A novice should opt for one of the various open platforms created and maintained by members of the Bitcoin community, some of which include dedicated hardware, while others are software-based. Below is a select list of such distributions:
Each of these solutions has an easy-to-follow setup process and may offer additional functionality, including BTCPayServer, Electrum, and the ability to use Bitcoin layer-2 protocols like Lightning and Liquid—giving you a powerful, easy-to-administer node.
More advanced users may want to rely on something other than third-party distributions for their node software. They can choose from several implementations of Bitcoin software, including Bitcoin Core, Libbitcoin, and Bitcoin Knots. We will use Bitcoin Core (Bitcoin's official open-source software client) as an example to outline the setup process:
- Go to bitcoincore.org and find the version that you want to install.
- Download the Bitcoin archive that fits your computer architecture.
- Download the SHA256 hashes and hash signatures files and compare them with the downloaded archive. There are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to do this right where the download files are. If you follow them, you will not fail.
- Unpack the archive and install the software. The exact process depends on your computer architecture and OS, but this, too, is explained very well on the download website.
- Configure your Bitcoin node software to your liking. A configuration file generator hosted here makes it very easy to customize your configuration.
- Start (or restart) the Bitcoin daemon and wait until the initial block download (IBD) is finished. This takes hours or days, depending on your computer and internet connection. Progress is shown on the Bitcoin GUI, so you will know when it is complete.
Alternatively, a more advanced user could clone the software repository directly on github.com/bitcoin and compile the software. However, we trust such advanced users do not need this explained (via this blog) and can figure out the details on their own. Hence, we will refrain from going into further detail here.