How DAG & Hardware Degradation Affect GPU Miners


November 6, 2019

To get regular folks up to speed, let's have a look at DAGs, hardware degradation, and their combined impact on your cryptomining earnings over time.

What Is a DAG?

Unless you’re from Down Under (where a "dag" is something like “a loveable weirdo”), DAG stands for Directed Acyclic Graph. A "graph" is a complicated mathematical structure that defines the relationships and order of certain data points—but we won't get into the technical stuff.

All miners need to know is that, in cryptomining, a DAG records transactions and makes mining secure. Without a DAG, a mining algorithm has no way to track, notate, or reward your GPU’s hard work. This is similar to a cryptocurrency ledger, but it's not quite the same thing.

The more people who mine, and the longer they stay mining, the more the DAG has to expand to accommodate all that information. Most DAGs only grow over time and never get smaller, which might spell bad news for miners on older rigs.

Why the DAG Matters for Miners

To start cryptomining, your hardware needs to process both the algorithm and all the data associated with the coin’s history—the DAG. Running the algorithm is fairly simple for consumer GPUs, but they've also got to store the entire DAG in memory as a single unit. It cannot be spliced or divided.

This amounts to a pretty high Video RAM (VRAM) bar. As the DAG grows, GPUs with less memory will no longer be able to store the entirety of the DAG needed to mine for that coin.

Ethereum's DAG was once small enough that 2GB VRAM cards could mine ETH (those were the days…). Flashforward to today, and the DAG has bloated to such a size that many 4GB VRAM cards can’t barely handle the load anymore.

How Hardware Degradation Works

GPUs are getting bigger and badder by the year, but hardware degradation might be a concern if you're using older hardware. We've said it before, but it bears repeating: cryptomining doesn't damage your GPU if you're taking good care of it.

Unlike mechanical hardware, GPUs have no moving parts. Without said moving parts, friction can’t do its business and the hunk of circuitry can’t really degrade in the traditional sense of the word. GPUs can and will fail if stressed, but they do not drop in performance over time or “wear out.”

With graphics cards, hardware degradation equates to decreased performance relative to increasing demands over time. Stated plainly, your GPU performance begins to degrade the moment it’s hooked up to a PC, since performance demands only grow larger as you compute.

For miners, the question is: will a particular GPU mine long enough to generate profit?

If you pick up a 1050 Ti today with the aim of making mula through mining, you’re simply unable to mine ETH to make money, no matter how well the coin is doing on the market. Even if you own a beefed-up GPU, hardware degradation combined with DAG growth will quash your ether mining dreams eventually (but probably not any time soon).

Multiprotocol Mining And GPU Viability

The world of cryptomining welcomes all kinds. Many coins don’t incorporate DAG infrastructure, and others are designed to have a fixed-size DAG which doesn’t grow over time—meaning these coins can always be mined.

Which coin to turn to is another question entirely, one more concerned with profitability than hardware or tech considerations. Salad does the hard thinking for you, and always chooses the most profitable workload available.

In short, crypto changes at lightning speed, and it can be hard for older hardware to keep up. Never expect that you can mine any coin forever. If you want to keep making money through mining, monitor the markets and mining difficulty, then make adjustments accordingly—or let Salad do it all for you.