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Nvidia's cryptocurrency mining limiter has been cracked, but it's not quite a farming frenzy yet

GPU for Mining Ethereum
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If you've been keeping up with the cryptocurrency news, you might be aware of Nvidia's clever idea to equip its newest GPU, the GeForce RTX 3060 (opens in new tab), with a supposedly unhackable (opens in new tab) hashrate limiter. But of course, as with any challenge set by a major corporation, a workaround has been found. 

However, it didn't exactly come from where we expected.

The limiters were a bid to deter cryptominers from buying up all the gaming GPUs. There's even been talk of the possibility of subsequent cards (opens in new tab) coming with the same "secure handshake," meant to prevent later cards from mining at their full potential. 

But the second Nvidia laid the plans, it inadvertently set a challenge for the internet. And we all know what happens when you say something isn't possible on the internet: someone will try to prove you wrong.

Since the announcement miners have been springing up across the net claiming to have cracked it (opens in new tab). So far we haven't seen any proof that modifying drivers is able to bypass the limitations. But now it seems to have been overcome in a different way, with the workaround coming from none other than... Nvidia itself.

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Confirmation has now surfaced through PC Watch (opens in new tab) (via VideoCardz (opens in new tab)) that one such hacker on the Guru3D forum (opens in new tab) has circumvented the limiters simply by backtracking to Nvidia developer driver version 470.05. With no driver or BIOS changes, user hapghost was able to achieve 46 MH/s on Ethash.

That's right, just reverting to old firmware seemed to lift at least some of the restrictions, though it's not quite top-form. 

A post on Cryptomining Blog (opens in new tab) outlines their having achieved similar numbers—47 MH/s Ethash with PhoenixMiner—and expands a little on the drawbacks. For one thing, the driver is only available for Windows, and it requires miners to register on the Nvidia website as a developer.

The post continues, speculating around the fact this is only replicable with a single GPU hooked up to a x16 PCIe slot, with no extenders, and a monitor. This points to the limiters still mainly being subject to the card's physical conditions. 

So it may not be that Nvidia simply forgot to implement the limiters with certain drivers, but instead goes to show how deep into the hardware the limiters actually run.

Thankfully due to the physical restrictions, no one has managed to get it working with a full-blown mining rig yet. But perhaps it's only a matter of time.

Katie Wickens
Katie Wickens

Screw sports, Katie would rather watch Intel, AMD and Nvidia go at it. Having been obsessed with computers and graphics for three long decades, she took Game Art and Design up to Masters level at uni, and has been demystifying tech and science—rather sarcastically—for two years since. She can be found admiring AI advancements, scrambling for scintillating Raspberry Pi projects, preaching cybersecurity awareness, sighing over semiconductors, and gawping at the latest GPU upgrades. She's been heading the PCG Steam Deck content hike, while waiting patiently for her chance to upload her consciousness into the cloud.