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



View All Comments

  • 0siris - Friday, April 30, 2021 - link

    Bingo. Look at what happened last time when the crypto bubble burst. Nvidia had lied to their investors about what part of their record revenue from the previous quarter was due to crypto sales, and when that market suddenly fell away, their revenue plummeted and they once again lied to their investors on the earnings call to cover up the fact that they are obfuscating what percentage of their revenue is due to crypto compared to desktop. Can't have that again, have to segment the products so desktop users will be forced to buy new from Nvidia after the bubble bursts instead of having the second hand market flooded with cheap GPUs. Anyone who thinks Nvidia is doing this "for them" is laughably gullible. Nvidia will just keep selling everything they make to miners until the bubble bursts and then suddenly they will start shifting production to the desktop. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Friday, April 30, 2021 - link

    AMD and Nvidia could have sold GPUs that weren't so attractive to miners. Nvidia obviously saw how well AMD's stuff was doing the last time. Suddenly, rather than being so much worse than AMD's cards... But we're supposed to believe Nvidia cares so very much about PC gaming. Reply
  • Silver5urfer - Saturday, May 1, 2021 - link

    Only people who can think with commonsense can understand this and what you said. Since you can already see most of them praising this bullshit move. Reply
  • 29a - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    This is not new, the Quadro line has used software for years to create different product tiers using the same hardware as the mainstream cards. Reply
  • dromoxen - Sunday, May 2, 2021 - link

    You can sell a gfx card when its no longer profitable ... try playing DooM EternaL on that AsiC . Reply
  • npz - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Still fairly pointless given these cards are nowhere to be found at regular retail, and only available through scalpers. Even if they limit ETH, other PoW coins can be mined well enough on Nvidia cars, except for Monero, But even if we remove miners from the 3060 equation, the semi shortage which is affecting everyone in a nearly every industry is not resolving anytime soon and demand is high enough without miners alone. Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Stock would be much better after the new updated GPUs are released if it weren't for the semiconductor shortage. It's been a perfect storm of issues - mining, high demand, low yields and the semicondutor shortage. Reply
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Low yields from Samsung according to the Taiwanese semiconductor industry. If NVIDIA were having yield problem from Samsung they'd be having margin problems because low yield semiconductors are more expensive to make. But they aren't having margin problems. Reply
  • CiccioB - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    They could have just bought working dies, instead of raw wafer.
    They already did that with Kepler on TMSC, and it is not a bad thing: it does not penalize the company that wants to use a new different PP and incentives the PP maker to make it better to lower its own costs.
  • Yojimbo - Thursday, April 29, 2021 - link

    Unless Samsung was somehow surprised by their own bad yields they aren't going to offer such a contract at a rate that doesn't take the bad yield into account. Since NVIDIA's yields are high they must have got a favorable rate. Which is more likely: Samsung was confident of good yields but turned out to be wrong? Or the mouthpiece of the Taiwanese semiconductor industry, digitimes - which is quite literally owned by people who also own the big Taiwanese semiconductor companies - is badmouthing a rival? Reply

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