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Bitcoin Operating Systems: Your Options and How to Choose One

In this article, we will discuss what factors you should consider when selecting your Bitcoin Operating System, as well as some trade-offs you might encounter. We'll have a look at MyNode, RaspiBlitz, and UmbrelOS.
Bitcoin Operating Systems: Your Options and How to Choose One
Photo by Jainath Ponnala / Unsplash

What is a Bitcoin node?

A Bitcoin node is a computer that is running the Bitcoin Core software and participating in the Bitcoin network.

Bitcoin nodes are one of three types. They can be a full node, a pruned node, or a lightweight node.

Full nodes are the most common type of bitcoin node. They store all transactions and blocks, validate all transactions and blocks, and relay all information to other nodes on the bitcoin network. The disadvantage to full nodes is that they require more storage space and bandwidth than other types of bitcoin node operating systems.

Pruned nodes are less common because they don't store any block data or transaction data other than what is needed for validation.

Lightweight nodes don't store any data at all - they connect to full nodes to get information about transactions and blocks that have occurred since their last synchronization with the network.

What is a Lightning Network node?

A Lightning node is a local point of presence on the Lightning Network. It is the equivalent of a node on the Bitcoin network.

"Lightning Network node" refers to any computer that has installed and is running one of the Lightning Network implementations.

While a Bitcoin node validates every transaction, Lightning nodes only validate transactions in which they’re directly involved.

The most commonly used implementations are the software programs Core Lightning, LND, eclair, and rust-lightning. The respective implementations differ in their range of functions, their performance, the programming language, and individual software products created for the implementation.

Lightning nodes are essentially the 'processors' of the Lightning Network and store a copy of its global state. This means that their users can send and receive payments without needing to trust centralized processors.

How much does it cost to run a Bitcoin Operating System?

As bitcoin continues to grow in popularity, the number of nodes on the network has also grown. This has led to a debate on how much running a full node costs. The answer is not as straightforward as it may seem.

The hardware requirements for running a full bitcoin node are significant and vary depending on what is being used to host the node. If you are using a VPS hosting service, then you will need more bandwidth and storage space than if you are using Raspberry Pi for example.

For most users a Raspberry Pi Model B with 4GB of RAM is sufficient. Usually, all the hardware components will cost you around $250 USD.

We will use a Raspberry Pi setup for future guides.

What are the different types of Bitcoin Node Operating Systems?

The term Bitcoin Node Operating System describes the core components of the system and saves users the manual composition of individual software components.

It provides all the software necessary to get anyone into Bitcoin and Lightning. At the same time, the standalone commissioning of a full-fledged node enables full control over the managed funds on both the Blockchain and the Lightning network.

All three software systems listed below are developed according to open-source principles.


The web interface of MyNode.

MyNode is a project created in 2019 and is developed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license published on GitHub.

According to its own statements, the project aims to provide the integration of third-party application software for Bitcoin and Lightning in a simple way through its own developed user interface. MyNode offers management and monitoring software for the Bitcoin Operating System as a community edition for this purpose.

Apart from the Raspberry Pi 4, it also supports the RockPro64, Rock64, or virtual machines for use away from dedicated hardware. In addition to the free version, myNode Premium offers its own support for $99 USD, and a myNode 1 device is offered as a prefabricated hardware device for $429 USD.


The web interface of RaspiBlitz.

RaspiBlitz was launched in 2018 by Berlin-based Fulmo GmbH and has been actively maintained and developed since then.

The project is under the MIT license. Fulmo is both the provider and developer of the software stack and specializes in consulting in the Bitcoin lightning ecosystem. Similar to myNode, RaspiBlitz offers a fully functional Bitcoin Operating System, which is optionally run with Core Lightning or with the LND implementation.

In contrast to myNode, the administration of a RaspiBlitz node is mostly done via the command line and not via a local web interface. However, a web interface was recently introduced, so managing the device is becoming much easier.

Besides the free open source full node architecture, there is also the option to purchase a dedicated hardware device starting at $289 USD.

Our Favorite: Umbrel OS

UmbrelOS is the easiest and most intuitive Bitcoin Operating System to set up. The Umbrel project has a thriving community and numerous contributors to its native app store ecosystem.

The Umbrel project was launched in early 2020 and, like the two previously mentioned systems, represents a full Bitcoin and Lightning node. UmbrelOS is described by its developers as a personal server OS, meaning a node operating system that supports other applications besides Bitcoin Lightning, mostly on a peer-to-peer basis.

UmbrelOS is available under the PolyForm Noncommercial License 1.0.0.

Furthermore, pre-built nodes are also offered via the official website of the project in cooperation with hardware manufacturers.

According to the developers, more than 13,000 UmbrelOS server systems are already active on the Lightning network, making the project the most popular Bitcoin OS.

Why would you choose one over the other?

Umbrel is a perfect choice for beginners and those who want to get started with Bitcoin Lightning.

Umbrel is the most user-friendly and intuitive Bitcoin Operating System that simplifies the process of being financially sovereign. Umbrel does not require any prior knowledge of Bitcoin or Linux skills. It has an easy-to-use interface, which provides you with all the necessary tools to become a Bitcoin and Lightning Node operator within minutes.

Raspiblitz is more suitable for experienced users who are looking for a more advanced operating system with more features and customization options. Raspiblitz has a greater number of integrations, so it can help you ideate faster like integrating personal software tools.

MyNode places itself between RaspiBlitz and Umbrel. It is neither particularly user-friendly nor particularly open for configurations. Moreover, the high price for the premium features - which are free of charge in both other systems - reduces the incentive to run a MyNode system.

Choosing the right Bitcoin Operating System

Bitcoiners run full nodes to make the network more robust. The more full nodes that are used to verify transactions, the more decentralized and resistant the network becomes.

The minimal hardware requirements for your personal Bitcoin OS illustrate the extremely adaptable nature of the payment and transaction network. Running your own Bitcoin OS is the most effective way to support Bitcoin's ethos of decentralization.

Choosing the right Bitcoin operating system depends on various factors, such as your needs and technical skills. In our opinion, Raspiblitz is more for tech-savvy users, while Umbrel is for non-technical people.

Nonetheless, both operating systems empower you to become a fist class bitcoin citizen.

This post is part of our new series of articles on lightning technology and its practical applications. It's a new paradigm for the way we pay, communicate, and exchange value over the internet.

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