Hopefully you haven’t needed a GPU in the last year because prices have been out of control. The combination of semiconductor shortages and pandemic-fueled games pushed prices up, but it was cryptocurrency that made graphics cards worth their weight in gold. Prices are finally starting to drop a bit, and you can buy cheap used cards in Asia. But should you get these old mining cards? GPU maker Palit Microsystems says it’s taking a real risk with old mining hardware.
The price of GPUs started to rise in early 2020 when the value of cryptocurrencies soared. Mining crypto like Etherium is too slow on a CPU, but GPUs can mine efficiently enough to make a profit. Therefore, mining operations use rack after rack of video cards, all plugged in and running at full speed 24/7.
China began cracking down on cryptocurrency mining earlier this year, forcing many of these operations to shut down. So, they are selling the only resource they have left: GPU. These used cards can be much cheaper than new ones, and it can be difficult to know which is which. A used card may come in its original packaging and look physically flawless, but it has been up and running for months.
According to Palit, a GPU will lose approximately 10 percent of its total processing power for every year it is used in a mining operation. Even if you’re lucky and your second-hand GPU is working, it may not be running at peak performance and could be closer to failing. Still, this could be a tempting option for people in desperate need of a GPU, as prices for new cards are still much more expensive than they should be.
Of course, Palit cares about people buying new hardware, but it’s not that Palit or any other manufacturer has trouble unloading GPUs. The company notes that if you are going to buy an old mining card, you should take a look at the cooler. Any card that has been disassembled and fitted with an aftermarket cooler is a huge risk. That suggests it was kept in an especially hot environment and might have suffered from a hardware failure in the past. With that said, there are some miners who carefully monitor their low-voltage rigs and GPUs for the best performance and longevity. However, there is no guarantee that you will get one of those. Everything is luck of the draw.