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Why You Shouldn’t Roll the Dice on a Secondhand GPU

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A surge of graphics cards on secondhand marketplaces has brought down GPU prices a lot, but when shopping on sites like eBay, Mercari, and Facebook Marketplace, you’re playing Russian Roulette. Palit Microsystems, a Taiwan-based graphics card maker, says that graphics cards that have been run in crypto farms can drop as much as 10% of performance per year.

In speaking with Benchmark.pl, Palit said that independent tests have shown up to a 10% drop in performance after a year of a card running in a mining operation. Outside of the performance drop, mining cards are often subjected to intense heat and power draw, as they’re sandwiched between other cards operating at full speed.

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A recent influx of graphics cards on secondhand marketplaces is the center of the conversation. After China imposed restrictions on cryptocurrency mining, marketplaces saw a surge in inexpensive graphics cards. They’re a tempting proposition, especially after nearly a year of inflated GPU prices.

It’s important to be careful shopping for a graphics card, especially if you get it pre-owned. The drop in performance is one thing, but cards running at full speed 24/7 may carry other issues, as well. Prolonged exposure to high heat can damage the components inside the card and limit the cooling potential, leading to decreased performance and lifespan.

This is becoming increasingly important in the U.S. with falling Ethereum prices. Peaking a few months ago, the price of Ethereum has started to level off, and the switch to a new validation model will make traditional GPU mining obsolete later this year. The U.S. houses the lion’s share of Etherum miners, so a rush of secondhand mining cards is likely.

How you can protect yourself

The GPU shortage has pushed the prices of graphics cards to obscene limits, as well as limited supply at traditional retailers. With more cards popping up on sites like eBay, going secondhand can be tempting. Before you do that, though, you should know the risks that come along with it.

There are ways to buy a graphics card new in 2021, so we recommend sticking with them. If you need to shop secondhand, it’s important to do as many social checks as possible.

Listings for the RTX 3080 on eBay.

That usually comprises looking at seller ratings, other listings, and feedback. If the seller has a lot of cards available — particularly of the same model — that might indicate they were used for mining. In addition, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is and the card was likely used in a mining rig. A visual inspection helps, too, though that doesn’t always reveal much.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know for sure. It’s possible you can pick up a mining card that wasn’t driven into the ground, and it’s possible you can pick up a unit that works for a few months before unexpectedly dying. If you’re shopping in the secondhand market, you have to roll the dice.

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