Bitcoin and other digital currencies are purely theoretical. Nothing exists, no paper money, no coins, no accounts, nothing. Everything is controlled by ledgers. Those ledgers are maintained by the companies that run the currency. To protect the currency, every transaction is encrypted and as you know, encryption is very resource intensive.
To help the system work, the processing of ledgers and transactions is farmed out to other machines, such as your PC to process. Your CPU will be given an encrypted transaction to process and the tools with which to do it. Your processor completes the calculation and sends the result to the central ledger. In consensual cryptocurrency mining, you are then paid a fixed amount per transaction. You can run these transactions persistently to mine cryptocurrency.
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