Which computer should I buy for my Bitcoin node?

What I recommend for hardware

I usually recommend dell computers to most people be it a laptop for everday use, or for running a dedicated Bitcoin node. Not the dell computers you can find at Best Buy, but the type of computer Dell manufactures for Enterprises that buy them in bulk for their employees to use. Why?

  • These computers are built for function over form.
  • Dell offers these companies support for a certain number of years for free.
  • In order to be able to offer this free support, dell has to make the machines easy to repair, and also well made enough that they don’t have to do constant repairs. They are incentivized to make the computers long lasting, but not to make them pretty.
  • Because they sell so many of these computers, parts are easy to find. And because they are made to easily be repaired, they are easy to fix yourself when problems arise.
  • Because they sell so many, you can find these computers online for much cheaper than other manufacturers computers with similar specifications.

All of this means that if you go to ebay, or similar sites, looking for a dell computer that is manufactured for enterprise use, you are very likely to find lightly used computers with newer hardware for a much lower price than what you will find for sale to general retail, say at best buy or something.

The above can be true at times for HP hardware, and Lenovo hardware, just not to the same scale as Dell computers.

Here is an example of an ebay listing for a Dell Latitude 5420 (not the e5420.) Someone had 47 of these they were able to list on ebay. They have modern components, including a processor generation that is only a year or so old. A generous 16gb of RAM and a 256gb SSD (NVMe.) All of that for less than $300, including shipping.

There are many deals like the one noted above for someone looking to upgrade an older laptop, or just jump in to their first laptop. The issue some would have with this hardware is that, since it’s targeted to enterprises these computers are not made to look great and they aren’t made to be lightweight. Also, they are usually made out of plastic instead of metal. They generally have larger and louder fans then what laptops made for retail are equipped with. And since they are made to be repairable, they are thicker then modern laptops targeted to retail. Unlike the really thin laptops, these have replaceable RAM and SSDs, which makes the laptop thicker. These are trade-offs that you need to decide whether or not are worth the lower prices. Personally I prefer replaceable parts and a computer that I can work on, but again, that’s a preference thing.

Recommended Hardware for a Dedicated Bitcoin Node Running 24/7

As noted in the past, I really appreciate the Dell Micro line of desktops for use as a dedicated Bitcoin node. The newer models can be close to $1k, even used. But you can pick up a model that is only a few years old for a much better price, just be sure the one you find has a power cord, as many are listed without the dell proprietary power supply included. You can mitigate that by searching for a Dell Micro computer that is refurbished. These often come with a warranty, and the power supply. See example below:

The PC shown here is a few years old. Also, if you would want to run a full node, rather than a pruned node, you would need to pick up an SSD of at least 1tb, maybe even go straight to the 2tb option (around $99.) These are tradeoffs, but let’s talk about the alternatives for running a dedicated node.

The raspberry pi has been a staple amongst bitcoiners for running a dedicated full node, especially with the advent of pre-built node software like Umbrel, Start9, MyNode, etc. The tradeoff has been an underpowered machine, which is not a huge problem if all you are doing is verifying your own transactions and maybe running a few lightning channels. You can still run into issues with using the right power supply, overheating, etc., but really if you are keeping it simple then a raspberry pi 4 is capable enough for simple work, which is why bitcoin is great – it’s not that hard to run. All of that is fine if the price is good. Originally a raspberry pi would cost you around $35 for the board. Then you buy a case, a power supply, a memory card, heatsinks / fans… All of that can add up for sure.

I would much rather run a computer that is as cheap, or cheaper, that is also more capable, especially when doing more than just confirming Bitcoin transactions. Below are a few different applications that you can take advantage of when running a full node:

  • Electrum server – for verifying your bitcoin transactions
  • Mempool – a visualizer for your mempool
  • Dojo – allows you to coinjoin with whirlpool without sharing your xpub
  • Lightning – run your own lightning node via LND or other lightning protocol
  • BTCPay server – accept bitcoin payments

These are just a few examples of apps that run on top of bitcoin that can take computing power in order to run properly. While it is reasonable to run these apps on a single board computer, doing so for an extended period of time, or under duress, can cause reliability issues. Sometimes something as simple as an OEM power supply failing to supply enough power to the single board computer can cause problems with up-time. Combine the above with the rising cost of single board computers, due in part to supply chain constraints, and it increasingly makes more sense to pick up a refurbished desktop-class computer instead. Especially when you can find ones that take up about the same amount of space!