It's pretty expensive to buy Bitcoin, but it's hard to deny the cryptocurrency is growing in popularity.
While it's not exactly the safest investment, with some security fears and lots of price fluctuations, the digital medium of exchange represents a cheap and fast alternative to expensive bank transfers.
So while it's hard to get your hands on a bitcoin for a decent price, you can look at joining a mining pool instead.
Mining works by solving a series of increasingly difficult maths equations, and each one solved triggers the release of a new block of bitcoins, some of which the miners get as a reward.
However, each time an equation is solved, the next is a little tougher, meaning more processing power is required to solve it.
That means people have created mining pools, where people pit their processing power together to tackle the equations - and split the profits accordingly.
But what software should you run as a miner? A lot of the programmes out there are pretty complicated and a pain to set up. Here's our favourite five that should see you right.
This one's really easy. Just download the programme from this link, install it then get it running. Then simply add your details from your mining pool and you're ready to go.
It works with most graphics cards, supporting both ATI and NVIDIA graphics processing units, as well as your basic computer processor mining.
This mining programme boasts remote interface capabilities, meaning you don't have to be in the same location as your mining hardware to control it, instead simply doing it over the web or via your phone. In fact, BFGMiner is a really useful tool, allowing you to configure and control your cooling fans and more.
BitMinter isn't like most mining software, as it actually belongs to a mining pool (BitMinter, of course) already, meaning you have to join the pool before using the software. The obvious downside to this is it ties you to one group of miners, which is not ideal.
However, it's compatible with Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems and offers you a decent speed of mining.
Often Mac users' programme of choice, Asteroid mines Bitcoin and Litecoin and its backend is based on cgminer, the mining engine that enables fan control, monitoring and remote access, meaning you can check on (and control) your miner from your phone.
It keeps the passwords you need for access to your pool secure in the Mac OS Keychain feature, and even comes pre-configured with settings and stat pages for the most popular mining pools.
The best thing about Diablo is that it supports unlimited pools alongside one another, switching from one to another each time there's a connection failure, and returning to the first one every hour.
This is a Java-compatible miner and allows users to mine coins faster than normal because it uses the OpenCL framework, which allows programmers to write code that works across a wide range of mining hardware, and when paired with a GPU, the mining rate has a far higher potential than a normal computer processor.
These will be obvious to the well-informed among you, but just in case you don't know, here's a few tips as you embark on mining.
Make sure you have a Bitcoin wallet to store any coins you mine. These just store strings of letters and digits, which are your own personal key to your bitcoins.
Just as if you lose your real wallet you lose the cash it contained, if you misplace your virtual wallet you lose the keys to your bitcoins, too, meaning you lose your money.
Another thing: Bitcoin's value fluctuates wildly, and that means that without quickly exchanging your bitcoins into another currency, they could plummet in their worth - or fly up in value. It's up to you; there's plenty of exchanges out there that will swap your money but at the sdame time, unless people start using Bitcoin as a medium of exchange, as opposed to a store of value, it will struggle to act as more than a particularly capricious share on the stock market.
Lastly, beware of mining pool monopolies: if any reach a majority share of the mining, oversights in the Bitcoin code grant them certain privilges they can use to game the system. This 51% margin was briefly breached this year, and it may only be a matter of time before it happens again.
Established in 1957, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, promotes wider social and economic progress through the advancement of information...