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Nvidia: RTX 3060 vBIOS Prevents Removal of Hash Rate Limiter

Stock image of Ethereum mining
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Yesterday, excellent news from Nvidia landed -- namely that it is putting the brakes on hashing performance of the RTX 3060. Whether this tech will also come to other GPUs in the lineup is currently unclear. To make it up to miners, Nvidia is coming out with a special line of CMP 'Cryptocurrency Mining Processor' GPUs. But could RTX 3060 miners simply bypass the artificial limiter? In a Twitter conversation between Ryan Smith from AnandTech and Nvidia's spokesperson Brian Del Rizzo it seems unlikely, for now.

With Nvidia artificially limiting Ethereum hashing performance on the RTX 3060, which has already been seen in action, a few questions are raised. Most notably, whether it's not simply possible to override the artificial limiter through the use of different software or drivers, thereby making the entire exercise futile. Sure, it might deter a small group of miners, but it won't do much to deter large-scale operations that gobble up tons of GPUs. 

Good News: The Limiter is Implemented at a vBIOS Level

On Twitter, following a request from AnandTech's Ryan Smith, Nvidia's spokesperson Brian Del Rizzo confirmed that the hash rate limiter is not just the result of a driver change. Rather, it is the result of a handshake between the GPU, the GPU's BIOS and the driver.

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But of course, this doesn't rule out the possibility of finding a workaround entirely. With the money that's involved in mining, especially at large-scale operations, surely somebody will find a way to hack a different BIOS onto the GPU, right?

If A Workaround Comes, It Will Be Too Late

Well, theoretically, that should be possible, but in practice, it might be more difficult than you'd think. Since Nvidia's Turing GPUs, the vBIOS comes encrypted, and as such it's not possible to read it out, modify it, and reload it onto the GPU -- the only way people have been able to modify the vBIOS on Nvidia's recent GPUs is by finding a different BIOS and loading it -- but they haven't strictly modified the existing vBIOS.

As a result of this security measure, there should only be two ways of getting a vBIOS onto the RTX 3060 that allows Ethereum hashing: either by rewriting a vBIOS from entirely scratch, or a third-party GPU maker or other entity in the supply chain leaks a vBIOS that does allow hashing. The second option is more likely, as you'd need to know a lot about the inner workings of the respective GPU to be able to write a vBIOS.

But, even then, the driver will also need to be rewritten to accommodate for this new vBIOS and enable hashing, so there's quite a bit of work to be done before you'll find RTX 3060's minging at their full performance.

All that being said, changing the vBIOS might not be the only way to mine on an RTX 3060. Nvidia has been very specific about Ethereum mining performance, but there are other coins out there that might still be profitable enough to tempt miners. Meanwhile, it's also possible that a wise coder finds a way to fool the GPU into not thinking that it's mining, even when it is.

With that in mind, I don't doubt that at some point in time, somebody will find a way to get it working. But cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and the difficulty of mining is going up fast -- as such, by the time somebody does come around with a workaround -- I reckon it'll be too little and too late.

Niels Broekhuijsen

Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.

  • logainofhades
    Good move, but I am sure someone will come out with a bios that removes said limiter. Though that may take some time, and will allow gamers to get ahold of these cards, at release.
    Reply
  • munkee_zero
    I hope AMD follow suit with the release of their 6700XT and 6600XT cards. By Nvidia introducing this, I hope it makes getting hold of new GPUs a little easier (scalpers aside).
    Reply
  • blacknemesist
    They went with the Bios option because it allows them to quickly repurpose cards when the cryptocrap fever is gone and miners want to sell their cards which will be low value, 1 bios flash later and the 3060 gain instant value. The used market just became more dangerous. Besides aren't the hardcore overclockers running custom bios to bypass the power limits? What is going to stop a miner from doing the same thing but for the limiter?
    Reply
  • blacknemesist
    munkee_zero said:
    I hope AMD follow suit with the release of their 6700XT and 6600XT cards. By Nvidia introducing this, I hope it makes getting hold of new GPUs a little easier (scalpers aside).

    Same. Nvidia is running wild because there are no AMD card on the market but now TSMC will be producing AMD exclusively(probably for console AMD market aswell) so this was Nvidia way to secure their place. If an AMD card comes at close to MRSP value Nvidia won't sell anymore so AMD needs to have a better way to ensure gaming cards end up in the hands of gamers thus making the price of GPU not go out of control. Only reason cards are selling at absurd prices is because scalpers can make up the price difference over time, a gamer does not make money playing on his rig.
    Reply
  • spongiemaster
    blacknemesist said:
    They went with the Bios option because it allows them to quickly repurpose cards when the cryptocrap fever is gone and miners want to sell their cards which will be low value, 1 bios flash later and the 3060 gain instant value. The used market just became more dangerous. Besides aren't the hardcore overclockers running custom bios to bypass the power limits? What is going to stop a miner from doing the same thing but for the limiter?
    The mining specific cards don't have display outputs. You wouldn't be able to just re-flash the card and have a gaming card. There are no custom NVidia BIOS's as they are encrypted. That's why they went with the BIOS method. It's possible to flash the BIOS of a card with the BIOS from another model.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    My gut tells me it is going to be next to impossible to buy a 3060 card on release and for months, still.
    Reply
  • NightHawkRMX
    Right, this limit will do nothing. Nvidia still wants to sell the GPUs to miners, so they will just use more dies for mining specific cards and leave less for the regular 3060.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    I think it was a political move on nvidia's part. They don't really care as long as the checks are good. They have a whole office building floor full of bean counters running the numbers over and over, and they will do whatever is good for the bottom line and the shareholders.
    Reply
  • logainofhades
    LolaGT said:
    I think it was a political move on nvidia's part. They don't really care as long as the checks are good. They have a whole office building floor full of bean counters running the numbers over and over, and they will do whatever is good for the bottom line and the shareholders.

    I cannot really disagree. It has seemed Nvidia hasn't overly cared much about us gamers, for quite some time.
    Reply
  • LolaGT
    I don't, or can not blame them. If I they were a significant part of someone's portfolio they would drop them like a rock if they did anything counterproductive to the bottom line.
    I don't really know what their percentages are as far as how much of their business is workstation, gaming or mining.
    I always assumed their big revenue was in the workstation sector.
    Reply