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I've been trying to download the blockchain for days now...

My chaindata folder is currently at 12.5 GB...just how large is this blockchain?

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This question has been asked ad nauseam, as a cursory search would show.


Let's quickly look at the headline question:

How large is the blockchain?

It depends. But currently in the region of tens of GB.

It depends on:

  • Which implementation of the client you're using (e.g. Geth, Parity, the C++ client, etc). I believe they all store the chaindata differently.
  • Which pruning mode you've used, if any.
  • Your hardware. Different types of filesystems are composed of different sized blocks. There is always some wasted space in those blocks. More wasted space means more disk space is used. (This is perhaps less important than the other things in the list. It's really just to hightlight that part of the blame can lie at the feet of the user, rather than the software.)

Two pertinent questions:

  • Why are you downloading the blockchain data?
  • Are you complaining about the size of the data, or the amount of time it takes to download?

Why are you downloading the data?

You don't have to. There are various ways of using the platform without running a full node yourself. Let someone else do it.

(These answers mention DAPPs, but the same general ideas apply. Also take a look at services like MetaMask.)

Are you planning to mine? In which case you're in for the long term, and an initial investment in time would be more than compensated by potential mining rewards. If you're mining, then presumably your machine is above average spec, and disk space is less of an issue than for an average user.

Do you want to run your own wallet? In which case, again, an initial investment in time and hardware is balanced by the ability to look after your own funds. Again, though, you don't need to run a full node to create a wallet.

Do you want to develop smart contracts? In which case, again, you don't need to run a full node. Have a look into how MetaMask interacts with the public Infura full node.


Are you complaining about the size of the data, or the amount of time it takes to download?

Blockchain technology has been around for a while now. Bitcoin's blockchain is 120GB, and Bitcoin is more popular than ever. The technology inherently involves and ever-increasing set of data.

Memory (non-volatile memory) is cheap. SSDs are cheaper than they've ever been. Having a machine with a couple of TB disks is relatively normal now.

It's quite possible that the size and cheapness of disk space will increase more rapidly than Ethereum's blockchain size. (Perhaps... ) Have a look at Kryder's Law.

Have you looked into the various pruning modes available? Have you looked into the --fast and --light options? Yes, these are perhaps less friendly than just plugging-and-playing, and your average user might not want to care about this, but we're still in the Wild West, and things are perhaps not as user-friendly as they will be in future.

With regards to the time it's taking to download, this is, in theory, an initial one-off investment to take part in the network. Why shouldn't it take this long? This is a new technology that still has certain barriers to entry. In future those barriers may be lower, but for now this is what we have.

Some rather more pragmatic questions. What's your bandwidth like? Are you behind a firewall or NAT box? Have you ensured the relevant ports are forwarded and unhindered? How many peers are you connected to? How long does it normally take you to download this amount of data?

Downloading the chaindata takes a while. It's annoying. But there are ways around it, and it's (hopefully) a one-off event.

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