Nvidia pulls dev driver that bypasses mining limiter, genie refuses to go back in bottle

MSI RTX 3060 Gaming X
(Image credit: MSI)

Nvidia's GeForce RTX 3060 hash rate limiter was unhackable, unfortunately the green team freely distributed a developer driver which removed the limiting code, effectively releasing its own workaround. I would not have wanted to be the person who had to tell that to Jen-Hsun. The company has now removed that driver from its download site in the hope that it can squeeze that particular genie back into the bottle it came from.

This is a major issue for Nvidia, given that it went to such lengths to introduce the hash rate limiter in order to give gamers the best chance of being able to bag a new Ampere card ahead of the massed ranks for cryptocurrency miners. 

It would have been one thing if some enterprising coder had managed to find a way around "the secure handshake between the driver, the RTX 3060 silicon, and the BIOS" but it's another thing entirely for Nvidia to self-publish the workaround.

"A developer driver inadvertently included code used for internal development which removes the hash rate limiter on RTX 3060 in some configurations," reads the terse official statement from Nvidia we've received. "The driver has been removed."

Now that the driver is out in the wild, and likely to be shared ad infinitum across the globe between mining communities, the Ethereum hash rate limiter on the RTX 3060 is now almost irrelevant. There are some caveats to the driver-based workaround, a few hoops you have to jump through in order to get more than one card running the Ethereum cryptocurrency mining algorithm without the performance halving. 

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(Image credit: MSI)

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You can't use riser cables, for example, and so those vast interconnected mining rigs are out of the question and you're going to need a single motherboard with a whole bunch of PCIe slots to be able to get more than just one RTX 3060 running at its top ~50MH/s mining rate. You also need to use dummy HDMI connectors to convince each card it's doing something legit.

But given the profit to be gained from mining coin de jour, Ethereum, those are likely hoops miners will be happy to leap through, whether large or small-scale.

Quite what this means for future graphics card releases from Nvidia is still a bit of a mystery. The big question will be whether the existing driver will also allow Ethereum mining on something like the proposed RTX 3080 Ti, another card suggested to arrive with a hash rate limiter. Hopefully knowing what code is out there will enable Nvidia to block that dev driver being used, whole or in part, to mine with future GPUs.

We can only hope.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.