Is it OK to buy a used mining GPU for gaming?

Typical Mining Environment

If you think all miners have tidy, datacenter like environment with HVACs, totally dust free and temperature controlled, you are wrong, big time! You can just do a quick search in Reddit or YouTube to see the mining rigs most people use and the farms in abandoned factories usually in countries with cheap electricity.

Dust, Temp and Humidity

Miners don’t do a total cleanup by detaching the fans and the heat sinks and using brushes, because it’s a time consuming job when you have a thousands of them around, and the warranty stickers on the bolts shouldn’t be scratched, because they know that at some point they want to resell the cards and buy new ones with better hash rates. Dust and humidity results in layers of dirt forming on top the heatsink blades and other power components like the VRMs.

Fans

GPU fans aren’t designed to spin at high RPMs for a long period of time and this is the typical situation in mining rigs. GPU fans can wear out, and most significantly, the fan’s bearings will eventually wear out after prolonged usage. You have to see if the fan blades move smoothly with a sharp push or if they feel stiff, if it’s stiff then the bearings are probably gone. If the blades are very loose and they can be tilted, the problem is either a worn out bearing or a shaft with reduced diameter because of shrinking. A faulty fan is also noisier when it’s ON and can’t cool down the GPU effectively, even when the heatsink is totally clean and the silicon paste is new.

PCB, Back plate

Because of the temperature difference between mining during the day and night, especially in the summer, and the fact that mining GPUs work 24/7 at full load, there is a high stress on the graphic card’s PCB and the ones without an adequate back plate are usually bent. A visual inspection before buying a used GPU and checking the pictures of the model is important. A bent PCB can cause serious problems to the memory sticks or the GPU itself, even if it is working correctly right now. Try to avoid a bent PCB even if the card has a back plate.

Bios Modifications

Besides increasing the frequency of the memory, miner try to change the timing of the memory too. They use bios editors to change the parameters of the card. Hopefully, nowadays most GPUs have dual bios. Most of the sellers also revert the original bios before selling the GPU, but you may receive one with a modified bios. Drivers usually detect a modified bios and don’t let you continue the installation because the checksums are different. You can download the original bios ROM file and flash it to the bios. There are other YouTube videos that teach you how to do that if this is needed. Beside the software flashing method, a faulty bios can be fixed with a hardware programmer. Using a CH341A module, you can flash the bios file to a bricked rom chip.

Power and Line Regulation

Another common problem with the mining GPUs is the voltage fluctuation and noise on the power line. In mining farms, hundreds or thousands of switching power supplies are connected to the mains. They create a shitload of switching noise, the mains voltage drops and the stability is low, because most farms employ a DIY and unprofessional cabling and power management.

Mining Test

One of the best tests to evaluate a second hand GPU is the mining itself! If you can mine a Crypto using the GPU for a few hours without a drastic hash rate drop, high temperature or the mining software freeze up, the GPU should be good enough for gaming and other tasks.

So, the conclusion

High temperature, temperature swings, high or even very low humidity and voltage fluctuations can lower the life span of electronic components. GPUs are no expectation. You can have a card in hand that is functioning normally right now, but in a few months or years you might have a faulty one that is not acceptable for warranty replacement or repairs.

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Alireza Mortazavi

Alireza Mortazavi

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