Graphics cards are rare and expensive – many buyers therefore switch to the second-hand market. There you can increasingly get mining graphics cards comparatively cheaply. These are the risks inherent in buying.
Bargain or DOA: Used mining graphics cards
The obvious concern with purchasing a mining graphics card is that performance will be significantly impacted and the GPU will fail sooner than expected. However, this is usually not the case. In our experience, mining GPUs don’t seem to show much performance degradation. There are logical reasons for this:
Experienced GPU miners usually reduce power consumption and underclock their GPU to make the graphics card more efficient. And while miners run their graphics cards around the clock, this can also help minimize the heat-up and cool-down cycle, which is very stressful for semiconductors.
But there are also potential disadvantages of mining graphics cards: Overclocking the video memory (many miners increase efficiency with it) and insufficient cooling of the mining rig: If the mining graphics card has been used in an extremely hot environment without sufficient cooling, this reduces the service life.
The second danger lurks with graphics cards with GDDR6X memory, i.e. the GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, 3080, 3080 Ti and 3090 models. GDDR6X memory usually gets very hot. Failure to properly cool a GDDR6X graphics card will degrade performance and can damage the VRAM. The Founders Edition models of the RTX 3080 and 3090 are particularly problematic with their thermal pad, as they already run with higher VRAM temperatures ex works.
An inexperienced miner can drive his graphics cards to their thermal limit and significantly reduce their service life. All other graphics processors with GDDR5 or GDDR6 video memory have a significantly lower risk here.
You should keep this in mind when buying used mining graphics cards
First, ask the seller questions about the graphics card. Did he use the graphics card for mining – and if so, for how long? Did he underclock and at what temperatures did the mining rig run? With these questions you can assess whether you are dealing with an experienced or inexperienced miner.
Before purchasing, carefully check the physical condition of the graphics card – ideally in person. Is there any damage or evidence that the card was crammed into a confined space? Scratches on the back plate or cover may indicate this. The fans on mining cards can fail or become damaged over time due to their constant operation, so make sure they are running properly.
And finally: how clean is the graphics card? Are there any visual anomalies or excessive dust build-up? These can help you determine the level of care the graphics card has received from its current owner. Finally, ask the seller to show you the graphics card in operation – and do a stress test on site: It shows potential screen artifacts. Crashes indicate a faulty GPU.
The article is based on a contribution from our sister publication PCWorld