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Crypto Miners Fool Nvidia's Anti-Mining Limiter With $6 HDMI Dummy Plug

GeForce RTX 3060
GeForce RTX 3060 (Image credit: Quasar Zone)

Sometimes the toughest problems have the easiest solutions. Nvidia might claim that its hash limiter on the GeForce RTX 3060 is unhackable, but that doesn't mean that a workaround doesn't exist. Cryptocurrency miners have seemingly found the solution to the limiter, and it only costs $5.99.

The GeForce RTX 3060 has got to be one of the most controversial graphics card launches in recent years. Arriving in a time of turmoil, the mid-range Ampere graphics card has been sought after by cryptocurrency miners for its Ethereum mining prowess. Although Nvidia put an anti-mining algorithm in place to nerf the GeForce RTX 3060's hash rate in Ethereum, the mechanism didn't last very long. As odd as it may sound, Nvidia gave away the keys to its own kingdom when the chipmaker accidentally released a GeForce beta driver that disabled the limiter.

However, the beta driver doesn't completely unlock Ethereum mining as there are still some restrictions present. For starters, the driver supposedly limits the mining activities to one GeForce RTX 3060. It does this by requiring the graphics card needed to communicate with the motherboard through a PCIe 3.0 x8 interface as a minimum, meaning PCIe x1 risers are useless. Furthermore, a monitor has to be connected to the GeForce RTX 3060 via the HDMI port or DisplayPort output.

Nvidia's conditions aren't as demanding as they may sound. The PCIe 3.0 x8 requirement only means that you'll need to pick up a motherboard that has sufficient PCIe 3.0 x8 slots to house the number of GeForce RTX 3060 that you plan to stick in it. The second requisite seems expensive since you'd need to connect a monitor to each GeForce RTX 3060. However, Nvidia's driver isn't as smart as the chipmaker makes it out to be — The driver detects if a monitor is connected to the graphics card, but it can't tell the difference if it's a real display or not. Therefore, an HDMI dummy plug, which retails for as low as $5.99 on Amazon, easily tricks Nvidia's driver into thinking that a display is effectively present when in reality, it isn't.

GeForce RTX 3060 (Image credit: Quasar Zone)

A user from Quasar Zone has proven that the workaround is functional with his four-way GeForce RTX 3060 setup. Each graphics card put up a hash rate of around 48 MH/s to contribute to the total average of 192 MH/s. It doesn't even require a modern platform to work. The user's modest testbed revolved around a dual-core Intel Pentium G3220 processor from the long-gone Haswell days and a Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 motherboard. The user also confirmed that his setup works on the Maximus VI Extreme as well. The two motherboards share the same attribute of having four PCIe 3.0 x16 expansion slots, ideal for housing the user's four GeForce RTX 3060 graphics cards.

Cooling is very important since the graphics cards are stuck so close together, and there is hardly any breathing room. However, the solution is simple, as a PCIe 3.0 x16 riser cable would allow you to mount the graphics card on a rack.  The biggest challenge is finding a motherboard with enough PCIe x16/x8 slots since those mining-oriented motherboards with a ridiculous number of PCIe x1 slots are unsuitable if you plan to mine Ethereum with the GeForce RTX 3060.

Nvidia's hash limiter is but a small rock in cryptocurrency miners' path. Since a workaround is plausible, it's just a matter of time before someone perfects it to circumvent the anti-mining mechanism completely.

  • hotaru.hino
    So NVIDIA's solution was "detect if GPU is trying to run something without a display"?

    Yikes.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    <insert 'we are laughing' Anchorman gif here>

    Why this strikes me as hilarious is because nvidia had to know, it was just placating the anti-miner crowd who they likely see as silly anyway.
    Reply
  • sstanic
    "As odd as it may sound, Nvidia gave away the keys to its own kingdom when the chipmaker accidentally released a GeForce beta driver that disabled the limiter. " As odd as it may sound? Accidentally?

    Why so rude towards us readers? We weren't born yesterday. What, they did it exactly so, by accident?
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    hotaru.hino said:
    So NVIDIA's solution was "detect if GPU is trying to run something without a display"?

    Yikes.
    No, this only checks the box that's detecting if a display is connected and wouldn't remove the limiter by itself. You still need the beta bios and to pass the other checks, but as this article points out, once you have the beta driver, everything else is easily bypassed.
    Reply
  • vanadiel007
    Makes you wonder how secure their drivers etc are, if they cannot even figure this out and at least make it look half decent.
    Reply
  • cryoburner
    Therefore, an HDMI dummy plug, which retails for as low as $5.99 on Amazon, easily tricks Nvidia's driver into thinking that a display is effectively present when in reality, it isn't.
    I know this site is trying to push its own Amazon sponsor links, but they are also available for as little as $2 shipped direct from China on eBay, and the big mining operations will likely be able to get them in bulk for even less.
    Reply
  • lazyabum
    HDMI Dummy Plug,Headless Ghost, Display Emulator (Fit Headless-1920x1080 New Generation@60Hz)Amazon'sChoice
    I came across these things by chance searching for HDMI cables on Amazon and had this link on my browser tab for a month. The comments rarely hinted rarely hinted at a use for bypassing GPU mining protocols. Now that I looked recently, seems this method is really taking hold among miners though I doubt they're that effective the simplest solutions are the first that go down.

    Reply
  • InvalidError
    lazyabum said:
    seems this method is really taking hold among miners though I doubt they're that effective the simplest solutions are the first that go down.
    There is nothing that Nvidia can do about the drivers and GPUs that are already in production since all that crypto-miners need to do is keep using the same old drivers and vBIOS. All Nvidia can do is break hardware compatibility with old drivers and vBIOS by launching new models.
    Reply
  • digitalgriffin
    spongiemaster said:
    No, this only checks the box that's detecting if a display is connected and wouldn't remove the limiter by itself. You still need the beta bios and to pass the other checks, but as this article points out, once you have the beta driver, everything else is easily bypassed.

    The beta driver will only a work a short while to. Cards coming out of the factory soon will not work with beta driver. I can bet you that.
    Reply
  • jkflipflop98
    There has to be a clear solution in hardware to have a chance at this. Software is not going to cut it. Two distinct lines of parts going out the door.
    They should be making ASICs for mining that blow the doors off a GPU. It's like, the first rule of business. Hey, you see all these people want a thing? Sell them that thing. It's not that F'n difficult a concept to understand. We've been in this stupid Crypto fad for years now and no one has responded to this massive demand in the market. Design and fabricate a mining ASIC for the masses so we gamers can get back to gaming, please. I just want to use my Index at 144hz ffs. Is that too much to ask?
    Reply