Sunday, September 18, 2016

Advanced Tonga BIOS editing


I recently decided to spend some time to figure out some of the low-level details of how the BIOS works on my R9 380 cards.  A few months ago I had found Tonga Bios Editor, but hadn't done anything more than modify the memory frequency table so the card would default to 1500Mhz instead of 1375.  My goal was to modify the memory timing and to reduce power usage.

The card I decided to test the memory timing mods on was a Club3D 4GB R9 380 with Elpida W4032BABG-60-F RAM.  Although the RAM is rated for 6Gbps/1.5Ghz, the default memory clock is 1475Mhz.  In my previous testing I found that the card was stable with the memory overclocked well above 1.5Ghz, but the mining performance was actually slower at 1.6Ghz compared to 1.5Ghz.  Unfortunately Tonga Bios Reader does not provide a way to edit the memory timings aka straps, so I'd have to use a hex editor.


I've highlighted the 1500Mhz memory timing in the screen shot above.  I found it by searching for the string F0 49 02, which you first have to convert from little-endian to get 249F0, and then from hex to get 150,000, which is expressed in increments of .01Mhz.  The timing for up to 1625Mhz (C4 7A 02) comes after it, and then 1750Mhz (98 AB 02).  The Club3D BIOS actually has 2 sets of timings, one for memory type 01 (the number after F0 49 02), as and for memory type 02 (not shown).  This is so the same BIOS can be used on a card that can be made with different memory.  Obviously one type of memory the BIOS supports is Elpida, and from comparing BIOS images from other cards, I determined that memory type 02 is for Hynix.

To reduce the chance of bricking my card, the first time I modified only the 1625Mhz memory timing.  Since the default memory timing is 1475Mhz, my modified timing would only be used when overclocking the memory over 1500Mhz.  So if the the card crashed on the 1625Mhz timing, it would be back to the safe 1500Mhz timing after a reboot.  To actually make the change I copied the 1500Mhz timing (starting with 77 71) to the 1625Mhz timing.  After the change, the BIOS checksum is invalid, so I simply loaded the BIOS in Tonga Bios Reader and re-saved it in order to update the checksum.

I used Atiflash 2.71 to flash the BIOS since I have found no DOS or Linux flash utilities for Tonga GPUs.  After flashing the updated BIOS, I overclocked the RAM to 1625Mhz, and my eth mining speed went from just under 21Mh to about 22.5Mh.  To get even faster timings, I copied the 1375Mhz timings from a MSI R9 380 with Elpida RAM to the Club3d 1625Mhz memory timing.  That boosted my mining speed at 1625Mhz to slightly over 23Mh

I then tried a number of ways to improve the timing beyond 1625Mhz, but I found nothing that was both stable and faster at 1700Mhz.  Different cards may overclock better, depending on both the GPU asic and the memory.  Hynix memory seems to overclock a bit better than Elpida, while Samsung memory, which seems rather rare on R9 380 cards, tends to overclock the best.  The memory controller on the GPU also needs to be able overclock from 1475Mhz.  Unlike the simple voltage modding the Hawaii BIOS, there is no easy way to modify the memory controller voltage (VDDCI) on Tonga.  The ability to over-volt the memory controller would make it easier to overclock the memory speed beyond 1625Mhz.

Since the Club3D BIOS supports both Elpida and Hynix memory, I improved the timing for both memory types.  This allows me to use a single BIOS image for cards that have either Elpida or Hynix memory.  It's also dependent on the card having a NCP81022 voltage controller, but all my R9 380 cards have the same voltage controller.  I've shared it on my google drive as 380NR.ROM if you want to try it (at the possible risk of bricking your card).  Atiflash checks the subsystem ID of the target card against the BIOS to be flashed, so it is necessary to use the command-line version of atiflash with the "-fs" option:
atiflash -p 0 380RN.ROM -fs

In addition to improving memory speeds, I wanted to reduce power usage of my 380 cards.  On Windows it is possible to use a tool like MSI Afterburner to reduce the core voltage (VDDC), but on Linux there is no similar tool.  To reduce the voltage in the BIOS, modify value0 in Voltage Table2 for the different DPM states.  After a lot of experimenting, I made two different BIOSes with different voltage levels since some cards under-volt better than others.  The first one has 975, 1050, and 1100 mV for dpm 5, 6, & 7, while the other has 1025, 1100, & 1150 mV.  These are also shared on my google drive as 380NR1100.ROM and 380NR1150.ROM.

With the faster RAM timing and voltage modifications I've improved my eth mining hashrates by about 10%, without any material change in power use.  I've tried my custom ROM on four different cards.  Although two of them seem to be OK with 900/1650Mhz clocks, I'm playing it safe and running all four at 885/1625Mhz.  If you are lucky and have a card that is stable at 925/1700Mhz, you can mine eth at almost 25Mh/s.  With most cards you can expect to get between 23 and 24Mh/s.

28 comments:

  1. Hi,
    i got Sapphire Nitro R9 380 Which has Elpida memory, can i flash you modified rom on this card without bricking it or should i dump the bios from it and do the same modifications as you do ?

    By the way thanks for the guide i was looking for a way to modify the straps:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The safest route is to modify your own BIOS, but as long as it has a NCP81022 regulator, I'm confident my BIOS will work. If you click on the i (information) button in MSI Afterburner it will tell you what kind of regulator your card has. HWinfo64 will also show you the regulator.
      I was a little nervous when I tried it on my MSI card, but I did have a back-up plan to fix the flash if I had bricked it to the point where it doesn't detect even as a secondary video card. The card has no backplate, and the W25X20 flash chip is visible on the back of the PCB. With flashrom (flashrom.org) I'd be able to re-flash it with an external programmer.

      Delete
    2. p.s. if you decide to modify your BIOS, check if it has a 1375Mhz timing record, and copy that instead of the one for 1500 for a little bit faster timings. For 380NR.ROM I found 1375Mhz straps for Elpida and Hynix from other ROMs, and copied them to the 1500, 1625, and 1750Mhz straps in what was originally the Club3D ROM.

      Delete
  2. i cannot find any info about NCP81022 on both msi afterburner and hwinfo64 but my card is identical to this
    cxzoid.blogspot.com/2015/08/sapphire-r9-380-nitro-review.html

    i will remove the card from the system and check it manually

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When you click the 'i' on afterburner, you should get some information that includes a line like this:
      "VDDC controller : NCP81022 on I2C bus 6, device 20h"

      Delete
  3. Hi,
    I have an ASUS R9 380 Strix. Can I try this bios mod on the GPU? It seems that ASUS has locked the voltage tweak on this card, as well as the overclocking features.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What does MSI afterburner show for your VDDC controller?

      Delete
    2. When I click on the letter "i" in MSI afterburner, it does not show the VDDC controller. It only shows the Display device, display driver, bios, etc...

      Where can I find it in HWiNFO?

      Delete
    3. Look in the sensors data, below the GPU info.
      But if it's not showing in afterburner, I'm guessing it's not a NCP81022 on your card.

      Delete
    4. Did some more research on the ASUS cards, and they seem use a custom "Digi+" VRM chip.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for posting these roms! The 1150 works great with 3/4 of my xfx 380x cards. The fourth had trouble with these roms - as soon as there was a load on the gpu I would get a black screen. Any ideas on what I can do to get that card stable?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the DPM5 voltage is a bit too low. I think I'll bump it up another 25mV and re-upload it.
      For now you can go with 380NR.ROM, which doesn't do any under-volting.
      I'm also pleasantly surprised they work on 380x cards too.

      Delete
  5. Hey Nerd Ralf, thank you so much for this guide and sharing, I wanted to ask you about recovering an undiscoverable device by atiflash, I have read about in circuit programming, however I'm a Psychology student, so I don't know much about what devices can be use to do some reflash a bricked un recognizable gpu. If you could point me towards one device, and maybe some info that will be great, I have being modding some gpus, but I'll feel so much better if im prepared for the worst case scenario

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Also I found this video and it seems to be way easier and cheaper than reprogramming,maybe there are some microclamps that could be use to set to stick the cable to the pin 1 and 8 on the flash chip and you could set a toggle switch? what do you think?
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYm2BjagCP8

      Delete
    3. I have a SOIC clip like this one:
      https://www.sparkfun.com/products/13153
      I also have a hot air gun, so if I were to brick a card so that it was no longer detectable, I'd remove it and use the SOIC clip to re-flash it. Then I'd solder it back to the video card.
      While a number of people seem to have luck holding Chip Select high by connecting it to VCC, that could be bad for your card. That is because CS is brought low by another chip, and depending on the output low impedance of that chip, it may be exposed to much higher currents than it is rated for when connected to VCC.

      Delete
    4. Hey man thank you for sharing, I wanted do ask you if after using your 380nr.rom you still can connect a a monitor to that card, cause even when they mine fully stable at 24.5mhs( something like 800/1750) if I plug a monitor the pc turns on, but hangs after entering windows, I partially solved using the integrated vga, however if I do that for some reason claymore, speed fan and afterburner, all lose the ability to see the gpu Temps and to control the fans...

      Delete
    5. When I flash and test the cards I use them as the primary card in a Windoze box. If it hangs I drop the clock back. When it runs stable for a few hours, I switch it to one of my Linux mining rigs.
      Based on some discussion in bitcointalk, and some testing with my IR camera, RAM cooling seems to be an important factor. The MSI Armor 2x cards don't have heatsinks for the RAM, and a few of the RAM chips are positioned so they get hardly any airflow from the fans. For those cards 1625Mhz is about as high as I can push the RAM without getting any crashes after mining for hours/days.
      I have one MSI R9 380 gaming card that has heat spreader plates on the RAM, and that one is stable at 1700Mhz.

      Delete
  6. hi Ralph,
    how can we set the default clock speeds to 885/1625 or something similar without needing the 3rd party utilities.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Personally I like the flexibility of modifying the frequency in software with aticonfig. You can change the top DPM state for the BIOS GPU & Mem tables, such as changing 1375 to 1625. I would not do that unless you've tested the card and confirmed it is stable at your chosen frequency.

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi.
    I have a PCS+ R9 380 and the idle clock is 755 core / 1475 mem.

    I was using a windows registry fix to solve the "problem", but I'm getting some black screens and PC freezes in some low usage things like youtube (firefox). Gamming is fine.


    Flashing it with the BIOS from TechPowerUp can fix the high idle clock?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That doesn't seem to be relevant to Tonga BIOS editing.

      Delete
  9. Thanks for much for these roms. Can you make some with some lower voltages?

    ReplyDelete
  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi NerdRalph, firstly thank you for sharing your work.

    It looks like there hasn't been a lot of activity here for many months so I'm hoping you still check this occasionally...

    Anyway - I have two fo the MSI Gaming 4GB R9 380's that sound like the one you mentioned above, which have a backplate. I've never ROM flashed any of my mining cards before and it makes me nervous, but what the hell right? I have mostly 290s in my rigs. I have been running the 380s at core 820 mem 1500 for many months and getting 20-21mh/s out of them.

    What I'm wondering is this: is it worth the risk of doing this for just 2 cards? I'm guessing I may get 24-25mh/s out of them if I'm lucky but then I might brick one or both of them too right? Gven that I know very little about manually editing a GPU BIOS - I would probably just try one of yours. Which one are you using, or would recommend the MSI Gaming 4GB R9 380?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The MSI R9 380 gaming card I had was 2GB with Samsung RAM. I sold it shortly after that stopped being enough for Eth mining. Before trying one of my custom BIOS files, make sure the card has Hynix or Elpida RAM. If it is Samsung, you'll need to do your own BIOS mod.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete