PSA: Discolored memory chips are a common sign indicating heavily used graphics cards, possibly former mining cards. Recent evidence suggests that some resellers are trying to deceive customers by painting over the memory. The paint comes off relatively easily for those inspecting the used GPUs.
Two Brazilian YouTube channels have discovered signs that crypto miners are trying to sell used graphics cards by passing them off as more lightly used than they are. A surprising new tactic is to mask signs of wear in GDDR memory.
When a GPU has been under heavy load for extended periods, such as for cryptocurrency mining, the heat can give the memory chips a yellow tint. Iskandar Souza (below) and TecLab recently posted videos analyzing cards that appear to have paint on those chips. Scraping off the paint revealed discoloration. Souza’s report compares a fresh GPU to one with wear in disguise.
The last few years have set the stage for such schemes in the graphics card market. Miners are trying to offload the GPUs of their rigs, which lost profit after the crypto winter and Ethereum Merge last year. Although the mining drop has improved prices in recent months, many cards still struggles to reach its MSRP.
In this environment, deals on used GPUs are likely still attractive to many prospective customers. Those buyers probably want to avoid cryptomining cards, which are more worn than most.
Heavy use and repair efforts also leave marks on other parts of GPUs, as Souza’s video shows. Discoloration around and scratches on the central processor of the card may indicate that the seller tried to resell it, for example. Missing screws could suggest that someone opened up a graphics card to cover traces of mining use.
Last year, we reported on video showing a miner trying to prepare GPUs for resale by blasting a rack of them with a pressure washer — a highly inadvisable method. Not only can untreated water damage graphics card components, but so can the strength of the pressure washer.
All refurbished GPUs aren’t bad though. Buyers just need to be careful when buying from third-party sellers on major sites like Newegg and Amazon. The safest way to get upgrades is probably directly from the stores of board partners like PNY and EVGA (pictured).