Nvidia's potentially having another crack at its unhackable RTX 3060 mining limiter

MSI RTX 3060 Gaming X
(Image credit: MSI)

Nvidia may be resurrecting its Ethereum mining restrictions on a new variant of the GeForce RTX 3060 12GB (opens in new tab). While its first attempt to block Ethereum mining activity didn't go so well, rumour has it Nvidia may be fitting new GPUs within the RTX 3060 line in order to once again restrict some mining activity.

According to an unnamed Taiwanese graphics card manufacturer, speaking with HEKPC (opens in new tab) (translated (opens in new tab)), Nvidia plans on quietly distributing a new GA106-302 GPU to future RTX GeForce 3060 12GB cards. This would replace the GA106-300-A1 GPU found within these cards today, for the likely purpose of rendering these new cards incompatible with previous RTX 3060 drivers.

Most importantly, perhaps, this new GPU would be incompatible with the 470.05 developer driver, which had offered miners a way to bypass Nvidia's mining restrictions.

With the launch of the RTX 3060 12GB, Nvidia implemented a vBIOS, driver, and GPU limiter on Ethereum (ETH) mining. Whenever Ether mining activity is started, this limiter would gradually, and swiftly, drop the hash rate of the card to a low level. 

At launch, Nvidia was very confident in this limiter's ability to stand up to hackers, even saying its limiter 'cannot be hacked' (opens in new tab). In some ways, Nvidia is yet to have been proved wrong, as the limiter's downfall would instead come from within Nvidia itself: the company released a beta version of its developer driver that lacked the provisions for the cryptocurrency limiter (opens in new tab).

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Once that cat was out of the bag, it was game over for that iteration of the Ethereum limiter. It does not, however, preclude future limiters, including a new variant of the RTX 3060 GPU reported here today.

This new GPU is said to be near-enough identical to the one it replaces, albeit with even greater limitations on Ethereum mining. It's said to be arriving in May, following which it may not be clear whether a card will be fitted with the old or new GA106 GPU. 

Unsurprisingly, Nvidia is also reported to be cracking down on future driver distribution.

Ether remains the most popular cryptocurrency for GPU miners and is currently valued at $2,451. With profits to be made, the high demand for graphics cards to mine the cryptocurrency has been one attributing factor to the current dearth of graphics cards, alongside a lack of supply, coronavirus delays, and reported mega-traffic (opens in new tab) of retail bots.

Jacob Ridley
Senior Hardware Editor

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 as hardware writer 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, however, you'll find him trying to get as far away from the modern world as possible by wild camping.