Does Mining for Cryptocurrency Damage My GPU?

Keith

February 26, 2019

Those of us who have built prized gaming rigs wouldn’t dare risk them for anything, even extra income. That's why cryptomining can daunt newcomers—rumors about hardware degradation have made them fearful of killing their darlings. Lucky for them, mining doesn't degrade your GPU any more than a lifetime of l33t gaming.

If you're totally new to blockchain, get good with our Gamer's Guide to Blockchain and Crypto.

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If you're not sure you're ready for the rigors of mining, we think the best way to get started is by using Salad, our free app that turns idle PC resources into rewards value for games, gift cards, subscriptions and more. It's the one-click way to profit from your PC.

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Why the Worry?

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Since the 2017 crypto gold rush, miners and gamers have butted heads over their predilection for the most performant GPUs. High demand led to shortages and price gouging, making an expensive hobby even more dear.

As the crypto craze cooled—and desktop miners got muscled out by huge ASICs farms—the market flooded with cheap, second-hand GPUs from remorseful investors. Despite the newfound surplus, gamers got wary that those cards might be practically worthless due to hardware degradation.

Can Mining Degrade My PC?

Cryptomining isn't the first cottage industry to turn to GPUs for processing. Their aptitude for parallelized computation makes them equally useful for more rendering particle effects in Far Cry, solving cryptographic equations, and hunting E.T.

If you’re worried about your hardware, breathe a sigh of relief. Mining doesn’t put any more stress on your GPU than a AAA game with great graphics—it's doing the same computing tasks.

Benchmarking Bitcoin

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Mining isn't a danger to your hardware if done properly—and there's hard evidence from objective research to back that up.

Researchers from UFD Tech produced a lengthy video that does a thorough job debunking some of the rumors. Their experiment benchmarked GPUs from very different walks of life: one that mined for two years straight, and another used for gaming here and there.

They found little difference between the two in terms of performance. The determining factor is how long you leave your card mining—but even going 24/7 for a few years shouldn't affect card performance.

The Truth About Hardware Degradation

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More often than not, electronic components fail because of their underlying mechanical hardware—and that shouldn't be confused for electronic degradation. The fact is, computer parts don’t degrade linearly like mechanical parts. Sustained shouldn't wear down your processor unless you're not properly maintaining your PC.

Mechanical integrity is directly related to usage. Old-fashioned friction is the number one reason most hard drives, keyboards, and cooling fans have a set expiration date. Proper maintenance will extend their life for years, but everything chafes eventually.

Fan Maintenance

GPU mining itself isn't a danger to your PC—it's the mileage. Since most GPUs rely on attached or auxiliary fans, these parts can degrade faster during periods of sustained use.

To prevent damage to your card, you'll need to clean them often. Make sure to keep your blades free of any sediment that might cause undue friction, and check every so often to make sure everything is rotating smoothly. When managed properly, prolonged computational activity like cryptomining and gaming shouldn't degrade your GPU's physical integrity.

Even with the best of care, mechanical fans only get a finite number of revolutions before their material begins to erode. Luckily, fans are one of the easiest parts to replace in a gaming PC.

Beat the Heat

Electronic components don't have to worry about friction, but they are exceptionally sensitive to fluctuations in temperature. Effective heat management techniques are the best way to prevent failure. With any kind of intensive computing, common causes of failure are:

Any of the above can trigger system failure. If your processor can’t disperse the amount of heat it generates, it can experience total meltdown. This happened to Jared's motherboard when he upgraded his GPU—he lost a fan, and the poor girl just couldn’t take the heat.

How to Avoid GPU Overheating

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Consumer GPUs are surprisingly resilient—capable of handling low-grade cook temperatures without a blink. Most factory drivers come equipped with fail-safe routines to turn off the GPU at dangerous temperatures. But overheating does happen, and we'd rather be safe than sorry with such a pricey little toy on the line.

Keeping your PC clean and well ventilated should prevent your rig from suffering this fate. Follow the steps below, and you should keep your rig in working order for years to come.

Diagnosing Overheat

It can be hard to tell if your PC is overheating just by looking at it—and physical signs like the smell of burning only indicate that it’s already too late. Familiarize yourself with the early warnings and try one of these programs to keep tabs on your internal temperatures:

Regularly checking your temperature can help you identify cooling problems long before they lead to overheating. Adopt a regular cleaning schedule and stay away from insane overclock speeds, and you’ll be right as rain (especially those of you water cooling your rigs).

So long as you mine responsibly, you shouldn't have to worry about overheating. Your GPU is one heckuva machine, and it’s far more likely you’ll want to upgrade to a more powerful, efficient unit long before it gets anywhere near its expiration date.


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