The Flashing O' The GPU

I am not, by nature, an adventurous person; I am fundamentally risk-averse. However, every dog has it's day and once in a blue moon I will do something...daring.

In the past few months, I have actually been quite the rebel; first, I plunged into the world of cryptomining, and secondly I got another job - and I really do not enjoy job interviews. I am also not one who changes jobs frequently.

The mining part demanded an outlay of cash to get it started (again, quite unlike me) and was also fairly risky, in terms of being able to pay back the initial investment - never mind "make" some additional money afterwards.

My most recent character quirk also involves the cryptomining process; I actually summoned up the nerve to flash my video cards to try and get a few more hashes out of them. I know, right? Living on the edge, that's me.

Image courtesy Gamers Nexus

Actually purchasing more GPUs is not in the cards in the immediate future for me, as the prices are still inflated by demand (although this has eased a bit recently). My "mining operation" is small scale (three video cards total), and will probably remain so.

The flashing process alters the video card firmware to optimize the memory performance for cryptomining rather than video games. Some of this optimization can be done through the video drivers; I have all Radeon cards, and their blockchain drivers already give extra performance over the "normal" AMD graphics drivers.

The last performance "push" though seems to require flashing the cards. I have been loathe to do this on general principal; there is always a chance something will be buggered up when flashing anything - BIOSes, GPUs, whatever. 

The itch got the better of me though, and I started on the middle card first. The process is straightforward and quite fast, as detailed here on Vosk Coin. The process went largely as expected, and while my slowest, cheapest card (Radeon RX 550) saw only a marginal increase in MH/s mining Ethereum, my two better cards (Radeon RX 560 and Radeon RX 580) each increased their hashrate by around 20% - which I am very pleased with.

As Vosk said in the above video, if you have 5 GPUs running, you are essentially adding the power of another card for no monetary outlay by flashing them.

Of course, I had  a couple of panicky moments; one where the system apparently froze up - till I realized that simply disconnecting and reconnecting the remote session brought it "back". The other was when my most expensive card behaved slightly differently during the flashing process (it made two passes at one step of the process, and gave a slightly different result at the end). 

After rebooting and testing I realized this was because it's an 8GB card, not 4GB - the memory timing changes were applied to the two 4GB blocks of RAM one by one.

While I am not recommending this to anyone, the process worked for me - other than stressing me out for a few minutes. It is supposedly reversible (you back up the original BIOS as part of the process), but it also would void your manufacturer's warranty if future issues occur. Since I have already (barely) recouped the money I paid for the cards, I took that risk.


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