New tool reawakens disabled hardware in high-end AMD Radeon graphics cards

Want to risk your graphics card in the name of better performance? Then read on.

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A new user-created tool could help you coax more performance out of your AMD Radeon graphics card. Maybe. 

The latest GPU hacking project making the rounds on the forums is a potentially risky way to unleash some of the Compute Units locked down before shipping on Fiji-based Radeon R9 Fury “Air” graphics cards—which would unlock extra performance in your graphics card. The tool may also work on some Hawaii- and Tonga-based cards.

The story behind the story: The reason this hack can happen at all is thanks to the way in which graphics cards are produced. During the manufacturing process for high-end cards, some hardware components that comprise a graphics processor are inevitably damaged or just end up defective. The defective hardware (Compute Units, in this case) are then disabled, and these “cut-down” GPUs are then used in a less powerful graphics card. Thus, a GPU that would be defective on a Radeon Fury X (which has 64 Compute Units) become the guts behind the air-cooled, step-down Radeon Fury (which rocks 56 Compute Units). 

The thing is there can still be a bunch of perfectly fine CUs in the step-down card. Sometimes those a-ok CUs are disabled physically—such as with a laser cutter—and sometimes locked down with software in order to bring the GPU in line with the graphics card’s specs. This hack relies on unlocking software-disabled CUs, if there are any. It's not guaranteed to work.

Unleash the beast, maybe

The hack uses two basic components. First, there’s a little utility dubbed Cuinfo from Overclock user Tx12. The utility works in concert with another tool, dubbed Memory Info, to tease out information about active and inactive compute units on AMD cards, and whether there’s a chance of unlocking some extra power.

That’s easy enough, but the second part requires tinkering with your BIOS and extracting files from programs such as GPU Tweak II or the R9 Fury Bios update toolkit, as well as using Cuinfo’s companion “AtomTool” utility.

It’s a neat trick, but as we said, this little experiment is high-risk, not to mention complex, and could end up bricking your system or trashing your graphics card. As Cuinfo creator tx12 says:

“For some reason [hardware] locks were left in writable state so they can be overwritten with arbitrary value. However, at least some of HW locks represent real binning information about failed blocks. Activation of these failed blocks may lead to unpredictable effects.”

There have been some reports of people bricking their Fury cards with this tool in the forums—though the majority of users report no lasting issues. In other words, don’t try this at home unless you’re comfortable tinkering with your graphics card BIOS and willing to stomach the risk of maybe bricking your graphics card.

[via TechPowerUp]

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