With the cryptocurrency market crashing recently due to instability, and Ethereum's move to being proof-of-stake (in simple talk, this just means they do not need to use GPUs to mine anymore), cryptocurrency miners are once again selling off their prized GPUs, some at seriously low prices.
Undoubtably, the question that will come to mind when there is an irresistible second-hand deal for that RTX 3080 you've been pining for will be: "Is it safe to buy a mining GPU?"
To keep the answer short, yes.
Yes, it is no different from buying a second hand GPU that was used for gaming or a workstation.
Which means to say that the things that you will need to look out for, are the same things that you would need to look out for anyway when buying a second-hand GPU.
On the surface, the wear and tear on mining GPUs are no different from a GPU that is used for 'normal' purposes like gaming.
Some may even argue that mining isn't even as intensive as heavy workloads like rendering 3d objects and intensive algorithmic coding.
In fact, GPUs that are used for mining aren't run at full power all the time, and are ran at the most minimal power draw.
Miners will usually underclock and undervolt these cards so that they don't consume a lot of power.
Remember, miners are looking to make money, so the more power the cards consume, the higher the expenditure is for the miner.
Mining also uses the memory on the GPU a lot more than the GPU itself.
For the gamer or the developer, the VRAM is only used to store textures and files that are needed for the application that they are using. Even in the most stressful mining conditions, the wear and tear on the VRAM will never affect the basic functionality for gaming and day to day use.
You can rest easy to know that it is no difference in functionality when you compare a used mining GPU to a GPU that was solely used for gaming.
But like I mentioned earlier, the things that you would need to look out for are the things that you would need to look out for anyway when buying a second hand GPU.
Check for warranty
If you buy a second-hand GPU, it is up to you if you would like to get one that is still under its warranty period. Generally, of course, it is safer to get one under warranty just in case something goes awry.
Most RTX 30 series and Radeon 60 series GPUs should have at least one to two years worth of warranty left at this point of time, unless it was bought overseas.
When buying a second-hand GPU, do make sure that the warranty sticker is still intact on the GPU if you are living in Southeast Asia.
Most distributors will refuse a warranty replacement or repair if the sticker has been tampered with.
Don't worry about external blemishes
With use, any product will show some use over time.
The primary components of the GPU are mostly under a thick heatsink. The only way you can get to them is to tear the GPU apart.
As long as that isn't tampered with, physical blemishes on the heatsinks of the GPU are usually okay to ignore, especially parts that are mildly oxidised. It does not affect functionality of the GPU at all.
Unless there is severe damage to the fins of the heatsink or the fans, the GPU should be fine. If you do find a dusty GPU however, do clean it with a vacuum or a blower before putting it into your PC.
How to deal with hot thermals
If for some reason, you experience high temperatures on your second hand GPU, you may need to replace the thermal paste and the thermal pads of your graphics card.
You will need to remove the heatsink of the GPU and check if the thermal paste has dried up, and if the thermal pads are still in contact with the GPU's components.
To learn more about how to do this, you can watch this video:
All in all, there are absolutely no major downsides to buying a GPU that was used for mining.
Just make sure you do your due diligence to research a couple of things when buying any kind of second hand GPU - the warranty period, the usage period and any kind of quirks present in the second hand GPU.
Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.