A new test shows that loose RTX 4090 power connectors cause overheating and melting

Zoom in / Nvidia’s RTX 4090.

Sam Machkovech

A few weeks ago, some early adopters of Nvidia’s new flagship RTX 4090 GPU began reporting that the cards’ power connectors were overheating and melting their plastic casing, sometimes causing damage to outrageously fast and expensive GPUs.

On Nvidia’s side, the company is still looking into the bankruptcies. “We continue to investigate the reports, however we have no further details to share yet,” according to an Nvidia representative. talking to KitGuru earlier this week. But the YouTubers of the Gamers Nexus channel have done their own extensive research and in short, they believe that the problems are mostly caused by incorrectly placed power connectors. “Foreign object debris” inside the connector can also cause problems, but Gamers Nexus believes this type of damage is much rarer.

The failure that Gamers Nexus was able to recreate in its labs involved plugging the 12VHPWR power connector into an RTX 4090 without fully inserting it and then bending the cable to one side, making the connection even worse. After only a few minutes of testing, the high power resistance of the loose connection generated heat in excess of 250° Celsius, resulting in smoke and visible bubbling as the connector melted into its socket.

A snapshot from the Gamers Nexus test video.  A visibly loose connection combined with a sharply bent cable caused temperatures to rise rapidly and eventually smoke and melt.
Zoom in / A snapshot from the Gamers Nexus test video. A visibly loose connection combined with a sharply bent cable caused temperatures to rise rapidly and eventually smoke and melt.

Gamers Nexus describes the problem as “a combination of user error and design oversight”. That is, the cables I am merger because they have not been inserted all the way. But the lack of a tactile “click” or stronger retention mechanism makes this type of failure more likely with the 12VHPWR connector than with older 6- and 8-pin PCIe power connectors. The sizes of the 4090 and 4080 cards also exacerbate the problems. The boards can fit snugly even in relatively roomy ATX PC cases – you may need to bend the cable one way or another to get the case to close again, and this type of bending can cause the connection to be loose which has contributed to overheating and melting in Gamers Nexus tests.

In particular, failures can affect whatever cable or adapter that uses the 12VHPWR connector: This goes for both types of adapters that Nvidia and its partners have used for the 4090s thus far, as well as “native” 12VHPWR cables that go directly to a power supply with no adapter in between. Previous analysis suggested that one manufacturer’s adapters might be more prone to failure than others, but Gamers Nexus didn’t find that made a difference. This also presumably means that the 12VHPWR adapters that ship with RTX 4080 cards could also experience the same issues.

For now, the best thing you can do is make absolutely sure that your power connector is firmly seated – if it is, you should be able to pull it firmly enough without actually pulling it out (we were able to test this firsthand). You should also be careful to avoid any kind of sharp bending of the power cord in any direction. We’ll keep an eye on an official statement from Nvidia, to see if it has any further recommendations or plans for any sort of recall or replacement of the affected cards.

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