When first getting started in mining you want to use the operating system and mining software that will provide the best results. Fortunately for a new miner, the answer to this question is quite clear based on the GPU platform you are mining with. CPU mining is even easier because the OS doesn’t matter.
You can use Windows or Linux for CPU mining. The key is that you have a CPU that is can produce a good hash rate. As a rule of thumb, an Intel i7 with a decent amount of cache will produce between 200 and 300 kh / sec. You can choose to mine a coin like Monero that uses the Cryptonight algorithm or you can connect to Nicehash and generate Bitcoin directly. The best cpu mining software is xmr-cpu-stak. You can download it and edit the config file to point to Nicehash with your Bitcoin wallet. Once you are up and running, you will be paid in Bitcoin. Below are links to Nicehash and xmr-cpu-stak.
GPU Mining — Nvidia
Nvidia mining works great on both Windows and Linux. The Equihash algorithm is the most profitable to mine. If you know Linux or are willing to follow some specific online instruction you can get started for free or for a low cost. One low-cost mining platform is called, Pimp, the portable instant mining platform. The great thing about Pimp is that you download an image, write it to a small SSD drive, and you are have everything you need to get started right away. If you already have Windows installed, you can overclock your GPU for best performance and install some mining software. You can use Nicehash if you want to go the super easy route or download specific mining software. Below are links to Pimp and Nvidia Equihash mining software.
GPU Mining — AMD
Mining with AMD GPUs like the RX 480 is most easily done on a Windows machine. This is because there is no easy way to tweak the CPU voltage and clock settings under Linux. If you Google this you will find people who claim they do it or offer to sell software to do it for tons of money, but if you use Windows, you can do it for free. The key to best performance with an AMD GPU is to use the recently released blockchain driver. This driver is only available on Windows. The only tricky part of using Windows is that you need to use the Pixel Patcher to sign the driver or your or Windows will give you a Code 43 error, which is really frustrating. The most profitable mining software for AMD is the Claymore Dual Miner, which allows you to mine Ethereum and Decred at the same time. Below are links for the AMD Blockchain Driver, Pixel Patcher, and the most recent Claymore Dual Miner.
AMD Blockchain Driver — This driver increases performance by 10% – 20%
Pixel Patcher — Run this after you install the AMD Blockchain Driver and before you reboot
Claymore Dual Miner — Mine Ethereum and Decred (or others) at the same time.