Supporting the Bitcoin network can be done in many ways, even if you’re not a coder. Running a full network node, for example, is a great way to support the network and provide extra security. Although this task may seem daunting at first, that really isn’t the case.
What is a Bitcoin Full Node?
Unlike having a Bitcoin wallet running in the background, a full node is a very different approach. These programs help validate network transactions and blocks.
Information is exchanged with other nodes on the network, both for validating transactions and blocks alike. All of this information is then relayed to other network peers, effectively helping secure Bitcoin’s network.
Most people will be familiar with how Bitcoin’s blockchain is gotten. It is, at the time of writing, roughly 279 GB in size. Storing that information, as a full node, requires a hard disk with ample capacity to accommodate an even bigger blockchain in the future.
Thankfully, hard drives with terabytes of storage have become a lot cheaper to obtain, thus this should not be a limiting factor.
If you have spare computing and bandwidth resources at your disposal, setting up a Bitcoin Full node can be worthwhile. It is not something that will generate money on your behalf.
There are no incentives for running this node, even though it provides crucial services to the network at all times. Exploring this option is done voluntarily and out of love for Bitcoin as a project.
Accounting for Costs and Requirements
Even if one has the necessary hardware to build a device capable of running a Bitcoin Full node, there are still some costs to take into account.
As information is transmitted and broadcasted regularly, it can slow down slower internet connections even further. There are also electricity costs associated with running the necessary hardware.
Using proper hardware is crucial for a Bitcoin Full Node. The current requirements are:
- Desktop or laptop hardware running recent versions of Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux.
- 350+ gigabytes of free disk space, accessible at a minimum read/write speed of 100 MB/s.
- At least 2 gigabytes of memory (RAM)
- A Broadband Internet connection with upload speeds of at least 400 kilobits (50 kilobytes) per second
- An unmetered connection, a connection with high upload limits, or a connection you regularly monitor to ensure it doesn’t exceed its upload limits. It’s common for full nodes on high-speed connections to use 200 gigabytes upload or more a month.
- 6 hours a day that your full node can be left running. More hours would be better, and best of all would be if you can run your node continuously.
- Patience: the initial block download will take quite a while. Synchronizing with the entire network is a process that takes anywhere from several hours up to multiple days, depending on the internet connection and hardware used. Simply let everything run while the process is ongoing. Pausing this process is ill-advised.
Is it Legal to run?
Surprisingly, this answer may be more difficult to answer than one might think. Running a Bitcoin Full node is legal in most countries, bar some exceptions.
Countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Bolivia, and Ecuador have either restricted this model or issued strong warnings against doing so. Checking with one’s local government may be advised before going all-in.
Internet service providers in certain regions may also frown upon this business model. Users creating a spike in upload bandwidth will often be closely monitored.
It is not impossible to see one’s service terminated altogether, depending on the ISP and where one lives.
Keeping tabs on upload limitations is always crucial, as a node will use up bandwidth over time.
For detailed installation instructions depending on one’s operating system, check out this guide.
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