Helium Hotspot troubleshooting guide

I have been in the Helium Mining game for a while now and it just starting to get interesting. At the time of writing, there are over 490,000 hotspots and the network is expanding fast.

The problem is with such a fast-growing network sometimes issues happen and the average user doesn’t know you to fix or troubleshoot it. As an Electrician, it is interesting to pull apart these black boxes to see why they go offline.

Helium Miners are a plug-and-forget device but lately, there are more people having to dive into their devices to see why they have gone offline or have a drop in earnings.

In this post, I will show you how to troubleshoot your helium miner to get it back online fast earning HNT. I will be showing examples using images from my Sensecap helium miners but it should apply to most other brands of miners as well.

Why is my Helium miner offline?

Why is my Helium miner offline?

There are a huge number of reasons why your Helium miners could be offline or have low earnings such as:

  • No power to the hotspot.
  • Internet is down.
  • Old firmware.
  • Faulty antenna or cable.
  • Blown lightning arrestor if fitted.
  • Full micro SD card, replace it with the best micro SD card for helium miners.
  • Faulty micro SD card.
  • Unable to download or sync to the blockchain.
  • Unable to download new firmware.
  • Helium network down.
  • Overheating hotspot.
  • WiFi or Ethernet problem.
  • Hotspot not set up for location and antenna dbi.
  • Moisture in the hotspot.
  • Corrosion of the antenna connections.
  • Unable to assert hotspot location.
  • Spoofing or gaming the helium network. (Don’t do it)

I will try and cover all of these issues in this post, so you can troubleshoot your hotspot yourself and get it back online mining HNT fast.

How do I get helium miner back online?

How do I get helium miner back online?
Screenshot of one of my Helium Hotspots 24h HNT earnings.

There is no easy solution as you will have to work through each issue one at a time to discover the problem. When everything is online and healthy your miner will say synced and have a green indicator light. Otherwise, it will be red and offline, this is bad.

If there is no power to the hotspot check for flashing lights on the miner. If you have lights it has power. Usually, the flashing lights will indicate the hotspot’s status. Take note and check the manufacturer’s website.

Next check if the internet is down. Try and ping or locate the IP address for the miner on your router. WiFi is not a good stable connection type for helium miners, use ethernet.

How are all your cables and connections? Has a parrot or rat chewed through your external helium antenna? Or do you have some water ingress and corrosion?

Check the firmware of your helium miner. This will be shown either on the local dashboard or connecting to the hotspot via Bluetooth and the Helium app. Often manufacturers will let you download a fresh image onto an SD card if your card is not downloading the correct firmware.

Check the status of the helium network is it down or has it got problems with the API? This can cause issues with setting a hotspot location, sending HNT, and earning rewards.

Are you synced to the blockchain? How far away in blocks are you? I find it is best to run an ethernet cable to the miner to see if a solid connection will help catch up to the ever-expanding blockchain height. WiFi is too unstable for some of these hotspots.

Why is my Helium Miner Relayed?

Why is my Helium Miner Relayed?

Your helium miner is relayed due to not having any port forwards on your router to the helium miner. You will need to port forward so each miner can talk to each other across the network and the internet.

Light hotspot firmware upgrade will fix the relay issue. You won’t need to port forward anymore.

What ports need to be open for helium miner?

You need to open port 44158 on TCP. The Helium miner communicates to other Miners over this port. Without this port open you will be relayed and have fewer earnings. It is best to set a static or reserved address on your router tied to the Helium hotspot. This is so if the router or hotspot has a reset it can remember the IP address associated with the port forward.

Depending on your router, you will need the following information. Destination IP address of the helium miner, the MAC address, Lan port forward 44158, Ensure only ‘TCP‘ is selected, and it is recommended to turn off UPnP.

Note – The MAC ID address is located on the bottom label of the Hotspot.

What ports need to be open for helium miner?

Once changes have been made via port forward to get out of “Relayed” the status may take the Helium Explorer and the Helium App up to 24-48 hours to show up. This will not affect your earnings.

The following flow chart shown below is a visual guide to troubleshoot a relayed status on your Helium hotspot.

Helium hotspot relay fix
Image from sensecapmx.com

Helium miners will be transitioning over to light hotspots via a firmware update shortly so port forwarding will no longer be required once this happens.

How long does it take for helium miner to sync?

How long does it take for helium miner to sync?

It can take from a few hours to over 3 days to properly sync helium miners to the blockchain depending on your internet connection and how long your miner has been offline. Some miners like Sensecaps, Linxdot, and Bobcats have the ability to turbo sync or fast sync to the network.

I find the best way to turbo sync is to turn on the miner and wait for a least 2 hours. Then activate the turbo sync in the local dashboard. This gives the miner ample time to update to the latest firmware and get a base blockchain height. You should be up and running within a few hours of using turbo sync.

How do I find the IP address of my helium miner?

There are a few ways to find the IP address of your helium miner. The fastest way is to log into your router and look for connected devices on either the WiFi or Ethernet connection. Take note of the MAC address on the Helium hotspot if you can’t find the manufacture’s name.

One of my Sensecap m1 is showing up as 21f520f on the device list. This makes it hard to find.

Another way is to go to the Helium app on the phone, select Settings, and pair via Bluetooth. Once you are connected select Diagnostics and your local IP address will be shown.

If you have a Sensecap m1 hotpot their dashboard is a very nice web interface that will also show the local IP address along with other important information.

Antenna and Cable Issues.

Helium miner Antenna and Cable Issues.
One of my helium miners is located in a cloths cupboard space so it is not in the hot attic space.

To get the maximum rewards on the helium network you need an external antenna mounted high up and not be relayed. This can cause an issue if the antenna fails or the cable breaks.

I have yet to see a faulty cable LMR400 cable but as an electrician, I have seen many TV coaxial cables get chewed apart with parrots and rats. Cables can also get dislodged like my miner in a clothes cupboard shown above.

If your witness list drops out to 0 check your antenna and cables. Now if you would like to see what antenna I use then check out this post on All You Need to Know about External Helium Antennas for Maximum Range. But I find that the 5.8 DBI is my best performing antenna.

Make sure your antenna is rock solid and use guide wires if required. Use a silicone sealer to plug any holes that cable feed through your roof space. We don’t want water getting into our miners.

Water damage on an outdoor helium miner.

The above image is what happens when water gets into a helium miner. Corrosion sets in fast and short circuits will fry the motherboard. If you have a DIY outdoor solar helium miner setup make sure the enclosure is watertight.

I like to use drip loops on my external cables. This way most of the rainwater will fall off the drip loop and not down the cable into the roof space or into the wall cavity.

Always turn off the power when you disconnect the antenna. If you don’t you could fry the internal transmitter. Many people change out their antenna with the power on and then wonder why they get zero witnesses. The hotspot just overloaded and failed due to not having a load on the antenna RP-sma port.

Make sure the cables are matched with the correct terminations. Most helium miners use RP-SMA for the antenna. But a standard SMA can fit but the internal pin is missing. It is important to get the correct RP-SMA cable ends for external antennas.

difference between sma rp-sma

Helium Miners in the attic

Yes, you can have the helium miner in the attic but be aware of the temperature. I like that the Sensecap has a little internal fan that helps keep it cool. If the internal CPU gets too hot it will go offline. Just take this into account before placing a Bobcat 300 into the hot attic.

Sending beacons but no witnesses

Sending beacons but no witnesses
New hotspot beacons ok but no witnesses

Often if you are sending beacons but have no witnesses you just need to wait it out. This is common for new installations and will often get a witness within 3 days. That is provided you have other hot spots for you to connect to.

When you send out a beacon you will get a report on how many people can hear your signal. At this stage 14 is the max number of hotspots that can respond or witness your beacon. Some could be invalid for various reasons such as being relayed, too close, in the same hex, or on a denylist.

If your helium hotspot has not had a beacon or witnessed activity in the last 1200 blocks then there may be an issue with your antenna. Check for a break in the cable or antenna. The blockchain could also have issues but this is often rectified quickly.

invalid witness undefined

This is a bug in the code for witness rewards. You will still receive hnt rewards even though it is invalid.

How to log into Sensecap m1 dashboard?

Sensecap has recently updated how you can log into the dashboard via a web interface. You will need some details from your miner such as the Serial Number and the CPU ID. The serial number is actually the password until you change it. In the past, you only needed the CPU ID but to make the dashboard more secure a password is required.

Your device bind-key is also required to add new hotspots to the device dashboard. This can be found by clicking the IP address of your miner on the dashboard and logging in.

If this is the first time logging in, set up a username and password and log in to your local dashboard via the IP address of your miner. Here is the full procedure how to log in to the dashboard.

Helium Miner SD card Full problem and solution.

As the Helium blockchain grows data is stored on each active miner. Many helium hotspots come with either a 32Gb or 64GB of local storage. This is usually in the form of a micro SD card.

Over time each hotspot will add more blockchain data and the od firmware update. This causes the SD card to become full. If the firmware is written correctly it should purge the old data and make room for the latest image after 85%. If you only have a 32GB hotspot I recommend upgrading the card to 64GB.

As you can see from the below image my micro SD card was full and I did a reboot. It cleared the storage down to 11.5%.

Sensecap dashboard login details
My Sensecap m1 dashboard

Many miners seem to have an issue with overwriting this data. A simple way to force a purge is to unplug the miner for 5 minutes and then repower it up again. Some HNT miners have a dashboard that will allow you to remotely shut down the miner and even do a block purge. Type the IP Address in a browser to enter the Local Console page.

Due to the misuse of Hotspots by many users, I have found that frequent power cycling, plugging, and unplugging the micro SD card, may result in unknown micro SD card errors. This could be file system miss alignment or corrupt data.

Sensecap reset blocks and shut down helium miner

A full SD card will cause issues with reading and writing to the local storage and the miner will flatline and not earn any HNT.

My solution is to once a month shutdown my miners and reboot them via the dashboard. This is then a controlled shutdown and clears the memory and storage space.

Be aware that some helium miners will only clear the micro SD card once it reaches 85%. This is automatically done during a firmware update or a reboot.

Replacing the micro SD card in helium miners.

It is best to use a 64GB high endurance micro SD card for helium miners. These high endurance cards will last longer as they have better read and write memory statistics. The storage in these helium miners is constantly getting reads and writes. Over time lower quality micro SD cards can fail.

Depending on the model you may need a copy of the CONFIG.JSON file on the old SD card. Note: Please ask Tech Support to provide one for you if you are unable to retrieve the original one. They will ask for your model and serial number. Some helium miners don’t need this file as it is hardcoded onto a chip on the miner. Which I think is a better solution.

Procedure for Sensecap SD card replacement.

  1. Power off the helium hotspot device, open the front panel, remove the yellow sticker on the top of the micro SD card (you may have to use tweezers), unplug and take out the original micro SD card.
  2. Connect the original micro SD card to your computer with a micro SD card reader and copy the ‘config.json’ file from partition “resin-boot” of the origin SD card, save it to your computer.
  3. Download the new SenseCap M1 Image from here: sensecap-m1.img.zip
  4. Download Balena Etcher tool from here: balenaEtcher – Flash OS images to SD cards & USB drives
  5. Flash the SenseCap M1 Image to the new micro SD card with Balena Etcher.
  6. Copy the “config.json” file that we provided from your computer to partition “resin-boot” of the new micro SD card after flashed and replace othe old config.json if there is one.
  7. Unplug the new micro SD card from your computer, plug it into SenseCap M1.
  8. Power on the SenseCap M1, connect to the internet (better with ethernet cable), wait for 20mins updates, and check the status on Dashboard (https://status.sensecapmx.cloud/) or run diagnostics in Helium App via Bluetooth.

Can I spoof my Location?

China helium miner spoofing locations
China Helium Miners spoofing their location and gaming the system.

Sure if you want to get yourself on a banned list of miners. Helium is taking cheating, gaming, spoofing on their network very seriously. Just have a look at the China miners that are spoofing their location to earn extra HNT with a bunch of miners in a basement. Most are red due to spoofing their location and only witnessing themselves on the same HNT wallet. It is not organic growth and as such have been identified and got themselves on the deny list.

Infact Helium Inc continues to temporarily manage a denylist that is embedded in miner images. This way they can identify cheaters and reduce their rewards. Those that game the system with the sole intent of exploiting Proof-of-Coverage rewards are on thin ice. They are not providing any real value to the network and take away HNT from honest people like you and me.

HIP 40 is going to deal a serious blow to people gaming the helium network. I welcome anything that can help build out the network in an honest way. It is a shame there are a few bad actors out there.

Why are my helium earning so low?

Why are my helium earning so low?

If you are using a stock helium miner you will have to upgrade the antenna and cable. You could also be in an overpopulated hex such as New York City. Don’t even bother to add another helium miner if there are 44 people in the same hex. They are earning less than 1 HNT a month. It will take years to pay off your helium miner.

Make sure you are not relayed or spoofing your location. You could find yourself a deny list if you are gaming the system and then your rewards will be low forever.

How can I increase my HNT earnings.

You can increase your helium witnesses by getting an external antenna and not being relayed. It is all about location with fewer miners in your hex. It is that simple. Check out our other post that goes into more detail on How to increase Helium witnesses and earnings fast.

Unable to assert helium miner location error fix

There was an error constructing the Assert Location transaction. Please try again.

Sometimes when you try and register or assert a new helium miner you may get an error or such as,

  • {invalid,unknown_gateway}
  • {invalid, wrong_staking_fee}  
  • {invalid,bad_nonce}.
  • {invalid,wrong_txn_fee}
  • There was an error constructing the Assert Location transaction. Please try again.

Leave the hotspot for 1 hour plugged in via ethernet to download the newest firmware automatically. Then try again, often you will be able to assert the location without an error.

Some mobile phones are having a communication issue with the helium miners. Samsung Galaxy S10+ seems to be having the most issues at the moment. You can get around this by using a different phone or tablet to set up the hotspot. Just use your 12-word seed phrase to set up the application on a different phone register the hotspot and then delete the application if you require.

Remember do not give anyone access to your secret 12-word seed words otherwise they can take all of your HNT rewards.

Approved Helium Miners

Maker NameDate Approved
Helium, Inc.NA
Nebra Ltd
Long shipping times
2020-12-10
SyncroB.it2020-12-14
RAK Wireless/CalChip2020-12-29
Bobcat 300 is currently in stock at Amazon2021-01-12
Kerlink2021-02-24
HeNet BV/LongAP2021-03-16
Smart Mimic Finstra2021-03-25
Seeed SenseCap In stock Amazon2021-06-15
E-sun Electronics/ Panther X2021-09-24
Linxdot
Excellent Recommended Pre Order
Use code notsealed3 for 3% discount.
2021-06-28
Deeper Network Hotspot
Finstra Miner
MerryIoT Hotspot
Panther X1 and X2

Helium miner ROI

The ROI or return on investment will be different for every situation. Each one of my 7 helium miners earns at a different rate depending on location, miner density, topology, height, witnesses, and beacons.

The average earning currently on the helium network is 0.1 HNT per 24 hours. All of my miners earn above this rate due to having external antennas, not being relayed, and using LMR400 antenna cables.

So if we take the average earning on the helium network of 0.1 HNT a day and multiply it by say $32 USD (the price of one HNT at the time of writing) then multiply it by 30 days will give you your monthly earnings of $96. Now the big question is how much did you spend on your miner, antenna, and cables?

For me, my average is between 0.4 to 0.7 HNT a day so my ROI is around 2 months. It is expensive to set up a quality helium miner setup but the ROI is fast with good earnings. Don’t expect to place a stock helium miner in the window and earn above the average.

Helium miner frequency

Make sure you have the correct frequency of miners for the country you live in. Otherwise, it won’t work.

US915 – North America
EU868 – Europe & UAE
AU915 – Australia, Brazil, Peru, and New Zealand
AS923 – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam
KR920 – Korea

Conclusion

I hope some of the information here has helped troubleshoot your helium miner and get it back up and running. It all takes time so go for a walk and check on it again in a few hours. I recommend rebooting your helium miner at least once every month. Just think of it as a little PC that needs a reboot every now and then.

Many hotspots only come with 32GB of internal storage so if you are having constant syncing problems and flat earnings try upgrading the micro SD card. Check out our post on the best micro SD cards for Helium miners.

If you are now in an overpopulated city with many miners in your hex you have a few options. Keep going and enjoy the low rewards, sell up and get good money for your old miner, or buy another and expand the network.

I can recommend the Linxdot miners as they have a current deal for 3% off with code notsealed3. I have a few and they are going well. My other Sensecap miners are doing great with only a few teething issues at the beginning that have been fixed with firmware upgrades. I love the Sensecap dashboard, so much information to help troubleshoot your miner.

If you have some questions about how to get your Bobcat, Nebra, Sensecap, Calchip, or Linxdot helium miner back online then drop me a message below and I try and fix it for you.

Happy Helium mining everybody. Let’s make this network the biggest in the world.

Previous articleHow to Increase Helium Witnesses and Earnings Fast on your Hotspot.
Next articleHow To Do An APC Smart-UPS 1000 Battery Replacement Hot Swap Easy

5 COMMENTS

  1. Hello Matthew, Very informative article. Thanks for writing it. I will keep it for future reference.
    Actually, I do have some problems with my Sensecao M1 that replaced a dead Kerlink during the Christmas Holiday. It worked ok for a couple of weeks then in the past couple of weeks, it is in relay. I contacted my ISP at least 12 times in these two weeks. Port 44158 is open. I went into my router and it shows open, TCP, UPnP is disabled. The router shows open, all helium-related programs show closed, i.e. portchecker, heliumstatus, SenseCap dash, and of course Helium explorer among a few more. I have pics to share of what I am getting but guess I should not post them on your public site. I have followed all directions as instructed, discord won’t give me the time of day. If you are interested in trying to help me out I will send you the pics or we can chat on messenger. I can’t get my phone to pair back up with it to run a diagnostics or my computer. The miner is about 6 meters in the air. I am a disabled senior and cant climb. I am at the mercy of my son-in-law to get it down and put it in pairing mode again. I haven’t a clue when that may be I am sure you recall being in your thirties so you understand what I am up against. I was excited about the SenseCap with a dashboard. I was told one could connect via the internet as we have some Raks 200 ft AGL Btooth doesn’t make it quite that far. Again thanks for the article,

    Regards

    Glenn Stanford

    • Hi Glenn
      Sensecaps are great I have a few. If you are at the same house/wifi network as the miner you can connect to the sensecap dashboard here https://status.sensecapmx.cloud/ that should give you an indication if you are relayed.
      You will just need to know the IP address of the miner say 192.168.1.10 for example to reboot or reset blocks if required through the dashboard.
      The relay status if port forward correctly should be fine. In fact I have UPnP enabled on one router and it port forwards ok.
      The helium explorer is slow to update give it a few days.
      Make sure to set a reserve IP address in your router otherwise when it reboots it will lose the port forward.
      No need to connect your ISP unless they are using a CGNAT (Carrier-grade Network Address Translator) to manage the massive number of devices connected to their network simultaneously. This makes port forwarding nearly impossible and will need a VPN to make it work.
      Fine to add links or pics in the comments if you want.
      Is relay the only problem?

  2. I have a LinxDot miner. It was working fine, and then went offline. It is wired via Ethernet cable. My router and Wi-Fi are all working fine. Just not the miner for some reason. All cables are fine. I am confused.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here