How to Run a Bitcoin Node

5 min read

What Is a Bitcoin Node

A Bitcoin node is software that interacts with the Bitcoin network. The Bitcoin network is composed of nodes who communicate with one another, keep the blockchain up to date, and enforce the rules of the network.

Learn more about why you should run a Bitcoin node.

How to Run a Bitcoin Node

As with all software, Bitcoin software must be run on physical hardware, a computer. When you set up your Bitcoin node, you will need to choose the hardware and the software with which to run your node.

Bitcoin Node Software

The vast majority of Bitcoin nodes use Bitcoin Core, the reference implementation of Bitcoin. Several other high-quality implementations do exist, but unless you are experimenting to learn about Bitcoin in technical detail, you probably want to use Bitcoin Core.

Learn more about Bitcoin implementations.

Uptime and Bitcoin Nodes

If possible, a Bitcoin node should always be online and maintain connections with peers. This will keep your node in sync with the rest of the network and ensure that you can always query your balances.

To allow a Bitcoin node to remain online at all times, many Bitcoin users dedicate a device solely to operating their Bitcoin node. This offers an additional security benefit if you are also storing funds in your node’s wallet or you are operating a Lightning node. However, the simplest way to run a Bitcoin node is to run it on a desktop or laptop computer.

Desktop Bitcoin Nodes

Several software packages allow you to easily download and install a Bitcoin node on your computer and run it in the background.

  • Bitcoin Core. As the reference implementation of Bitcoin, Bitcoin Core software is widely used and well-tested. Bitcoin Core offers two software packages: Bitcoin-Qt comes with a visual app (GUI), while bitcoind is command line only. You can download either version from . Bitcoin Core comes with a wallet included in the software.
  • Wasabi Wallet. Wasabi Wallet is a Bitcoin wallet that comes with the ability to run a node. Wasabi runs Bitcoin Knots, an alternative node implementation. While Bitcoin Knots and Bitcoin Core are different software, they are interoperable, meaning Bitcoin Knots nodes and Core nodes communicate and form a single network seamlessly.

Bitcoin Nodes on Dedicated Hardware

In order to maximize uptime, privacy, and security, many Bitcoin users choose to use dedicated hardware to run their Bitcoin node. The requirements for a dedicated hardware Bitcoin node are fairly cheap and easily accessible:

  • A computer. Since this computer is meant for one task, it can be low-cost and simple. One of the most popular devices for Bitcoin nodes is the Raspberry Pi, a small computer, about the size of a human hand. A Raspberry Pi has enough processing power to operate a Bitcoin node and only costs about $50.
  • Storage. You will need an external drive to have enough memory to store the entire blockchain. Solid State Drives (SSD) are faster and more durable but more expensive, than Hard Disk Drives (HDD). Currently, the blockchain takes up roughly 380 GB of space, but this will grow over time, so a 512 GB or 1 TB drive should be sufficient, and usually cost between $60 and $100 depending on size and quality.
Warning: To operate a Raspberry Pi, you need an microSD card in addition to external storage. Some Raspberry Pi vendors sell the Pi with SD cards included.
To operate a Raspberry Pi, you need an microSD card in addition to external storage. Some Raspberry Pi vendors sell the Pi with SD cards included.

Running a Bitcoin Node Is Easy

Many projects exist to help users run a Bitcoin node on small, affordable hardware. These companies release software packages which will help you install a Bitcoin node without any technical knowledge. Most of these packages offer additional features, such as block explorers or wallets, built into the software as well. With these services, setting up a Bitcoin node is straightforward.

  • myNode. MyNode offers free, open source software which allows users to easily install Bitcoin Core, Lightning, and many other Bitcoin applications, including Samourai Whirlpool and BTCPayServer. You can install myNode software on your Raspberry Pi or buy a fully set-up Pi and external hard drive directly from myNode.
  • Umbrel. Umbrel also releases open source software, enabling users to easily launch a Bitcoin and Lightning Node. Umbrel also comes with a Bitcoin app store, allowing users to install other Bitcoin applications to bolster their privacy and security. Umbrel protects user privacy by using the Tor Network for all traffic.
  • Nodl. The Nodl offers similar features as Umbrel and myNode, allowing users to run Bitcoin and Lightning Nodes with minimal technical knowledge.
Notice: River does not provide investment, financial, tax, or legal advice. The information provided is general and illustrative in nature and therefore is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax advice. We encourage you to consult the appropriate tax professional to understand your personal tax circumstances.

Key Takeaways

  • A Bitcoin node is software that interacts with the Bitcoin network.
  • Running a Bitcoin node allows you to query your Bitcoin balance and interact with the Bitcoin network without trusting third parties.
  • Many services offer software and hardware to make running a Bitcoin node as easy as possible.
  • Many Bitcoin node packages also come with the ability to run a Lightning node.