Should You Buy a Used Mining GPU? 3 risks you need to know

In the midst of a crypto meltdownGPU mining operations close and liquidate their most valuable asset: desktop GPUs† While new GPUs are selling for nearly MSRP for the first time in nearly two years, the used market is now flooded with cheaper, used GPUs used for mining. Modern GPUs sell well below MSRP is certainly an enticing prospect.

However, there are quite a few reasons to be wary of buying GPUs once used in mining rigs, to the point where buying a used mining GPU at any price makes no sense.

Problems Buying a Used Mining GPU

While mining GPUs are not inherently problematic, the risks usually outweigh the cost savings. Here are the main risks when picking up a used graphics card used for mining.

worn out fans

Fans on the Nvidia RTX 3080.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

In a typical PC, a GPU’s fans may only see action for a few hours a day, and that’s even more true for GPU models that don’t run the fans until a certain temperature is reached (usually around 50°C). While faulty GPU fans are not exactly uncommon, it is extremely rare for GPU fans to break down completely. It normally takes years for the fans to fail on a GPU that is only used for normal desktop things like web browsing, gaming and working.

But because mining GPUs are expected to run 24/7 and work on medium-to-heavy duty tasks, the fans will spin at a higher RPM all the time. Even really good fans will wear out much faster than expected, because gaming GPUs are usually not designed for an infinite workload.

One of the most annoying aspects of GPU fans is that they are usually not quick and easy to replace. If you buy a used mining GPU and the fans fail, you only have three options: send it to the original manufacturer for repair, find replacement fans and fix the GPU yourself, or enjoy your new paperweight.

Dying VRAM

Memory modules on a piece of RAM.

Another cause for concern is VRAM. Every form of memory has a lifespan and GPU memory is no exception. According to a report by WccftechOne user who bought an RTX 3080 used for mining said that his GPU, which is supposed to have 10 GB of VRAM, only had 8 GB. It turned out that some of the memory modules had actually died and the card had been reprogrammed to work with what was left, which was 8GB.

Having fewer VRAM modules not only reduces capacity (which is important for good GPU performance) but also memory bandwidth, the amount of data that can be transferred to and from the VRAM in a second. Fewer modules means less bandwidth, so even if a GPU has enough capacity, a reduction in bandwidth often leads to a reduction in performance.

At worst, however, you won’t get a GPU with less VRAM than you expected. It would be even worse to end up with a GPU with memory on the verge of failing as it is very likely to die during use and basically become unusable. It is nearly impossible to replace memory modules yourself, so the only realistic repair option is to send them to the original manufacturer for repair.

You also have no warranty

Not only are used mining GPUs likely to be in poor health, but you can’t rely on a manufacturer’s warranty to cover it. Even if a GPU’s warranty has not yet expired and is transferable from its original owner, there is a good chance that warranty coverage will be denied. The terms and conditions for many companies’ warranties (such as EVGA, Asus, and Gigabyte) explicitly state that GPUs used for mining are not covered. Other companies only state that “misuse”, “neglect” or “abuse” voids the warranty, and we can imagine mining falls under at least one of these categories.

Another way used mining GPUs can lose warranty coverage is through modification. Virtually every manufacturer will deny warranty coverage if the cooler is removed, and manufacturers have ways to verify this has happened, usually by putting a sticker over a screw. If that sticker is damaged or removed, the warranty is void, and since miners don’t expect warranty coverage anyway, it’s likely a used mining GPU has been modified at some point or another.

Should You Buy a Mining GPU?

Graphics cards in a crypto mining farm.
NurPhoto/Getty Images

This is why it is ridiculous to buy a used mining GPU at almost any price. Not only are these GPUs likely to be on the brink of death, but the chances of warranty coverage are extremely slim to zero, meaning repairs will be very expensive. In the worst case there is no repair possible and you have to buy another GPU. With all these risks, the prospect of buying a used mining GPU just doesn’t make sense.

But here’s another question: How do you avoid buying a used mining GPU? Miners have every reason to hide that the GPUs they sell were used in mining, so it’s hard to expect most of them to be candid about it. GPU listings that are at a low price or don’t include the original box may be suspicious, but the most obvious sign that a GPU was used for mining is probably the seller himself. If a seller sells multiple GPUs at once (especially if they’re not all the same model), there’s a good chance they came from a mining rig.

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