 computer as well.
  • GetUmbrel – This is likely the easiest and most commonly run software for those doing DIY Bitcoin node stacks on a Raspberry Pi. As easy to install as MyNode with just a flashed SD card, but it includes apps that MyNode charges for. Also, the interface is easy to navigate and many would say it’s the easiest on the eyes. Like MyNode, they also offer software to install on an AMD64 computer.
  • RoninDojo – Also installs with a flashed SD card, but a little more involved throughout the install process. RoninDojo does not offer Lightning and I would not bet on them adding it anytime soon. This install is command-line heavy. The RoninDojo stack is primarily built to be paired with your Android device in order to run Samourai Wallet in a self sovereign way. Coinjoin to your hearts content without every sharing your xpub.
  • RaspiBlitz – Installs with a flashed SD card also, but like Ronindojo, the setup is a little more involved and is heavy on command line.
  • Start9 – I have never setup a Start9 node and so I don’t have much to share here. My understanding is that it is not primarily a Bitcoin node as it offers applications for those looking to break away from depending on cloud based services, such as password managers, and photo backup services.

There is also the pre-built Nodl One that will set you back $529 and does not offer a software download.

Build your own Bitcoin Node Stack!

As I have previously shared, Ketan’s nodebox guide is a way to run your own Bitcoin node stack on a dedicated AMD64 machine in a self sovereign way that will not have you depending on any other company in order for you to run the software you want to run. Run all of the apps, or just run a few of them, it’s up to you. This is all done in command line.

You can do this on a computer you already have, this setup will work on any AMD64 computer, I would just recommend that the storage be SSD vs. HDD. You could also buy an older computer, upgrade the storage drive, and be on your way. Currently a Dell 9020 micro paired with a 1tb Samsung Evo will set you back around $250, which is about what a Raspberry Pi sells for on Amazon right now if you count the SSD you need with it, power supply, case, etc.

By building your own node stack with software you install and improved hardware over the single-board Raspberry Pi, you have the flexibility of running as much or as little of the software you want, depending on your scenario. You also have the benefit of having a more dependable and upgradable computer running that software.

There is also the added benefit of being able to run a public-facing instance of BTCPay Server, which is not an option on any of the pre-built Bitcoin Node stacks mentioned above. The Raspi Blitz does give you the option of interacting with a third party, paid service that will allow you to have BTCPay Server public facing, but then you run into the problem of having a single board computer dealing with incoming traffic from the internet… and the monthly fee.

The flip side to building your own self sovereign, powerful Bitcoin Node stack is that it is not easy. It took me 4 sessions, of about 3 hours long each in order to complete Ketan’s instructions from his youtube series. In my case it was my first time “living” in command line, although I should note that I have used command line some in the past. If you are more comfortable with command line you should be able to install much faster. If you have no experience with command line, it does take a little practice to get comfortable with it.

Paying for Bitcoin Node Hosting on an External Server

There are a few services out there that offer hosting a Bitcoin Node stack for you. You would not have physical control of the computer, these services have the computers at their facility. Because of that you would not have to deal with maintaining the machines.

Baseline prices for running Bitcoin, BTCpayServer, and Lightning from a hosted company:

  • Voltage.cloud – Starts at $8.64 a month ($103.68 per year)
  • LunaNode.com – Starts at $8.80 a month ($105.60 per year)

Trade-offs:

  • Easy setup. You don’t need to have much in the way of technical skills, especially with Voltage. Lunanode does require a little more effort.
  • Both should provide solid up-time and dependability
  • Lunanode let’s you pay in Bitcoin. Match that with a domain name that you setup with Namecheap and pay in Bitcoin with and you would have a setup that would let you be anonymous if you do it right. You could earn non-kyc Bitcoin with no real way to identify you.

Conclusion

I am a little biased here but I really think if you are looking to route lightning payments, or run a public facing instance of BTCPay Server, there is no doubt that you should be looking to upgrade your node to something other than a Raspberry Pi. They are too expensive right now, and they are not powerful and dependable enough for serious work.

Even if you are just looking to run a dedicated node at home, a Raspberry Pi is too expensive compared to used capable machines out there. I think it is worth it to run an upgraded node and avoid the inferior Raspberry Pi computers.

If you already have your node setup and you don’t need more out of it, then you should be fine for now. Just keep in mind you may need a node upgrade in the future.