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Nvidia says its cryptocurrency mining limiter 'cannot be hacked'

Nvidia RTX 3060 cards
(Image credit: Nvidia)

Nvidia claims that its cryptocurrency hash rate limiter on the upcoming GeForce RTX 3060 12GB graphics card—which is applied in software, not hardware—is unable to be bypassed thanks to a secure handshake between software and hardware.

Specifically, Nvidia tells PC Gamer, in an updated statement for further clarity on the limiter, that it believes "End users cannot remove the hash limiter from the driver. There is a secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS (firmware) that prevents removal of the hash rate limiter."

Nvidia had originally left it at "the software cannot be hacked to remove the limiter," which had left the door open to a little more speculation as to what savvy miners could do to get around the limiter, many of whom are sure to want to run these cards at an unfettered hash rate.

Nvidia is confident that its limiter is up to the challenge, then.

This limiter being one intended to prevent miners from zealously chasing down graphics cards for use in blindly chipping away at cryptocurrency for a heady profit. The main cryptocurrency of choice for today's enterprising GPU miner is Ethereum, so that's exactly what Nvidia's block will prevent RTX 3060 graphics cards from mining. 

The new limiter will halve the hash rate of the RTX 3060 when specific parts of the Ethereum mining algorithm are detected.

The hope for Nvidia, and mild-mannered gamers everywhere, is that the block will remain in place and see these cards make their way out to gamers. Miners will then perhaps look to the mining-specific CMP, or Cryptocurrency Mining Processors, for their needs. Or the non-blocked high-end RTX 30-series cards.

The RTX 3060 will be the only card to come with the limiter in place from its arrival on February 25, Nvidia tells us, as it is "not limiting the performance of GPUs already sold."

The RTX 3060 is sure to be a popular card, too, as all Ampere GPUs have been so far, although even more so thanks to its $329 price tag.

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Whether we'll see more stock stick around on that day as a result of lowered mining demand, we're not yet sure. There's still incredible demand for PC parts, and undoubtedly the cheapest Ampere GPU of the lot will be the most popular by volume, as we've seen in the past with popular cards such as the GTX 1060. So my guess is that it'll still be a day one scramble like any other launch over the past five months.

Any move Nvidia can make to keep as many GPUs as possible in play for gamers will be absolutely welcome by many, although perhaps not those looking to do a little mining on the side. It will likely turn miners off to the first wave of RTX 3060 graphics cards, at least, as any uncertainty as to the hash rate of these cards won't see these cards as prime mining material—even if Nvidia's unhackable limiter goes down like the Titanic later in life. 

We're hoping it's not easily brushed aside, however, and Nvidia's confidence offers a little hope for PC building in the first half of 2021.

Jacob Ridley

Jacob earned his first byline writing for his own tech blog from his hometown in Wales in 2017. From there, he graduated to professionally breaking things at PCGamesN, where he would later win command of the kit cupboard as hardware editor. Nowadays, as senior hardware editor at PC Gamer, he spends his days reporting on the latest developments in the technology and gaming industry. When he's not writing about GPUs and CPUs, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.