Should you buy a used mining GPU?

Should you buy a used mining GPU? Usually, you may want to avoid graphics cards that were used around the clock to mine cryptocurrency. But that’s not necessarily the case during the Great GPU Shortage, when the best graphics cards are always out of stock even when they’re going for exorbitant prices

Let’s say you’ve done your research, stood in line for hours, and endlessly refreshed your browser at online retailers without any luck. When you’re finally about to give up, you find the perfect used GPU for sale—but the seller tells you it was used for mining cryptocurrency.

Is that a deal breaker? Should you buy a used mining GPU? Let’s break down when they may be available, what the risks are, and if you should worry about degraded performance.

The era of crypto-mining GPUs

GPU mining has become such a phenomenon that Nvidia introduced “Lite Hash Rate” GPUs in 2021 to stem demand from cryptocurrency enthusiasts. This isn’t the first time that mining has put the pinch on PC gamers though, and there are lessons to be learned from past cycles. 

Cheap mining graphics cards flooded the used market after the 2017 cryptocurrency collapse. We’re currently in a historic boom period where GPUs remain scarce. When the profitability of Ethereum goes down significantly, you can expect a rapidly changing situation as miners sell their GPUs into the market.

The great GPU flood can happen at any time! This is due to the sporadic nature of cryptocurrency. Without getting too into the weeds, future changes in how Ethereum handles proof of work may sway the tide as well. We don’t need a full crypto collapse for used mining graphics cards to enter the market, however. Miners may sell them off when prices are high, and to adjust their positions, so they can pop up at any point.

What are the risks with used mining GPUs?

The obvious worry for buying a graphics card used for mining is that performance will be vastly degraded, and the GPU will fail sooner than expected. This is generally not the case, however. In our experience, mining GPUs do not seem to show much reduction in capability. Let’s exam some possible reasons why, and some caveats.

  • Experienced GPU miners typically reduce the power draw and underclock their GPU to make the graphics card more efficient, increasing only the memory performance. (See more below.)
  • In contrast, a gamer will want to overclock the GPU, a more risky endeavor.
  • Miners do run their graphics cards 24/7, but this can also help minimize the heat up/cool down cycle that is stressful on silicon.

There are certainly other dangers, though. Heat is a major problem for GPUs. If they were used for mining in an extremely hot environment without proper airflow, there can be issues.

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