AMD RX 6800 and 6900 graphics cards recently came into the spotlight after many of them broke due to the GPU actually physically cracking, and now we have an apparent answer as to why this happened.
This comes from KrisFix on YouTube (who runs a German repair shop that fixes hardware), who noticed that many such AMD GPUs showing up on his doorstep had died due to cracks.
At the time, speculation was rife about the AMD driver as a possible cause, since all owners of these graphics cards had been running the latest version, but as KrisFix explains in a new youtube video (opens in a new tab) (highlighted by Tom’s Hardware (opens in a new tab)), that was not the case.
In fact, KrisFix puts forward a theory that the problem was caused by a combination of two factors: the GPUs are ex-crypto-mining models, and the way they were stored prior to sale.
KrisFix notes that all of the problematic cards were sold in late November or early December 2022, and likely came from the same second-hand source, namely a crypto mining farm that sold a load of these AMD Radeon models.
So the idea is that these graphics cards were put to very heavy use 24/7 in their mining tasks, and then probably stored in a poor environment, perhaps a warehouse with high humidity levels.
Meaning that when buyers got their GPUs, they worked fine to begin with, but then when gaming (or other intense workloads) spiked chip temperatures, due to damage from excessive moisture (combined with all those miles previous in the mining clock), the GPU just cracked. The owners might have had a day or two off the cards, maybe even three, before they blew up.
All of the broken graphics cards showed the same type of damage and were in a generally similar state, and the coolers had been cleaned as well. (Normally, a second-hand graphics card would have some dust on it, but in this case, all the cards were clean, suggesting that the mining farm owner fixed them all before putting them up for sale.)
Analysis: The dangers of the used GPU market
This is actually not a surprise, as when we originally reported this issue, we noted that the affected models could be ex-mining GPUs. What KrisFix says here makes sense to us and also explains why we’re not seeing this issue elsewhere: A local mining operation went out of business and sold all of its graphics cards (stocked the same way) to buyers in the area, a lot of which turned to this repair shop to fix their problems when the GPU went bad.
The good news, then, is that this won’t be a widespread problem for the RX 6900 and RX 6800 models, and that AMD’s graphics driver isn’t to blame (which KrisFix underscores in this latest video).
Instead, then, this episode serves as a pretty stark warning about the dangers of buying GPUs that previously ran erratic on a large mining farm, and that it’s not just the workloads they’ve been put through, but also the ravages of the environment (and even the post-storage farming life, before the cards are actually sold).
In short, buy an ex-mining graphics card at your own risk, because there are definite and clear risks associated with these GPUs. The problem is that sellers often don’t disclose that a second-hand card is ex-mining stock, because they know that’s off-putting to many people. So you are in a situation where you have to trust the reputation of the seller and their integrity in being honest about the past life of the graphics card.
All of these dangers are greatly amplified at a time when cryptocurrencies are falling off a cliff, as it was last year, and mining operations are giving up and obviously looking to sell their shares as a final cash grab. In times like these, the used GPU market can become a minefield, so be especially careful when buying second-hand.