Want to enter the Bitcoin market?

Unless you’ve been on vacation for the last month or two (which if so, good for you!), you’ve likely heard about a rapidly growing technology called Bitcoin. Bitcoin has experienced dramatic growth over the past couple of months, thought largely to be fueled by global economic instability. This theory works because if you, as someone who holds a certain country’s currency, don’t have faith in the value of your currency, you might look at converting that cash into something else. Bitcoin has become attractive because it is not controlled by any governments, and thus is not tied to the general success or failures of those governments.

What are Bitcoin, Cryptocurrencies, and Exchanges?

There are a lot of foreign concepts in the world of Bitcoin. I’m going to attempt to give you a super brief crash course. You likely don’t even need to know all of this in order to get started, but it’s not a bad idea to start trying to understand it, if you’re going to seriously invest your money into it.

Bitcoin is one of many different cryptocurrencies that exist. Cryptocurrencies are entirely digital units of value which are backed by a massively distributed ledger which records ownership and transactions. This distributed ledger is operated by miners, which include regular people like you and me, who run a small piece of software on their computer in order to help validate the blockchain. The blockchain is simply the term that refers to the distributed database running across all the different computers in the network.

This all works because of several fundamental key aspects of blockchain technology. Perhaps the most important is the immutability of past transactions. Once a transaction is recorded in the blockchain, it can never be changed. This is because every computer in the blockchain network has to validate new transactions against the blockchain, so to try to forge an older transaction, you would have to rewrite the blockchain, and also get a majority of the computers in the network to accept your new blockchain. This is an incredibly difficult thing to do with intent to change an existing transaction.

Exchanges are a common vehicle used in stock markets to trade units of stock. So, a Cryptocurrency Exchange is simply a way for you to trade cryptocurrencies! Many exist, and not all are created equal. The price you pay (or get) for a Bitcoin will be determined by the exchange you participate in.

How can I buy Bitcoin?

Buying Bitcoin has become as easy as online banking. You first need to choose a cryptocurrency exchange. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, out there. You want to select an exchange that is easy to use, has good trading volume, and is respected/trusted by the community. Trust is important when using exchanges, because at some point, they will be in control of your money. If you can’t trust them, then you’ve just signed away your fortune.

I highly recommend Coinbase for both new and old Bitcoiners, and I use it often. They’ve made it so easy to buy and sell Bitcoin that it really doesn’t feel any different from moving money around in an online savings account. Coinbase also has industry leading protections, such as FDIC Insurance on your USD Wallet equivalent to what you get with US Banks. ($250,000 insured) They also have general insurance protecting against cyber attacks, hacks, and employee theft. This is all very important, even though it’s probably the last thing you want to think about!

Click above to sign-up for a Coinbase account using my referral link and you’ll get $10 worth of BTC after you fund your account with $100 or more.

 

What about Ethereum and other altcoins?

You may have already heard about “competition” to Bitcoin by the likes of Ethereum or perhaps another cryptocurrency. These are grouped together to be known as the “altcoins” (alternative coins). Coinbase allows you to trade in Ethereum and Litecoin, in addition to Bitcoin. Each cryptocurrency has a wealth of information and community behind them, and they are not all the same. For example, Ethereum aspires to be more than a cryptocurrency. It seeks to provide a distributed platform for “smart contracts”, which are basically small software applications, that run when certain conditions are triggered. This allows for a much more flexible exchange and ownership of anything valuable, such as titles and deeds. If you want to explore other cryptocurrencies, you should do your research just like you would if you were researching a company to invest in stocks of that company.

Where is all of this going?

Bitcoin seeks to provide a viable alternative for using fiat currency. It can already be used to buy goods from thousands of merchants online and in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. It’s still in its infancy in terms of being a widely used payment mechanism, but the future looks bright with change. As more tech companies work to make the technology easier to use and more accessible, more and more people are adopting it. Each of the other cryptocurrencies seeks to fulfill some other purpose, all of which are just starting to explode now.

If you’re simply interested in the speculative nature of the Bitcoin price, you can easily find analyst opinions saying anything from Bitcoin reaching $4000 by the end of this year, to hitting rock bottom instead. Yes, it’s possible that Bitcoin and the other altcoins can lose some, or all, of their value. It’s an open, global market, just like any other. But as long as there is demand for it, the price will continue to rise.

How to get generic USB 3.1 Type-C Enclosure for M.2 SSDs to work on Windows 10

If your computer provides a USB 3.1 interface, then you have a great option for expanding the storage of your computer. Especially if you’re using a laptop, you might be interested in keeping the form factor small and tidy: that’s where M.2 SSDs come in! These are amazingly small solid-state “drives” that don’t resemble your normal 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives. Instead, they look like a weird stick of RAM with various electronic components soldered onto a raw PCB board. They are small, about 1″x3″ or even smaller. There are many options to choose from, but one of the best is the Samsung EVO 850 M.2 SSD.


 

Just make sure you select the right “key type.” The Samsung 850 is Key B+M type, which is the most versatile. Once you’ve selected the M.2 SSD of your choice, you’ll need to wrap it up in an enclosure. (Make sure your key types match up here!) On Amazon, there are a bunch of “generic” controllers going for about $20-$30… which isn’t bad, but scared me a bit when thinking about quality and how long it’ll last. I picked up the one that I’ll provide an Amazon link to below.

 

 

It’s not bad, pretty basic, and does work! But it wasn’t quite as plug-and-play as the seller on Amazon would have you believe. First of all, it comes with zero instructions or any other form of documentation. A very spartan packaging! You get a USB-C to USB-A cable, a small screw driver, screws, and the enclosure itself.

Putting it together

Unscrew the screws from the end opposite the USB-C port of the enclosure. Then tilt the enclosure so that the silicon card on the inside can slide out. It should do just that without too much trouble. Next, insert your M.2 SSD at a 30-45 degree angle into the pin slot. You may need to use a fair amount of pressure to make sure it’s seated correctly. Place the whole thing on a table, and hold down on the SSD so that it’s not angled up, and screw it in using the provided hardware. If you bought a different enclosure, there might be some differences to these procedures, but it should be very similar. Slide the silicon card with SSD installed back into the enclosure and seal it up!

Attaching to your Windows 10 computer

Make sure you know which ports have what features on your computer! It’s very likely that you have a mixed bag of USB ports: some which offer older USB 2 and some which offer newer USB 3. What makes it even better is that USB 3 is actually broken up into three specifications: USB 3.0, USB 3.1 Gen 1, USB 3.1 Gen 2. In that order, is what you’ll get the best speed from. USB 3.1 Gen 2 offers speeds up to 10 Gbps!

Once you plug in the device, you might be disappointed that nothing happens. Don’t fret! Confirm that you at least heard the Windows device attached sound. You can also check to see if the device at least shows up in the USB eject menu.

 

Make sure the driver is up-to-date first by going into the Device Manager, right clicking on the device entry, then clicking “update driver”. Let Windows do it automatically, unless you feel the need to go on the web to search for a driver. For me, the automatic method was enough.

 

 

Restart your computer after the driver install has finished.

Now that the drivers are up-to-date, we need to format the SSD into a drive that Windows will recognize. You do this via the Partition Manager. Press the Windows key on your computer and enter “partition” into the search box. Then click on “Create and format hard disk partitions” to open the window.

 

 

In the window that appears, you’ll need to identify which disk represents your new SSD. It likely does NOT have a drive letter assigned to it, so that can help you identify which one it is. Confirm the size roughly matches what you’d expect. Don’t worry if it’s not exact, it just needs to be close. (e.g. a 256 GB drive might show up as having 232 GB available.)

 

Once you’ve found the disk, take a close look at the partitions that are already there (if any). You may not have any, and if that’s the case, you can just skip this paragraph. If there are existing partitions, you’ll need to delete them first, then create a new NTFS partition that can be used like a regular drive. If you see a partition like EFI System Partition like I have in my screenshot, it doesn’t appear there is an easy way to remove this. Just leave it there and move on. To perform any operation (delete, create, etc.) on an individual partition, simply right-click on it.

Last step is to create that NTFS partition! In the wizard for that, it should give you the option to assigned a drive letter to the new partition. Go ahead and do so. Once you’ve finished that, you should be all step to go! You’re new (blazing fast) external SSD is ready to go.

Other troubles

  • Device does not connect to computer, no attach sound is heard, and nothing appears in the USB eject menu
    • Check your cable, it might be broken or defective. The cable they sent me actually was! I ended up replacing it and everything was fine.