NVIDIA this morning has released a new driver set for their GeForce cards, version 466.27. And though it’s primarily for next week’s release of Metro Exodus PC Enhanced Edition and a couple of other games, this latest driver drop from NVIDIA also includes an update to their anti-Ethereum throttle, which they first implemented in their GeForce RTX 3060 cards. In short, NVIDIA has tweaked future RTX 3060 cards to require this driver (or newer), which will prevent them from using older drivers that can bypass NVIDIA’s hash limiter. As a result, RTX 3060 cards shipping starting in mid-May will once again be fully locked down against running Ethereum at full (native) speed.

As a quick refresher, back in February with the launch of the GeForce RTX 3060 family of desktop video cards, NVIDIA implemented a novel throttling mechanism to artificially limit the Ethereum mining performance of the cards. This was done in an attempt to make the cards less palatable for miners – who have infamously been buying up cards in what is already a supply-constrained market – and thereby ensure more cards made it to gamers. Unfortunately for NVIDIA, this strategy worked for less than a month before the company accidentally released a driver without the full anti-Ethereum code in place, making it possible to mine Ethereum at full speed in some cases.

Now, having learned from their previous snafu, NVIDIA is taking another shot at locking down the Ethereum mining performance in future RTX 3060 cards by updating their hash limiter and preventing those new cards from using the older, broken development driver.

It also updates the hash limiter for the GeForce RTX 3060 and is required for products shipped starting mid-May 2021.

Unpacking this short (and somewhat ambiguous) statement a bit, starting with the next batch of RTX 3060 cards, which are expected to begin shipping in mid-May, 466.27 will be the minimum driver version required for these cards. Which, despite NVIDIA’s multi-branch naming system, is a newer driver than the compromised 470.05 released back in March. This driver has the updated hash limiter code, and thus, baring future unforced errors on NVIDIA’s part, it will not be possible to mine Ethereum at full speed on future RTX 3060 cards.

NVIDIA has otherwise been fairly tight-lipped on their anti-Ethereum code, but thanks to their March flub and efforts by miners to get around the code, we can take an educated guess at what NVIDIA is doing under the hood with these future RTX 3060 cards. Most likely, NVIDIA has blown an eFuse or two in order to require that newly-minted GA106 GPUs can’t be used with older BIOSes. By changing the minimum BIOS requirement, NVIDIA can have the newer BIOS enforce the newer driver requirement, with the driver in turn enforcing (or at least helping to enforce) the Ethereum throttle. All told, this is very similar to how hardware security works on consoles, where NVIDIA has some experience thanks to the Tegra X1-powered Nintendo Switch.

As for whether this attempt will fare any better than NVIDIA’s previous one, it remains to be seen. But even as things stand with current-generation RTX 3060 cards, NVIDIA’s anti-Ethereum throttle has largely held up; the March snafu has exposed that NVIDIA is already operating a “defense in depth” strategy with multiple checks to identify mining cards, looking for things such as cards operating on a PCIe x1 bus and cards not hooked up to monitors. So if there are any weaknesses, especially on the Linux side of things, then this will be NVIDIA’s opportunity to shore things up for their anti-Ethereum throttle.

Finally, NVIDIA has also informed us that these revised RTX 3060 cards will not be labeled any differently than existing RTX 3060 cards. Since the actual product specifications and functionality haven’t changed – and presumably the GPU hasn’t either – the revised cards will be sold with the same RTX 3060 branding as they have since their launch in February. So once these cards hit the market, it will end up being a relatively silent swap.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • Murloc - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    I don't think it has to be spin. I'm in the electronics industry and the situation is fubar. Electronic components distributors like digikey are in full chaos on their own due to covid and increased demand, the manufacturers have extended lead times to 12-18 months for once always-available components, because demand is extreme.
    Some companies are already unable to deliver on contracts. Nvidia at least does not have a contract with their customers so they're flexible, but they're missing out on money.

    Then on the logistics side, the situation with the containers is for sure not helping at all. It's expensive and they're not available, and everybody is looking for transport.

    The same is also happening in another taiwan-dependent sector, bicycle parts manufacturing. They're running full speed and china-area business is busy, but it's not enough and there just aren't decent bikes available this season.
  • Murloc - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    *china-area business is growing a lot, unlike western economies which were/are still in lockdown
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Chinese March exports rose 30%. The American economy is rebounding, and demand for semiconductors was always up in the pandemic, not down.

    As for China's pandemic economy, the Chinese government financed spending through state-owned enterprises, which is why iron ore demand was so high. China didn't suddenly have a need for even more overbuilt infrastructure and construction. That is how China stimulated the economy. China's consumer demand was weak all of 2020. Domestic retail sales as well as their export sector are now rebounding.
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Yeah it's true that even without mining demand gaming demand would be sufficient to cause the cards to all be sold out. What I meant by the spin is instead of saying that, they say that mining demand is really not so material. But that's not really accurate. Just because gaming demand is strong enough to sell out the cards doesn't mean that mining demand is not a significant percentage of the actual demand out there. And if as high of a percentage of cards were getting into gamers' hands as NVIDIA want to lead people to believe then there wouldn't be the impetus for them to put hash rate limiters on their cards.
  • Spunjji - Friday, April 30, 2021 - link

    ^ This.
  • Spunjji - Friday, April 30, 2021 - link

    "It should also reduce the prices scalpers are charging as the demand should be lower."
    That's what I'm getting at - I'm curious to see how much prices shift if, indeed, these are unappealing to miners.

    "NVIDIA claims it's mostly gaming demand"
    Indeed, and I don't know how much to trust them either. I had the impression with the initial 3080 / 3090 release that Nvidia were doing poorly in terms of yield (and thus supply) and were eager to chalk it all up to demand (which is historically high, to be fair).

    Nvidia's financial figures made me question that yield narrative - but then, as you've noted, market penetration of their products doesn't look that high either. The 3060 being based on a smaller chip should have helped with yield/supply if that was the primary issue, too. Yet people still don't seem to be able to get cards.

    Basically I don't really know what to believe anymore. Clearly it's some toxic mix of yield/supply/demand from gamers/demand from scalpers/demand from miners, but none of the parties involved have any reason to be completely honest and lots of incentive to cherry-pick the factors that get the blame.
  • Yojimbo - Saturday, May 1, 2021 - link

    My opinion is that there are supply constraints and demand is very high. There are no unusual yield issues, that's just Taiwanese semiconductor industry propaganda against Samsung. Production is good from a historical perspective but it's not meeting demand. Demand from gamers is already very high - check out the Nintendo switch and the software sales, for example; even the ps4 saw a strong uptick - and with the crypto craze, demand is through the roof. NVIDIA is fighting hard to get the cards in the hands of gamers, but more cards are going to crypto miners than NVIDIA wants to publicly admit. What percedntage? I don't know. The majority are going to gamers. But last quarter crypto miners must have ended up with more than the $100 million to $200 million of gaming cards I seem to recall NVIDIA estimating. Things that need to be taken into consideration, however, are that a large percentage of cards are going into laptop and desktop systems, that these are going almost entirely to gamers, and that they take longer to get into the hands of consumers and show up in Steam surveys. I wouldn't be surprised if NVIDIA has got its board partners to shift a larger percentage of its modules than usual to pre-built systems in order to fulfill the strong demand from OEMs and to help insure cards get into the hands of gamers instead of crypto miners.
  • Yojimbo - Sunday, May 2, 2021 - link

    Just saw the recent Steam survey. Hardly any new 30 series cards showing up on the latest list. There's more 1650s, 1650Tis, or 1660Tis added than any 30 series card.
  • Qasar - Monday, May 3, 2021 - link

    and steam survey is an accurate take and who is using what hardware ? hardly. i know quite a few people who either dont have steam, or have used it in quite some time. quoting what that says, is a small to medium fraction at best as to what hardware people have for hardware.
  • Yojimbo - Monday, May 3, 2021 - link

    Yes, it is. It is a good indication of who is using what hardware, not who is buying what hardware. But when people buy new gaming hardware it's safe to say they use it. It's not a "small to medium fraction" by itself, although it could be useful even if it were. It's a large fraction. Most gamers use steam, maybe not exclusively, but they use it. Also, there's no reason to believe that people who buy the latest gaming hardware and don't play on steam have different buying habits than those who buy it and do. Steam survey results track well with the JPR research discrete GPU market share releases, as well. Claiming steam survey results aren't useful or accurate is just a last refuge of AMD fans who don't want to believe what they see. Somewhere there is a mystical place where gamers are playing on AMD cards that AMD never recognized revenue for.

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