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Stephen Meriwether

April 13, 2021

Chia fundamentals and plotting Chia in parallel

What is Chia?

Skip this if you already know what Chia is

Chia is a new cryptocurrency based on “proofs of space and time”. It differs from “proofs of work” crypto (like Bitcoin) in the amount of energy it takes to validate transactions on the blockchain. With Chia, the energy-intensive work is done up-front to create “plots”. Those plots are used to do the much-less-energy-intensive work of validating transactions, called “farming”. Create plots once, and farm them forever.

Plotting fundamentals

Skip this if you already understand how plotting works

Chia is based on “proofs of space and time”, which practically means that you run a computationally-expensive program that can take 6-12 hours to complete that creates a ~100GB file on your hard drive called a “plot”. The Chia blockchain uses plots to “farm”. The more plots you have, the better chance you have at being rewarded Chia coins.

The total size of the Chia network is the combination of all plots connected to the network. As of this writing, there’s about 310PiB of plots connected to the network. Crucially, your probability of being rewarded Chia is proportional to the amount of plots you contribute - the person with the most plots doesn’t “win” all the Chia. Contributing only a single plot is enough to win Chia.

Since having more plots increases your odds of winning, many focus on creating as many plots as possible, as fast as possible. There are 3 constraints to this:

Very little can be done to speed up the creation of a single plot. Using SSDs instead of HDDs can reduce the time it takes to create a plot from ~12 hours to ~6 hours. There’s not much you can do to get it faster than that. Given that, many people create multiple plots in parallel. Creating a single plot takes ~350GB of hard drive space* and consumes ~4GB of RAM. Creating 2 plots in parallel takes ~700GB of hard drive space and consumes ~8GB of RAM, you get the picture. To create plots in parallel you need the available hard drive space and the available RAM.

Plotting in parallel

Plotting Chia can be done via the Chia Desktop app, but the Desktop app isn’t great to use when plotting in parallel. The alternative is to use the Chai CLI, a command-line utility that you’ll run in your computer’s terminal.

On a Mac:

This assumes you’ve already installed Chia

  1. Open the Terminal app and type
  2. chia plots create -t {plotting-folder} -d {final-folder}
  3. Open a new tab (⌘-T) and do it again
  4. chia plots create -t {plotting-folder} -d {final-folder}
  5. Profit! You’re now creating 2 plots in parallel!

When creating a plot, Chia will need a folder to create the plot and a different folder to store the plot. To make the best use of your hardware, the “plotting folder” should be on a faster hard drive (like an SSD) and the “final folder” should be on your largest hard drive (typically a HDD, faster hard drives provide no value after the initial plotting step).

My setup

My plotting setup is pretty simple. I use a laptop with an SSD to create plots and an external hard drive to store plots. My laptop has a 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM, which means I can create 2 plots in parallel (I’m hard drive-space constrained). My external hard drive has 10TB of space, so it can hold ~100 plots. When I run the CLI command, it looks like this:

Set it and forget it

The one difference from the command I run to the command in “Plotting in parallel” is the addition of:

-n 5 

This “flag” tells Chia to create 5 plots in sequence; when one finishes, start another, 5 times. For my computer, each plot takes ~8 hours to complete which means I only have to check it about every other day.

I’m able to create ~6 plots a day, on a spare computer, with very little hands-on time.

Happy plotting! If you’d like to hear more from me you can subscribe below, follow me on Twitter, o