[Solved] There goes my eGPU - Requesting the aid of hardware nuts  

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mac_editor
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September 2, 2017 4:15 am  

So I just got back to US - had a long 18h flight, got myself a 4k display to upgrade my setup - everything is set up, ready to go on both OSes. And then - BAM - as soon as the GPU is put under load - video output to the display ceases (it works fine @4k60 for a moment before everything blacks out). I have not yet tried my setup on my 1080p display (which is packed - should get it out soon) since returning. The new 4k monitor seems all jolly when plugged in to my Mac directly - so I doubt its an issue with it or the cables. I'm guessing the rough handling of my one little checked baggage has somehow damaged the Node + GPU (I just packed it in - with the GPU inside the Node). So:

  • How can I determine if the Node's PSU has issues or the GPU?
  • If the GPU is at fault - can it be fixed DIY or will I have to give up on it?

 

In any case, this will be conclusive once I test my old display - I'll update the post once I've done so.

Being eGPUless sucks you know... 🙁

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wimpzilla
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September 2, 2017 4:59 am  

The first rule of troubleshooting is to disassemble everything, check for any evident part damage, check power connections and general connectors, then reassemble the eGPU setup and test again.

When doing so, check carefully if any components, even tiny, are missing, broken, flew away from the pcb of the gpu/node.

Dunno which RX480 you own, if it own a backplate,  but check carefully where each piece are in close contact, where a shock could have created some damage.  Check if something bend inside the node that could create short to ground or whatsoever.

Corrupted display could be related to drivers, power delivery, unstable pci-e signal, bad thermal with high t° and broken/unsoldered components.

The worst case would be a shock that cause micro brakes on soldered component from the gpu, node. The psu pcb should be more solid and do not have a lot of surface smd component in it. If the setup boot at least, i would exclude big short to ground otherwise the setup would not work.

Edit: Check carefully the pci-e slot area of the gpu pcb and on the node pcb. If any physical stress would be applied, it is the part that would suffer the most, along the card hitting the walls of the box. If nothing come out, try the node with another gpu, if the node work, then begin to think about to tear apart the heatsink as last resort to check carefully the pcb/gpu die area.

 

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mac_editor
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September 2, 2017 5:03 am  
Posted by: wimpzilla

The first rule of troubleshooting is to disassemble everything, check for any evident part damage, check power connections and general connectors, then reassemble the eGPU setup and test again.

When doing so, check carefully if any components, even tiny, are missing, broken, flew away from the pcb of the gpu/node.

Dunno which RX480 you own, if it owna backplate,  but check carefully where each peace are in close contact where a shock could have created some damage.  Check if something bend inside the node that could create short to ground or whatsoever.

Corrupted display could be related to drivers, power delivery, unstable pci-e signal, bad thermal with high t° and broken/unsoldered components.

The worst case would be a shock that cause micro brakes on soldered component from the gpu, node. The psu pcb should be more solid and do not have a lot of surface smd component in it.

 

Thanks for the tip! I did try reassembling the stuff (albeit without checking for damage) but was fruitless. I have the Armor OC 4G - no backplate (which sucks doesn't it). I gather that the PSU probably is something less to worry about. I'll look more closely at the GPU then.

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mac_editor
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September 2, 2017 10:45 am  

Another symptom is this: The GPU quite suddenly goes full blast on the fans in spurts - a behavior I have never seen before. What kind of issue could this be? Maybe the chip is cooked or something (probably when I first plugged it in - I did sense a slight burning smell - which ceased quickly though) and therefore only runs for a few moments. I also tried to look at the backplate and PCIe connections - they seemed fine to me. Not sure what I can do next. Suggestions appreciated (or if you could fine me a fine deal on a 580).

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wimpzilla
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September 2, 2017 11:38 am  

Usually when the gpu fan go full blast, it mean the gpu looses the connectivity with the laptop. So at this point, if you did not notice any evident damage on the gpu, the node would be the culprit.

The best is to try each component separately, but now if you smelt something burn, you could damage working components testing.

If you can post me some pictures of each side of the card, and the node pcb. If possible disassemble the node pcb from the box, in few word take apart the whole box.

The usual trick is to track the burnt smell on, from the psu, the pcb, te gpu, to try to pinpoint the burnt component.

The same as you feel the warm/hot components on a pcb when a short to ground happen, by touching the board.

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mac_editor
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September 2, 2017 11:43 am  
Posted by: wimpzilla

Usually when the gpu fan go full blast, it mean the gpu looses the connectivity with the laptop. So i this point, if you did not notice any evident damage on the gpu, the node would be the culprit.

The best is to try each component separately, but now if you smelt something burn, you could damage working components testing.

If you can post me some pictures of each side of the card, and the node pcb. If possible disassemble the node pcb from the box, in few word take apart the whole box.

The usual trick is to track the burnt smell on, from the psu, the pcb, te gpu, to try to pinpoint the burnt smell/component.

The same as you feel the warm/hot components on a pcb when a short to ground happen, by touching the board.

Cool - seems like I have got to keep aside some time for this. On another note - could the TB cable be an issue - it was folded rather tightly in a pouch? Perhaps I should rule that out too.

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wimpzilla
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September 2, 2017 11:48 am  

The active components of the TB cable are molded into the connectors, so if something burnt there, you would not be able to see it, aside if it begin to heat and melt/damage the connector.

So at this point the damage is quite evident, on the other hand if the short burnt the wires, you would not be able to get it work first. I hope some short protection to kick in.

 

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mac_editor
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September 2, 2017 11:57 am  
Posted by: wimpzilla

The active components of the TB cable are molded into the connectors, so if something burnt there, you would not be able to see it, aside if it begin to heat and melt/damage the connector.

So at this point the damage is quite evident, on the other hand if the short burnt the wires, you would not be able to get it work first. I hope some short protection to kick in.

 

Makes sense. Ordered a TB2 cable (refundable) just for testing anyway. Now to focus on the Node. I'll post screenshots as well if possible.

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mac_editor
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September 3, 2017 2:23 pm  

So I haven't yet looked at the Node's internals for any issues, but the TB cable is likely not to blame. Tested on a Dell XPS with TB3 - still same issue. The primary issue is this: on load, the display plugged into the GPU turns off. Can't see any signs of damage (at least on the outside on the GPU). Should I try contacting MSI instead? Or could the Node be the problem?

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wimpzilla
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September 3, 2017 3:39 pm  

In this case there are two things: either you contact the support if the product is under warranty and ask them what to do, either if the warranty expired you need to troubleshoot the issue yourself.

As i already said, if you want to troubleshoot yourself there is no other way than take apart the whole thing, get the node pcb hands on and check for evident shorts or smd components damage. I understand that for customers without advance electronics knowledge is a bit harsh and scary, but dissembling the node pcb should be quite easy i think.

There is a short to ground somewhere that trigger the protection in my opinion, as already said you are putting working hardware at risk trying it without knowing where the issue came from.

The most plausible issue is the node pcb board, then the node psu and last the gpu, in my opinion.

In this case there is no other way that inspect carefully the pcb and surface smd components. If there was a burnt smell, usually something shorted out and trigger the protection either on the psu or the Mac.

I would hope the gpu is fine, since you got some display acceleration, but keeping trying without troubleshoot is a big risk. There is no other way that disassemble everything and posting me high res pictures, if you are not confident on what looking for. Pictures of the gpu, node pcb, both sides.

Edit: Did you notice the gpu overheat, when you plugged it in, before the screen goes blank?

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mac_editor
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September 3, 2017 11:28 pm  
Posted by: wimpzilla

In this case there are two things: either you contact the support if the product is under warranty and ask them what to do, either if the warranty expired you need to troubleshoot the issue yourself.

As i already said, if you want to troubleshoot yourself there is no other way than take apart the whole thing, get the node pcb hands on and check for evident shorts or smd components damage. I understand that for customers without advance electronics knowledge is a bit harsh and scary, but dissembling the node pcb should be quite easy i think.

There is a short to ground somewhere that trigger the protection in my opinion, as already said you are putting working hardware at risk trying it without knowing where the issue came from.

The most plausible issue is the node pcb board, then the node psu and last the gpu, in my opinion.

In this case there is no other way that inspect carefully the pcb and surface smd components. If there was a burnt smell, usually something shorted out and trigger the protection either on the psu or the Mac.

I would hope the gpu is fine, since you got some display acceleration, but keeping trying without troubleshoot is a big risk. There is no other way that disassemble everything and posting me high res pictures, if you are not confident on what looking for. Pictures of the gpu, node pcb, both sides.

Edit: Did you notice the gpu overheat, when you plugged it in, before the screen goes blank?

In process of disassembling the components.

 

I did not notice the GPU overheat when plugged in. I'll have to check again to make sure.

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wimpzilla
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September 3, 2017 11:51 pm  

Gotcha.

You can also try the gpu in another desktop computer, i mean not a shiny one, but and old desktop that you do not bother to damage if something go wrong. Doing that you lower the risk to damage further other components than trying with the node, especially your Mac.

Ask some friends if they are willing to test the gpu on an old motherboard, just for the sake to be sure that the gpu is working, at least you got half relief from your unfortunate issue, could be already a small victory knowing that the RX480 is fine, especially knowing the cost of this gpu at the moment. Then focus more on the node at this point.

Or reach a computer shop and ask then if they can try the gpu on a test bench, telling them it could have power delivery or pci-e connection issues. You could just say that your whole desktop fried and you were wondering if the gpu survived.

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mac_editor
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September 4, 2017 1:00 am  

I'm not sure I see a problem on either the Node PCB or GPU (which works when not under load). Some pictures:

 

Probably the PSU then? Haven't opened that up (yet). At least I've become a lot more comfortable dealing with sensitive hardware after this haha. Also, I didn't disassemble the GPU fans, etc. or would you suggest I do that too and take a look? My feeling (and hope) is the PSU that can easily be replaced.

 

Also, I don't seem to have access to a desktop/bench sadly... will have to look - but yeah, if its the GPU then it'll be sad (and expensive to get another).

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theitsage
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September 4, 2017 1:10 am  

What colors are the PCIe power cables from the Node's PSU? I had one of the first Nodes and the original PSU had issues. AKiTiO sent me a replacement back in late March. The new PSU has beefier PCIe cables (3 yellow wires and the rest black). There's a tag on each cable with the PCI Express logo.

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mac_editor
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September 4, 2017 1:12 am  
Posted by: theitsage

What colors are the PCIe power cables from the Node's PSU? I had one of the first Nodes and the original PSU had issues. AKiTiO sent me a replacement back in late March. The new PSU has beefier PCIe cables (3 yellow wires and the rest black). There's a tag on each cable with the PCI Express logo.

I have the new one - exactly as described - 3 yellow wires per set + the tag.

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wimpzilla
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September 4, 2017 2:59 am  

It's always a good thing to be able to do basic troubleshooting of the hardware you paid for, it is something that not all manufacturer allow noways.

To start with:

-It is anyway important to take apart the hardware and try it out of the case anyway, you can call that the good practice of troubleshooting. It remove any issue related to shorts with the case, bad grounding. Try also to unplug and replug the node board pcbs, to be sure sure that the contact between the 2 board is fine, if the two boards are not soldered between them.

-I did not noticed any major burnt integrated circuit on the node pcb, nor evident missing component, that's a good thing. But i noticed that the board heated an left some traces on the pcb, especially near the power connectors. Another thing is the gold spot near some smd capacitors related to the board power. You can clean it gently with a bit of ethanol 70%, and a piece of tissue, if you notice that this stuff is sticky or could provide issues.

So i post you the picture and check these things please.

 

-The gpu seems fine, i did not noticed any broken or missing components, especially near the pci-e connector, another good thing. For now i do not think you should remove the heatsink, at least you could, but for replace the thermal paste, one day, if you would so. I'm sure the gpu would be happy with that.

-At this point take out the out the psu, once out smell throught the airflow vents and check if you recognize the same burnt smell, if yes the psu is moslty the culprit. If not you can anyway take it apart, quite easy just to open it and peek quickly inside.

In my opinion you should:

1/As said before, try the the gpu alone on another desktop computer to be sure that the gpu is working fine. And remove it from the issue.

2/If the gpu work, try again the node pcb, letting it outside the case for the moment with another psu. Obviously if the gold spot seems not to be a damaged pcb.

3/Smell and open the psu to check if something is damaged inside. If yes replace the psu, and test it outside the case. If everything work as it should, then assemble again the box, finally test the box fully assembled.

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mac_editor
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September 4, 2017 3:21 am  

@wimpzilla: Many thanks for your keen eye for making these observations (I missed em' all) + for your time. I'm a little tired today, but I'll certainly check out what's up with those marked areas. I wish I could test the GPU, but it seems it won't be possible for now.

Your provided steps are precisely what I want to do as well. I will definitely keep you updated on the progress. Many thanks regardless.

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wimpzilla
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September 4, 2017 3:34 am  

You are welcome, do not worry check calmly when you have time.

I edited also the back picture of the node. Because looking carefully i noticed that the gold spot seems appear also on the back of the pcb, where these little holes are electrical connections between the different layers of the pcb.

I really hope this is not the issue, mostly this part should be the ground plane of the pcb.

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September 4, 2017 7:07 pm  

Very intriguing. Currently been benchmarking on the GPU consistently running at full load on macOS using LuxMark + Heaven. I opened up the PSU - it was dusty, nothing major though. So essentially I did nothing but reassemble. One difference is that now I’m plugging the Node via a outlet power strip using a different home outlet. Additionally, I have just moved in to this house, and using a power hungry hair dryer tripped my bathroom too. Even the landlord said that some electrical work needs to be done. 

 

I think it is safe to conclude that all my hardware is intact, yes? Since I have been benchmarking as I type this. Maybe the fluctuating current in the apartment is to blame for the blackouts I have experienced while using the Node plugged in directly to the outlet?

 

So far, it has been running on full load for a half hour now. 

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wimpzilla
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September 4, 2017 7:24 pm  

Happy to heard that sincerely, to be sure try it out under window with a demanding game if you can, if you go the same result you are good to go hopefully.

But still i'm curious to know what is the gold spot on the pcb, did you check it? Also it mean the burn smell did not came from the node hardware?

Possible it was coming from the flat power grid at this point, still i would spend a bit of time to inquire about, since you are plugging sensible hardware to it.

Be sure you got a decent power plug strip with some security against shorts and over current protections.

Last thing, check some youtube channels on how to change the thermal paste of your gpu, if you feel capable to do so go head. It could lower the T° inside the node of a couple of ° and alleviate the thermal charge on the node pcb.

Happy you sorted out and the hardware is working again. 🙂

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mac_editor
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September 4, 2017 8:49 pm  

I'll be installing Windows an external SSD (which should arrive tomorrow) and test then. Essentially, the problem is that I have to deal with the apartment's finicky power supply until the electrical work is done. While the power strip fares much better - I sometimes experience the same issue.

The gold spot that you marked on the PCB -> not sure what that is - but it does not seem to affect any circuitry given its location. Not sure if it was already like that or only after getting back here.

The power strip I'm using:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000J2EN4S/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 - do let me know if you have better options - I have time to return this.

Well, college is about to start, so I'll probably postpone applying a new thermal paste - but will keep your tips in mind.

Finally, my sincerest thanks @wimpzilla for your guidance!

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wimpzilla
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September 4, 2017 9:42 pm  

Well did you feel something bad touching the gold spot on the pcb, like if the pcb feel weaker. Be aware that this spot should not be there, maybe a manufacturing bug or some paint? You should keep an eyes on this thing and maybe send the picture to @DanKnight from Akitio on the forum, he is a cool guy and more expert than me about, at this point.

About the power strip, if you would plan to get updated flat power grid with a modern equipment i would say these kind of power strip are ok. They protect you from surges, but be aware that anytime they will get a hit their efficiency will decrease. And your flat power plugs must be grounded to be sure that these kind of stuff work properly. Not always the case in old houses.

If you want something a bit more safe you should look at power conditioner. The strip you own will protect you against surges but not from fluctuating power grid current. Even if the electronics are protected a bit more with the strip, it will not protect you from malfunctioning due to the fluctuations as you noticed.

So if you feel and notice that the power grid current delivery is so bad, i would think about investing in a cheap power conditioner that should protect you from surges and current fluctuation.

No problem, you are welcome.

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mac_editor
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September 4, 2017 9:47 pm  

Will look into a power conditioner. Money on hand is a little tight at the moment haha. Hopefully the landlord prioritizes my apartment and performs the necessary electric work.

The gold spot did not feel off really - seemed ok. I wouldn't say the PCB felt weaker there - its quite a small spot too. I'll keep an eye out nonetheless.

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wimpzilla
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September 4, 2017 9:54 pm  

I understand you completely, do not worry. 🙂

I gave you all the info i could for further needs, to get the things work safe in these kind of situations.

Just to be aware that these strip indeed protect more, but do not make the electric device work properly if there is a nasty power grid.

 

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September 10, 2017 8:55 pm  

Seems like the PSU was at fault - which I think is a a bit rare. Replaced with a Corsair SF600 (which was heavy on the wallet for a PSU) and all's jolly for now on both operating systems. In fact, I see better performance with this PSU - frame rates are in some cases generally higher, and in others, more stable and consistent. Plus, with my new FreeSync monitor - its all butter.

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mac_editor
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September 21, 2017 6:10 pm  

This is nuts - After two weeks of continued use with the SF600 - encountering what seems like a similar issue again. This time the symptom is that the eGPU accelerated screen flickers before crashing. The GPU fans ramp up sometimes as well - I am suspecting the Node PCB and have contacted Akitio. Any other ideas appreciated.

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September 24, 2017 3:25 pm  

Is it possible that the Node PCB has a leak and is pulling too much power or something along the lines? Please forgive my ignorance on the matter - but this issue is quite frustrating in that it is difficult to point out the faulty part in the system.

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wimpzilla
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September 24, 2017 9:18 pm  

Well hello,

Did you sent the pictures of the node pcb to @DanKnight explaining the issue as suggested?

Did you tried the whole box on another machine, same issue?

Did you tried another wall power plug?

Did you checked if anything changed on the pcb?

What are the T° of the gpu and vrm when this happen? It happen when the system is cold or ran for a while?

Edit: did you tried the whole thing out of the case for a while? Did the issue occur?

 

It's hard to identify which smd component or pcb trace are broken, when there is no shorts and the whole thing seems working.

Indeed the issue seems related to the power delivery, the only thing you changed is the psu, with bigger/stable current and voltages deliveries.

What left to you is get into the pcb, get a multimeter and begin to troubleshoot the components, voltages, resistance to ground, etc.

 

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October 15, 2017 12:50 am  

Got a replacement GPU (which is identified as a 580 4G) but running at the clocks of my previous card (modded BIOS?). Works fine. Thanks @wimpzilla for all your insight. At least I will have the correct approach next time around when things go wrong. 

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May 20, 2018 6:51 am  

This never ends does it - AMD eGPU out of commission yet again. Would appreciate any insight.

Symptoms

  • Corsair PSU makes buzzing noise (coil noise? - dunno)
  • On first-time connection GPU fans whiz up (normal - buzzing noise disappears for that duration) but as soon as fans settle (i.e GPU ready/mounted) OS crashes and buzzing noise reappears
  • macOS kernel panics on disconnection while Windows, which needs cold-plug-boot never boots completely

 

Too tired to investigate. Also, for some reason it took 2 people, oil, and an hour to extract the inner body of the Node (jesus - super-annoying) - so tight - just added to the frustration. eGPUless again folks. I do have @itsage's NVIDIA eGPU with me so I can test on it for script work - but we all know how it works out (hint: it doesn't) with my mac for general use on Windows lol.

purge-wrangler.shpurge-nvda.shset-eGPU.sh
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mac_editor
(@mac_editor)
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May 24, 2018 7:04 am  

Narrowed down the problem to GPU. So computation seems to work (i.e Geekbench OpenCL & Metal benchmarks).

Video output does not seem to work. I'm guessing the <insert technical jargon something> in the pipeline that renders things has failed. For instance, on internal display, LuxMark output window was black and failed to render anything. Windows fails to boot regardless.

Perhaps another RMA is in order. Sadly am outside US to do so now.

purge-wrangler.shpurge-nvda.shset-eGPU.sh
----
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----
Multiple Build Guides


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theitsage
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May 24, 2018 1:17 pm  

Sorry to hear about your RX 480 acting up. What's the exact model and how long have you had it? That seems too early for it to fail already. Maybe it's worth taking the card apart to inspect.

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mac_editor
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May 24, 2018 7:12 pm  
Posted by: theitsage

Sorry to hear about your RX 480 acting up. What's the exact model and how long have you had it? That seems too early for it to fail already. Maybe it's worth taking the card apart to inspect.

MSI RX 480 Armor OC 4G (RMA'd once). It reads as AMD RX 580 Series in Windows (when it worked), but the serial and name on it are for 480. Have had this since Oct/Nov 2017 I guess.

purge-wrangler.shpurge-nvda.shset-eGPU.sh
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----
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theitsage
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May 24, 2018 7:58 pm  

Have you tried flashing the vBIOS? When I acquire open-box GPU from MicroCenter, one of the first things I do is to flash the original vBIOS.

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mac_editor
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May 25, 2018 1:27 am  
Posted by: theitsage

Have you tried flashing the vBIOS? When I acquire open-box GPU from MicroCenter, one of the first things I do is to flash the original vBIOS.

Thank you for your suggestion. I haven't tried that, but have a feeling that it isn't the problem. It is most likely my own fault. Recalling the situation:

  • GPU was working, suddenly crashed
  • Next boot, working, but same symptoms - occurred for multiple boots (video out working here)
  • So I was like -> let's disassemble and re-assemble
  • Disassembly was painful, enclosure was handled somewhat roughly (doubt rougher than an 18h flight tho)
  • Re-assembled -> problem aforementioned occurring (video out busted)

 

Seems like physical damage. Doubt home-fixable in my hands. Sadly the MSI authorized center in India didn't respond to my calls. Will try sending in an email for support.

purge-wrangler.shpurge-nvda.shset-eGPU.sh
----
Troubleshooting eGPUs on macOS
Command Line Swiss Knife
----
Multiple Build Guides


ReplyQuote