AMD has released an updated version of the Blockchain Compute version of their graphic card driver to add support for the Vega series GPU line. With a file date of August 23rd, 2017 it represents the latest driver available specifically optimized for cryptocurrency mining and supports most of the current generation AMD GPUs. You can found more information on which cards are supported as well as download links on AMD’s Blockchain Driver support page.
The driver has had mixed reviews so far, but their is hope that AMD will continue to address issues and improve upon the driver aimed mainly at cryptocurrency miners.
The immediate effect of this new beta driver is to address issues that have come up with the increasing DAG file size when mining Ethereum. Specifically mining performance has been slowly decreasing due to the DAG file size exceeding the capacity of the working memory space on most AMD cards and the need for shuffling memory around internally. The end result is that cards such as the RX580 series have went from hashing Ethereum at 30 Mh/s a couple of months ago, to 26 Mh/s now while maintaining the same settings.
This driver attempts to improve the handling of larger memory requirements and return the hashing performance to previous levels. Results so far have been mixed, as although some performance improvements are certainly noted, in most cases delivering 2 or 3 extra Mh/s in performance, it often is coming at the cost of increased power consumption.
Do note that if you intend to use this driver that it will not correctly install if you have modified your GPU’s VBIOS file. One workaround to this is to install and run the Pixel Clock Patcher after you install the new Blockchain Drivers and before you reboot.
I have detailed the required steps to install this driver below.
First download all of the required files. For this guide I am using:
- AMD Clean Uninstall Utility available here. You can also use DDU (Display Driver Uninstaller), but for this guide I will demonstrate the steps using AMD’s program.
- Latest AMD Blockchain Compute Beta driver available here. Be sure to download the correct version for your Operating System (i.e. Windows 10 64-bit).
- Latest Pixel Patcher (atikmdag-patcher) file available here. (Version 1.4.5 was latest as of writing this guide.)
Remove the existing drivers.
It is always a good idea to start from a clean slate and remove the current graphics drivers before proceeding. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the AMD Clean Uninstall Utility.
Simply download the utility and run the AMDCleanupUtility.exe file and it will run automatically after prompting you with a driver removal confirmation message. The utility will also indicate when it has completed and will prompt you to reboot. Click No here as we have one final step I like to perform.
Before rebooting, go to the root of the C: drive, or whatever your root drive is, and find and delete the AMD folder. This is the folder that the AMD installer extracts to and there have been reports that if certain files are not overwritten they can cause problems later on. In any event is does not hurt to remove this folder as it will be recreated and populated with new files when we install the new drivers.
Once the AMD folder has been deleted, you can then reboot your system.
One other trick I like to do when the system is rebooting is to unplug the LAN cable to help prevent Windows from automatically downloading and installing a new graphic driver before you get the chance to after the systems comes back up. It is an optional step, but since you shoudl have all the files needed download already, you will not need Internet connectivity for the next part anyway.
Install the new Graphic Drivers
Once your computer has rebooted, open up the Downloads folder and double click on the AMD Driver installation file. In this case it is named Win10-64Bit-Crimson-ReLive-Beta-Blockchain-Workloads-Aug23.exe.
This action will by default extract the installation files into a new AMD folder taking the place of the one we deleted earlier. You could choose a different location if you so desire (as shown above), but for the guide we will accept the default location and click on Install.
The program will begin extracting the actual installation files into the folder you specified above. Do note this step can take a few minutes depending upon the speed of your system. Once file extraction phase has completed the installer will prompt you to continue on with the actual installation of the driver files. You will at that point need to accept the terms and conditions page as shown in the image below before being able to proceed with the installation.
The software will do a scan of your system to determine the environment and any GPUs you have installed. Again depending upon the speed of your system this could take a minute or two. Once it has completed the installation method screen should appear as shown below. This will give you the choice of Express Install, which basically defaults to install everything, and Custom Install where you can pick and choose the components to individually install.
I choose custom as I only like to install the actual video driver only and I uncheck the selections for Report Wizard, AMD Settings, and the HDMI Audio Driver. If you like to use AMD’s Wattman to control your GPU, you will want to leave AMD Settings checked. Otherwise if you prefer a third party program such as Wattool, or Afterburner I have found that keeping AMD’s Wattman can sometimes cause conflicts so uncheck it. One more note, you can if you want leave HDMI Audio Driver checked as well, as Window swill still install a default driver for it after the fact.
Once all of the driver files have been installed, the software will prompt you to reboot. As before click No, or in this case “Close” at the bottom far right (shown below) as we have one more step to perform first.
Run the Pixel Patcher
So before rebooting to complete the driver install, we will run the pixel patcher program to prevent problems with modified VBIOS files. Note that if you are running factory defaults for your GPU BIOS then you can skip this step and proceed with the reboot now, however in either case applying the patch will cause no ill effects.
Open the download Pixel Patcher files and extract the atikmdag-patcher zip file somewhere, the Downloads folder or even the Desktop will work well. Open up the extracted folder and double click on the atikmdag-patcher.exe file to run the program.
NOTE: If you are only interested in getting past the signature check, which probably 99% of my readers are, you can rename the file to atikmdag-patcher-bios.exe before running, which will cause the program to just patch the BIOS signature check and ignoring all of the other options. It should indicate “found” for BIOS signature check (as shown below), hit Yes and the hit ok when it shows complete.
Once the pixel patcher has completed, you can go ahead and reboot your computer. If you had previously unplugged the LAN cable, you can now reconnect it during the reboot.
Once the computer has rebooted a quick check of Device Manager (Quick Tip: Right click on the Windows Icon and select Device Manager from the resulting menu), expand Display adapters and verify all your cards are displayed and have no warnings.
If all looks good you can fire up your mining program. You should immediately notice an improvement in your Ethereum hashrates. You may also notice a slight increase in power usage as your GPU’s are now working at 100% again so you will need to take this into consideration if you want to try and adjust your voltages. I will leave that subject to another article as the intent of this one was simply to provide a walk-through of installing the AMD Blockchain driver.